Doing the right thing, the right way is a critical part of doing business, not just for e-commerce stores, but for any commercial enterprise under the sun. Failing to meet service level agreements or standard terms and conditions can create distrust in the minds of customers and between members of your own team.
This can have a profound effect on growth and team collaboration. Moreover, hefty penalties have been awarded by the courts to companies found guilty of non-compliance with regulations. For example, in 2019, major ecommerce brands like Nordstrom and Warby Parker were sued for failing to meet digital accessibility requirements.
As the first point of contact for customers, customer service agents have a huge responsibility on their shoulders: they need to be crystal clear when telling customers about warranties, returns, delivery timeframes and the like.
Any misrepresentation – intentional or otherwise, can have serious consequences. Besides, on a day to day level, it can result in inflated response time or ticket resolution figures which can impact customer experience and attract negative reviews.
So, why is accountability important?
Acting with responsibility, especially when things go wrong, is key to building trust with customers and retaining them long-term. According to Hubspot Research, 55% customers do not trust businesses as much as they used to earlier. Telling customers you care for them is simply not good enough anymore. It must be backed up by how you treat them. This means being committed to accuracy and integrity when dealing with them. The ability to accept a mistake and taking the initiative to correct it can win you the admiration of your customers like nothing else can.
Since conscious accountability is the basis of business performance and growth, it should be a key part of your company’s official code of conduct. This means laying down a clear framework of do’s and don’ts that are closely linked to the overall business strategy.
What are a few recommended ways to build a culture of accountability?
Holding each other accountable and working toward a common objective is the foundation of high performance customer service teams. It is a much more productive approach than using coercion or diktats. Experts recommend that business leaders develop clear accountability guidelines that are measurable and realistic. This removes any scope for ambiguity and promotes transparency. However, managements should see their employees as ‘partners’ in driving accountability rather than telling them to ‘do as you are told.’
Here are 5 tried and tested ways that you can build a culture of accountability within your Customer Support team:
Start with the why:
To succeed at building a culture of accountability, you need to adopt the bottom-up approach. Asking clarifying questions is often the best way to get your agents to see the management’s point of view. To be fair, agents often do have an agenda of their own which may be at odds with that of the business. For example, to make their monthly quota, they ignore procedure while verifying customer information or delay following up on a critical ticket.
It is important for managers to ask why an agent didn’t do what was expected, rather than assume things based on past history. There may be underlying reasons that are not apparent at first. For example, any agent may have forgotten a certain procedure or have a personal problem affecting their performance at work or they may just interpret the process differently. Explain your own perspective as a manager in a way that agents can relate to.
Ask questions like, “How do you plan to overcome this problem?” or “Is there anything you need to do better next time?”. This non-confrontational approach will help agents focus on the right priorities. Provide supplemental training on key topics to help your agents cope better with the demands of the job.
Lead by example:
Leaders should constantly strive to practice accountability in all their interactions with subordinates and colleagues. Deliver on the promises you make and take ownership of any issues that come up, from start to finish. Since employees look up to their bosses, this can reinforce their own sense of responsibility towards customers and the rest of the company. This is one of the most effective ways to drive positive behaviour among your agents.
Regular performance reviews and feedback:
One-to-one coaching sessions -held on a regular basis- are essential for letting your agents know how they are doing with regards to their KPIs. It can help you discuss performance trends and identify outliers. If you observe a common trend of procedure violations or customer feedback, you can even bring it up in a formal team meeting and share useful insights.
For example, if average response time is higher than expected, discuss the reasons in an open manner and outline an action plan with clear outcomes. Feedback sessions do not have to be a once-a-month affair. You can address real-time issues in short 10-minute feedback sessions too. The key is to stay engaged with your customer support agents about their day to day performance and any areas of concern that you may want to highlight.
Policy and procedure updates
Update your policy and procedure guidelines at regular intervals to ensure that they comply with the latest government regulations. Regular quality audits are also essential to identify and plug any loopholes that could expose you to risk. For example, the use of customer data is strictly regulated and unless every single employee handles it according to procedure, your business could be sued for violation of privacy.
Manage escalations immediately:
A customer might tell you that he/she has been misled by one of your agents. Such complaints need to be handled on a priority basis through a formal escalation process. The person responsible should be given a formal warning and if required, put on a performance improvement plan. In case, the person is a repeat offender, you may have to let them go. Managing escalations in a time-bound and transparent way can prevent customer attrition and avoid potential litigation.
Adhering to company policy is non-negotiable for customer support teams. When offshoring customer support, compliance issues can crop up. However, there are local US-based alternatives like Helplama that provide expert customer support agents that are familiar with local laws and culture. Our flexible plans can be customized to suit any budget or process. What’s more, our Zero Risk Guarantee has you covered in case you aren’t satisfied. Contact us today for more information!