International Day of Happiness: How to Build a Happier Support Team

A happy support team should never feel like it’s them against the world (even though your worst outages may make it feel like that at times).

The world will celebrate the seventh annual International Day of Happiness on March 20, 2020.

The International Day of Happiness was started by the United Nations in 2013 with the goal of bringing greater focus and recognition to the importance of happiness and well-being in the lives of people around the world. Talk about a noble goal!

As the world celebrates this great holiday, here’s a question to help you participate: how can you build a happier support team in your organization? How can you promote more happiness and well-being among your support agents?

This is far more than just a thought exercise. Research shows that customer service agents provide better support when they are happy. Happier agents are more productive and more accurate than unhappy agents. This means they’re more likely to deliver a great experience and to keep your customers happy.

In short, if you can build a happier support team, everybody wins.

happinessThe challenges

Let’s start by acknowledging that it’s not easy to build a happy support team. Customer support is the type of work where you never know exactly what a day may hold. Support work is filled with challenges, such as:

  • Customer needs are always evolving
  • Tech issues are inevitable
  • Priorities are often mixed
  • Productivity expectations are often incredibly high
  • Support teams often feel under-resourced and like they have no control
  • Support is often underappreciated

The influx of customer contacts – phone calls, chats, emails, tweets, and so on – often feels like it will never stop (and it probably won’t). When your team is faced with a constant onslaught of questions and issues from customers – some of whom are inevitably going to be upset or disappointed – how can you keep your team’s happiness a priority?

happinessShow them you care

When your support team is fielding rapid-fire questions and issues all day, it’s easy for them to feel isolated or overwhelmed. If you want a happier support team, you’ll need to find ways to make sure your team knows that you care for them and are supporting them. A few ways to do this include:

  • Conduct regular one-on-one meetings. One-on-ones are a great chance for you to build a personal connection and to foster trust with each of your team members. Trusting your manager is a foundational piece of being happy at your job. If you’re new to holding one-on-ones, focus on asking a lot of open-ended questions and on letting your employees do most of the talking.
  • Find ways to recognize and appreciate them. We all know what recognition is. Awards, bonuses and congratulations on a job well done. Recognition is valuable, but don’t forget to also appreciate your employees. According to Harvard Business Review, appreciation is “about acknowledging a person’s inherent value.” The difference is significant because expressing appreciation is a powerful way to build trust with your team.

happinessTrust your team

Trust begets trust. You hopefully realize how important it is for your team to trust you as their manager. Do you know that it’s equally important for you to demonstrate trust in your team? Research shows that mutual trust between a manager and employee can have a significant impact on employee behaviors and productivity.

Some suggestions of how you can demonstrate your trust in your team include:

  • Listen to them. If anyone knows what is working and what isn’t, it’s your support team. Put that wealth of knowledge to use by letting it drive changes that improve the daily working lives of the entire team and company.
  • Follow through. If you promise someone on your team something – big or small – deliver. If you can’t follow through due to some reason beyond your control, own up to it and give them the context to understand why.
  • Don’t micromanage. It’s cliche to say this, but no one likes to be micromanaged. Different members of your team will require different levels of direction and coaching, but no one wants you to breathe down their neck all the time. Give them the essentials they need to do their jobs, then trust them and work with them to figure out the best way to get it done.
  • Be honest with them. Every support team goes through tough times. When you’re in the middle of one of those seasons, admit it. Acknowledge what’s working well and what isn’t. Show them you have room to grow and develop, just like them. As you demonstrate your willingness to be vulnerable, they’ll feel safer doing the same.

happinessInvest in your team

Support work can take a toll on people. Building a happier support team requires finding ways to ensure people can work in ways that are effective and sustainable over the long haul. You need to make sure you aren’t burning your team out; instead, find ways to invest in their growth.

If you’re struggling to make that happen, here are a couple of good places to start:

  • Create “slack” in your schedules. Ben McCormack, writing on the FullStory blog, recommends that every support team find ways to build “slack” into their scheduling. Slack is dedicated time for agents to work outside of the support queue on initiatives that help the team and business in other ways. Some common ideas include having support agents do things like meet with your product team on bugs, update your knowledge base, mentor or train other new hires, or overhaul outdated processes.
  • Find growth opportunities. What this looks like in practice will vary based on your team members’ interests, but finding ways for them to commit small amounts of time to stretch projects with other teams in your organization speaks volumes. A few hours out of the queue doing something else they’re interested in can make a massive difference in engagement!

happiness

Support your team

A happy support team should never feel like it’s them against the world (even though your worst outages may make it feel like that at times). Always make it a priority to show your team that you have their backs, such as:

  • Remove roadblocks for them. Your support team will spend most of their time in the queue each day. If they are feeling major pain – due to a bug, understaffing, poor technology, or anything else – you’re the one best positioned to advocate for some relief. Working to remove roadblocks and improve their daily work is a clear way to show them by your actions that they have your support.
  • Give them the right tools. There are new tools being launched every month that can help your support team provide a better customer experience. From customer feedback tools like Nicereply, to machine-learning tools like Frame.ai, to automation tools like Zapier, there are almost certainly solutions out there that can solve problems your team is facing (and often for a relatively low cost).
  • Pay them well. There once was a time where customer service was considered to be nothing more than a necessary evil, resulting in organizations offering low pay for what they perceived to be low-value work. Times have changed. Great customer support is a driver of growth, and it’s now very easy to find data on how much support professionals make across various companies. If you want a happier support team, make sure you’re paying them well.

Conclusion

Supporting customers isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be miserable. Taking a few simple steps to build your team in an intentional manner can drive your support team’s happiness through the roof.

As you make changes like those recommended above, you’ll quickly find that happiness is a productivity multiplier. Building a happier support team is one of the necessary ingredients in delivering exceptional customer experience.

Let’s make 2020 the year of happier support teams!


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Larry Barker Larry Barker

Larry is a Senior Manager of Operations at Cars.com. When he’s not working to solve the latest problem in CX or Support, you’ll find him wrestling with his young kids or reading fantasy or sci-fi at a local coffee shop. You can find him on Medium or on LinkedIn.

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