Want to deliver a great customer experience? Empower your agents.

An experience last week at an airport “golden arches” emphasized the need to give employees (in contact center speak, those are the agents) the power to deliver a great customer experience.

While I waited for my food, a woman came up to the young man working the register and complained that her order was wrong. She would explain the mix up and the worker would explain which sandwich comes with which combo. This went back and forth several times, with neither of the two of them budging on the point. As an observer, I could see the frustration in both of them increasing. Both believing to be right. Remember, they were arguing over a $1.89 item. The manager finally intervened and asked, “What sandwich did you want?” The woman answered. The manager got her the right sandwich and she was one her way.

BTW, I’m still waiting for my food when I get my second lesson of the morning in the need for empowered service workers. This time the customer, after ordering his meal, turns to the line of customers and loudly asks, “Do any of you have a penny?” Really? The counter worker wasn’t able to take one penny less in an effort to not dissatisfy this customer? That is absurd.

So, should we fault the worker for these mishaps? No. The one to blame is the organization that hasn’t placed enough trust, based on the policies and training they have in place, to empower the worker to replace a questioned order, or to spot a short-changed customer with a couple cents.

These lessons have direct correlation to the contact center. Do we create an environment where agents are constantly telling customers, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” Or just as bad, “Let me ask my manager.” Instead, give the agents the ability to do the right thing. To make it right. To fix the problem. You can sent guidelines (limits are good), but don’t constrict them so much that for the sake of saving a little coin, you are alienating your most valuable asset – your customers.

Come on contact centers… empower your agents with the ability to deliver a great customer experience.

Joe Staples – chief empowerment officer