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Great Resignation magnifies customer service challenges

Everything that goes into good customer service is being tested by the Great Resignation. Adequate staffing, training, and employee engagement and longevity are among the most stressed areas. It’s hard—if not impossible—to provide top-notch customer service when there aren’t enough well-trained, seasoned, and motivated company employees in place to do the job.

Adequate staffing is a no-brainer. Without resources to address customer service needs fully, the dominos fall quickly. The people who are left to do it are becoming overwhelmed, leading to a variety of problems. Shortening customer service interactions to handle more people, bad employee attitudes exacerbated by approaching burnout, and ever-longer wait times to talk to customer service are all taking a toll.

Training is critical. And, it doesn’t happen on a dime. So when well-trained and seasoned employees are in short supply due in part to many resigning their positions, newbies are being thrust too quickly into customer service positions. Their lack of knowledge and experience quickly become apparent in customer service interactions. This, in turn, is very likely frustrating and angering customer service reps—many of whom want to do a good job but aren’t yet equipped. Customers, often accustomed to solid customer service at such companies as Amazon, become incensed when their outcomes start turning south due to newbies trying to fill the role so quickly.

There are also the ramifications of company resignations in general. What afflicts customer service also is attacking the basics of what makes a company deliver excellent products and services. When a well-known and respected company suddenly loses the core of a well-oiled machine, the resulting impact on products and services is problematic. That means more customer service complaints, further taxing already shorthanded customer service staffs. It’s not long before Humpty Dumpty takes a big fall.

Motivated, happy employees lead to better customer service. In today’s environment, that commodity is in short supply at many companies. Customer service performance is tied directly to how happy, motivated, and empathic customer service reps can be with stressed-out customers.

Given that the Great Resignation is so influential on customer service quality, what are key lessons to be learned from the present situation?

1. Companies need to pay good wages to get and keep good people. While Jeff Bezos and his fellow gazillonaires would likely argue that a better bottom line leads to employee betterment—in terms of hiring more people—it’s not just about quantity. In my view, it’s better to pay people well to lessen turnover. In turn, this enables assembling a cohesive, well-trained, and loyal workforce who will step up. So, Jeff and company, pay up!

2. Make ‘em happy with stuff money won’t buy. Everywhere you look, there are primers on employee empowerment, acknowledgement, recognition, and all the rest. It’s way more than money. It’s about developing employee programs that tune into the wants and needs of individual hires. This includes addressing their personal lifestyle preferences and needs (e.g., flexible scheduling). When people feel appreciated, they perform better. What qualifies as appreciation varies widely. Build this into hiring DNA, so that newbies can see it from day one.

3. Hire to fulfill long-term company objectives. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine what motivates a prospective employee, and what will impact staying or leaving. If it appears that they are in it only for the money, the likelihood is that they will leave as soon as they get a better salary offer. Look for people who are likely to stay and help build the company and who are trustworthy. Then, make it worth their while—whatever that means to them.

The Great Resignation can be viewed both as a curse and blessing. Companies that learn valuable lessons and create better customer service because of it will see short-term pain turn into long-term gain. Those companies that continue to talk the talk without walking it when it comes to employee engagement risk a continuing downward spiral.

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How will the “Great Resignation” impact customer service? With so many people quitting present jobs and searching for new opportunities (including changing industries and entrepreneurism), existing company resources are being stressed and strained. Moving forward, this will adversely impact the ability of companies to maintain and/or improve customer service levels and commitments.

Mark Lusky

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