Empowerment is an important issue for any business that has Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) taking care of customer issues. I recall a couple of client call centers where there was so little empowerment that CSRs had to raise their hand and wait for a floor supervisor to approve even the most simple issues.
"This lady received her widget but it was broken during shipment. Can I send her a new one?"
It was de-motivating, de-meaning and di-sastrous to the call center’s efficiency. I have a friend who worked for a major corporation where the culture was utterly professional. Nevertheless, CSRs had to raise their hands to be excused to go to the restroom!
Those are extremes, but you get my point. Companies often clamp down on CSRs in fear that any pinch of empowerment will turn into a pound of problems when they start giving away the store. What I’ve found most interesting about companies who actually give CSRs empowerment to take care of the customer is that the CSRs often turn out to be more stingy than their supervisors or managers want them to be.
I believe some of the CSRs’ stingyness comes from cynicism. CSRs handle all of the probem calls, and they will talk to problem customers. They have to deal with the vast minority of customers who may be trying to take advantage of the company and they talk to them a disproportionate amount of the time. It’s easy for them to begin feeling like all customers are just out to take advantage of the company.
I also find that most CSRs really do care about their company. They take it personally when customers try to take advantage of the situation. They become very protective. To cheat the company becomes cheating them by extension – and they will usually fight against it.
Nevertheless, companies who empower their CSRs to take care of the customer, provide reasonable guidelines, and consistently coach/train their CSRs accordingly, generally find a lift in CSR morale and customer satisfaction. When a good customer calls for the first time with a legitimate issue, the CSR can handle the situation swiftly, often exceeding the customer’s expectations!