What do companies such as Virgin Airlines and Ritz-Carlton have in common? Loyal customers. Behind the remarkable customer loyalty these companies experience is a commitment to empowering the agents who are on the front lines of customer service, making decisions on behalf of the company. Empower your agents to provide excellent customer service, and watch your brand succeed.
The Reasons for Empowering Your Customer Service Agents
Ritz-Carlton is notorious for the lengths it goes to empower its customer service agents. Any customer service rep can spend up to $2,000 to keep a customer happy without asking permission from a supervisor. Virgin Airlines also gives service agents remarkable freedom to make decisions as long as basic safety guidelines are followed. As a result, both companies experience high rates of customer loyalty.
That's the main reason to empower your agents: By handing decision-making power to them, you let them respond immediately to the needs of the customers with whom they interact. If a customer senses her needs are being met, she feels important to your company, and she develops an emotional bond. That bond pays off as she spreads the word about the treatment she received through word of mouth, social media and crowd-sourced review sites.
Steps to Take to Empower Your Agents
Surveys show that 92 percent of customers feel they have a better experience with a brand if the customer service agents for that brand seem happy. So, what practical steps can you take to empower your agents?
1. Pick a Number. Just like Ritz-Carlton does, you can empower your agents by setting a dollar amount under which they have autonomy to act in a customer's best interest. Setting that boundary, whatever number you choose, gives your agents a sense of freedom.
2. Empower Refunds. Few things make a customer grouchier than dealing with pushback when trying to return a product that doesn't meet his needs or standards. On the flip side, you can win a customer for life by accepting a return and issuing a refund with no questions asked. That customer is more likely to spread the word about how great your agent was to deal with than to complain about problems with the product.
3. Add Extras. Give your agents the authority to give customers add-ons that impart value to their experience with your company. Make your agents happy by empowering them to make their customers happy, whether it's by upgrading a class of service, offering free shipping or adding a free item to an order.
The Bonus You Receive From Empowering Your Agents
When you empower your agents, you make them happy. Happy customer service agents who aren't micromanaged are less likely to leave. As a result, you save on recruiting and training costs, and you keep agents who make your company look good.
Empower your agents by giving them the authority to do nice things for customers and the autonomy to make decisions that cost money. When you do this, you set up a company culture that is pro-customer as well as pro-employee. Happy employees and loyal customers who spread good word of mouth are building blocks for a brand with an excellent reputation.
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