Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are the key to your organization’s customer relationships. They are often the first human point of customer contact, and the power of that first impression can be pivotal in attracting and retaining business. In today’s market, it is not difficult to recruit and hire excellent CSRs. The challenge is to retain them. The best strategy for meeting that challenge is also the simplest–give them work to do that lets them shine, expand their scope of expertise and participate in the vision of your organization.
Many CSRs in today’s world are college graduates, or even hold advanced degrees. They not only have well-developed communication skills, but they are also strong critical thinkers, abstract reasoners and innovators. You hired them to engage and educate your customers, to troubleshoot and solve problems, and to develop creative, personalized solutions on the spot. That’s all good–the problem is what awaits them when they start working.
Customer Service, like any other core business discipline, requires extensive documentation. This was once done by hand, but is now largely electronic and entered manually. In a high-volume CSR setting, a highly skilled representative is likely to spend a large portion of worktime typing, rather than dealing directly with customers; this segment of the job is the one that is likely to alienate your CSR staff and eventually cause them to move on. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, data entry is not the best task for highly skilled workers. It fails to engage them emotionally or intellectually, but the penalties for error are high: lost revenue, diminished customer satisfaction, etc. Doing unrewarding work with a great deal at stake increases stress and frustration without offering any way to relieve it. Workers in this situation will begin to dislike their work, and will eventually leave it.
Secondly, data entry as a primary task fails to connect employees with the organization’s larger mission, which in turn keeps them from feeling valued and purposeful in their jobs. Younger workers, especially, are likely to want to feel involved with the “big picture” at work, and to be allowed to play an active part in executing their organization’s mission. CSR roles which rely on heavy data entry from customer-facing staff risk alienating employees because they feel isolated from real decision making, and trapped into tasks which could easily be performed by less qualified workers.
For you, the employer, this is a catch-22. On one hand, you definitely want the highest caliber of employee on your front lines, dealing directly with customers. On the other hand, the front-line jobs entail a heavy load of manual data entry which your workers find frustrating and unrewarding. So you keep hiring terrific staff, only to lose them in a matter of months or a few years because they aren’t able to utilize the high-level skills that got them the job in the first place.
Further automation of the manual tasks in your CSR workflows will resolve this paradox. Taking your organization beyond manual data entry into fully automated document processing frees up your CSRs to spend time on in-depth engagement with customers. In addition, it allows for greatly improved tracking and reporting, allowing you and your CSR staff to identify and implement changes in process as the need becomes apparent. Tools that track and report CSR activity in realtime empower your staff and managers to set specific goals and to seek innovative solutions to identified problems. Instead of spending their time typing, your CSR staff can spend their time in meaningful customer interaction, self-monitoring and improvement, and creative process development. The advantages of leaving manual data entry behind in favor of fully automated document processing tools are powerful.