You know when you have to handle a difficult situation and the person you talk to makes you really angry? If you can keep your cool so they don’t notice your emotions, it often makes you feel like you “won” the argument. The thing is, when you don’t deal with the negative emotions you experience, you might have an outburst of emotions during the next conversation, even if that person didn’t do anything to provoke you. You just needed someone to release the tension on.
Customer service reps can’t do that. They can’t play it cool with a screaming, rude customer and then take it out on the next one. In today’s customer service environment, it’s not just about how well a frontline rep handles one particular challenging interaction, but it’s about how well they can handle the next one, and the one after that. The ability to take control over interactions with customers is called control quotient (CQ).
The biggest factor in increasing reps’ performance
According to the authors of the book The Effortless Experience, CQ has the biggest impact on increasing the rep’s performance in today’s service environment. Other skills impacting performance include advanced problem solving (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ).
Reps with high CQ have the ability to bounce back from a negative or emotionally challenging experience with one customer and, no matter the outcome of this interaction, start fresh just seconds later with the next customer. They are resilient and respond well to criticism.
How can companies increase CQ
In this analysis of 1,320 reps, it turned out that only about 6% of reps had little to no CQ. Fully 30% already had high CQ. The vast majority (94%) of reps have at least moderate CQ. This means the average employee can blossom under the right conditions. We can observe it along companies. CQ doesn’t vary all that much by individual, it varies a lot from one company to the next. We can identify high-CQ and low-CQ companies. The key that unlocks CQ potential is not the training or people – it’s the environment.
High-CQ companies make customer service reps happy and engaged in their work. They keep positive communication with customers and they’re not afraid to take control over interactions with them.
How to create a high-CQ environment
Here’s what customer service managers can do to unlock their reps’ CQ potential:
1. Trust employees
In many call centers it’s popular to have reps talk with customers using a prepared script. Reps are evaluated based on how long they talked with customers, which is really pointless. Some cases can be solved in one minute and some are more complex and require a longer conversation.
When you evaluate a conversation with a customer, look at call control, negotiation skills, and urgency to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Then set specific criteria to evaluate each competency.
This allows reps to be more flexible in their conversations and less stressed about forgetting one point from the checklist. The most important thing is customer happiness, and that’s how customer service teams are more likely to achieve it.
2. Create a supportive environment
Some companies support a competitive environment amongst employees. They believe it will increase performance, which might be true, but it will not last for long. Plus, it will create a toxic environment. Driven by reaching imaginary results, employees will forget the key of their job – which is to support. Not only customers, but each other as well.
In high CQ companies, managers encourage employees to support each other and make it part of the job. They’re also encouraged to share ideas and best practices, especially when it comes to complex issues, when there isn’t one perfect solution, or when the cases have never been addressed before.
It’s also crucial that managers appreciate their employees for what they do well. According to Marilyn Suttle, a Communication Expert and Bestselling Customer Service Speaker, “People who work in an environment where doing their best is recognized have a better chance of feeling good about their work.” That boosts their mood and performance.
3. Clarify the company’s vision
The closer employees feel to the company’s vision and goals, the more engaged they are. Once they’re engaged, they’re more willing to do their best to increase their performance. It means they have, or at least try to have, better personal control when it comes to talking with customers.
For the average employee, the company’s vision seems far away, so it’s hard to identify with.
In most cases, the customer service job is repetitive, sometimes monotone. When employees don’t work on developing the product, they feel a little disconnected, like they didn’t contribute to the company’s success. But that is far from the truth. Customer service reps contact customers on a daily basis and are the beating heart of the company.
Employees who know where the company is heading feel more connected to the company than the ones who don’t know the vision and goals. To achieve that understanding, they might need someone like a support manager to explain the big picture to them.
Support managers who are aware of the company’s values and vision can make sure, ideally through one on one meetings (the best way to get feedback), that the support reps understand it too.
Personal control in customer service
At the end of every customer interaction, a customer service rep should ask: Did I do everything I could to make this an effortless experience for the customer? Watch this short video to learn more:
A willingness to help and an empathetic disposition are not enough to deliver great customer service. Today’s reps need to have high resistance to stress. To help them with that, managers should create a positive and supportive environment in the company. That’s how they can activate the rep’s CQ potential, which seems like one of the most desired competences for reps to posses.
Companies with high CQ have engaged and happy employees, ready to face difficult challenges and bounce back after negative experiences, while delivering great service. And that’s what customer service is all about.
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