Customer Service: Are You Paying Your Reps what they Deserve?

THE PROBLEM: Most companies still do not provide good quality customer service.
THE SOLUTION: Start by re-evaluating whether your customer service reps receive the pay, training, and respect they deserve.

Recently, my team and I were working with the CEO of a major financial services company. This particular meeting was not a happy one; the CEO was reviewing customer satisfaction scores that indicated serious problems.

One of my team members asked the CEO: "How well are you paying your front-line customer service people?"

There was a long silence. It was broken by the CEO's rueful admission that the best-paid members of the critical team interacting directly with the company's customers earned an annual salary of $32 K to $35 K. That CEO had just experienced an "A-HA" moment. Given the tens of millions of dollars these front-line people impact every day, what sense did it make to underpay and hence ... undervalue their role?

Unfortunately, this CEO is no exception. Countless enterprises are handicapped by treating front-line service people as among the lowest paid individuals in the entire organization.

This dangerous practice is incompatible with the realities of today's "empowered consumer" era. How can marketers acknowledge that a single social-media-savvy customer can impact the reputation of a company ... yet perpetuate a system which underpays and undervalues the critical customer service role?

arrow Give front-line service people more authority and respect within the organization. For instance, you might give front-line personnel the autonomy to spend up to a certain dollar amount to resolve a consumer problem ... and then offer public praise to employees who spend those corporate dollars effectively.
arrow Re-examine your compensation plan. If the pay is not commensurate with what your company says about its belief in good customer service ... then you won't attract top notch people to deliver on that promise!
arrow Create an effective "soft skills" training plan. Very often, customer service people know all about the various technical and product/service feature issues ... but have not received thorough and on-going training on people skills and effective customer engagement.
arrow Re-evaluate the fundamental skill set of the people you're putting on the customer service phone or face to face front lines and expecting to interact effectively with your customers. If some of those people are simply not cut out for the empathetic, "people-first", task of hearing customers out, making them feel heard, and cheerfully solving their problems, you need to reassign them to other departments or, part company with those employees.