Developing your service team's strategic skillset

7th Oct 2020

As a team leader, it’s your job to make sure team members work together to achieve organisational goals - thereby ensuring successful outcomes and productivity. 

Whether you’re onboarding new employees or managing a longstanding customer service team, certain rules apply when it comes to developing a team’s strategic skillset. 

For example, a key aspect of managing a team today is ensuring that all members work effectively across time, space, and organisational boundaries. This means making sure everyone is fully connected - with the best digital technology at their disposal, such as the right team collaboration app or platform. 

Customer service teams, in particular, need to be able to access solutions that ensure customers continue to experience a seamless experience. 

What does a high performing team look like?

Over the years there’s been much discussion around the specific attributes that make up a high performing team. These include the processes, communications, interactions, and contributions of each team member - as well as those of the team leader. 

Let’s look at some of these in more detail. Here are some key takeaways you can use to start improving your team’s performance right away. 

1. Take a step back

A key issue for many managers is knowing when and how to delegate. Many managers have achieved success in their own careers by being proactive and ‘getting things done’. They then find it hard to give up the mantle and let others take on key tasks. 

But if you fail to let others handle things, you risk being seen as controlling - and team members will feel you lack confidence in their abilities. 

When you delegate, make sure you hand over the task so that each team member has the right resources to do the job well. It’s counterproductive for the whole team if one member fails to perform adequately because they weren’t sufficiently equipped to do so. 

Being able to delegate will empower your customer service agents, which can have a significant impact on customer satisfaction. When agents are able to offer some solutions on their own, it allows faster resolution, translating into a better customer experience. It can be as simple as allowing agents to send voucher code to a customer who recently had a delivery issue.

2. Assign roles and responsibilities

When new employees join an organisation it’s often left down to them to find their way around their role and duties. This can lead to confusion around what’s actually expected of them. 

Whether you’re onboarding a new team member or have taken on responsibility for an established team, take time to discuss with each individual exactly what their role entails. 

For example, the role of a customer service agent is to help customers with complaints and questions - but more importantly, it’s to help a business develop strong relationships with its customers. 

Discussing what’s expected of a team member will help each person to maximise their individual skills for the good of the whole. 

 3. Provide team members with ongoing training

When it comes to training, nothing’s better than learning on the job. However, in order to fully develop a team member’s ability to do their job well, you need to offer some structured training. 

This can involve one to one mentoring sessions, online learning courses, and workshop training sessions, as well as courses that lead towards industry qualifications - e.g. NVQs and Diplomas in customer service. 

To identify each team member’s training requirements, sit down with them to discuss their job specification, and identify any problem areas that may need extra support. Within customer service, for example, your agents may need to learn how to adapt the company’s tone or how to deal with angry customers.

Also, ask about their aspirations and where they expect their job to lead, so you can determine the level of professional education requirements. 

The right training can also help identify potential problems within a team and equip members with an understanding of how to overcome conflict and improve communication. 

 4. Team building and motivation 

Team building is an ongoing process that enables any workgroup to become a cohesive unit.

Team building activities allow members to share their expectations when it comes to completing group tasks. It’s also an opportunity to build trust and support within the group. Teams can lose motivation halfway when working remotely, so team-building events can help members renew their energies and re-clarify their focus so that the project gets back on track. 

When working remotely, it’s even more important to empower and engage teams. Minimise the level of virtual disconnect by encouraging team members to get to know each other on a personal level. Consider providing them with the opportunity to create online ‘watercooler’ moments via a personal messaging app. 

5. Provide feedback

Regularly review the group’s performance by hosting regular online meetings and one-to-one sessions to make sure good progress is being made. Ask questions like ‘What is working well and what isn’t?’ and ‘How can we improve?’. By monitoring and reviewing, you can allow for adjustments and make necessary changes along the way. 

In some situations, especially for customer service representatives, it can be difficult to follow a schedule when not in an office environment. This is where a fully integrated cloud-based contact centre solution team comes into its own - giving team leaders a 360-degree view of individual KPIs. 

This helps to manage productivity remotely and add value, not just to the employee but to the customer, since the agent will feel more involved and engaged. KPIs such as average handling times and first contact solutions can be included - which will help to improve a team member’s individual objectives. 

It’s also essential to recognise, reward, and celebrate achievement on an individual and group level. Organise a team lunch or outing as a way to reward the team. Whatever way you choose to show your appreciation, make sure you are consistent in what you are rewarding, so that team members know what they need to do to continue making a positive contribution. 

6. Identify top talent

In successful organisations, human resource management is key to identify and nurture potential ‘A’ players. Team leaders should be able to pinpoint the characteristics or behaviours of top-performing team members. These will vary from organisation to organisation and from department to department. For example, in a customer-facing role, these may include the ability to meet customers expectations by resolving issues quickly. 

Managers need to pinpoint the characteristics vital to success and find ways to cultivate these traits in all team members. Those displaying these key characteristics most consistently will be the stand out employees. Some key characteristics could include:

  • Having a positive attitude
  • Responding to customer requests quickly
  • Receiving high customer satisfaction (CSAT) indicators
  • Being committed to the company’s mission and culture
  • Having effective communication skills
  • Working well in a team
  • Showing leadership traits
  • Having a strong work ethic and time management skills

Once you’ve identified your top talent, you can implement tailored training programs and give them more opportunities to progress. Otherwise, they may look for an employer who can offer this level of support. 

 7. Use metrics

Just as its best practice to create the experience consumers expect with better item data, metrics can help you create the best strategy when it comes to team performance. 

Teams need to have a clear idea of where they want to end up - along with an understanding of the best ways to get there. A measurement system can help each team member see what’s required of him or her - as well as provide a way for members to track their progress. The measurement system will need to include:

  • A statement of what the team wants to achieve - e.g. faster call response times or overall resolution rates - with performance standards per result
  • A statement of each individual result - with performance standards for each member
  • A clear description of the priorities and relative importance of the team’s and each individual member’s results
  • A plan for collecting and collating performance data so team members can see how they’re performing

8. Enabling teams to work remotely

With the future of work looking increasingly remote, line managers need to ensure their teams have the best virtual working tools at their command. From file sharing and video conferencing software to learning how to optimise the use of your CRM, tactical use of technology can help teams connect and collaborate. 

Having robust cloud-based contact centre technology gives call centre agents the opportunity to access customer information while working remotely. This offers them the opportunity to provide ongoing support to customers as well as troubleshoot issues before they become problems. 

Whether you’re managing a remote team or an ‘old-fashioned’ face to face team, their strategic skill set can’t be correctly developed without mindful management. As a team leader, you will need to put a great deal of effort into the process of team-building and this will take time, but the rewards are great.

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