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What customer service agents need from management

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Our first Agent of the Month episode of Support Heroes by Kaizo features (Hope) Nadezhda Zubova from Miro.

We couldn’t make a podcast called Support Heroes without celebrating the people on the front line- the agents! As such, on the last Wednesday of each month, we’ll be speaking to a different agent about their experiences in support as our Agent of the Month. 

With episodes like this, we hope to empower agents- giving a platform for their experiences. Also allowing managers seeking a greater understanding of their agent’s needs, easy access to this information.

This month, Hope explores what motivates her as an agent. Showing how supporting agents personally and operationally improves well-being and therefore performance. The final result is a department that runs efficiently but also has a culture of supporting one another. 

The obvious and not so obvious costs of resources not being readily available to agents

  • The first cost is to operational efficiency. Needing to ask a colleague or have a conversation to solve a certain subset of customer issues means that those solutions take longer to deliver to the customer. 
  • By multiplying this over multiple issues over weeks and months, one can begin to imagine the time and resources lost. The less obvious cost associated with this, however, is to agent well being. 
  • While working at another company, before Miro, Hope had to constantly ask her colleagues for advice. This was due to a lack of clear documentation and resources being available to the agents…

“I felt really insecure. Unconfident. Sometimes I really felt helpless” 

  • Not having these things readily available obviously made Hope’s job more strenuous. It also affected her well-being. Having to constantly ask for other’s help makes one feel incompetent, regardless of one’s competency. Similarly, requesting assistance from outside the department without operational support is even more difficult. 
  • At Miro, however, Hope has the necessary resources at her disposal. If she and the other agents need extra training, the management team organizes that. If there’s a gap in the knowledge base, the agents and management band together and fix it. There’s no need for agents to psychologically expose themselves to gain access to the things they need to satisfy customers. 

Peer to peer feedback among agents is extremely valuable 

“I really feel like [peer to peer feedback] is absolutely essential” 

  • Team Leads and QA staff can’t possibly read every ticket. Agents can actively support one another and provide feedback or assistance to each other whenever it’s appropriate. this ensures far more support and guidance within the department than if only QA staff are providing that feedback. 
  • Moreover, quality assurance and feedback is nearly always the first thing to be put-off when fighting a backlog. Therefore, encouraging peer-to-peer feedback ensures that feedback and QA arent left behind when the department becomes busy. 

“A good support agent is also able to support their colleagues, management, their peers, everyone…You need to be empathetic when talking with [colleagues] as well [as customers]” 

  • Hope noted that there’s a cultural effect that occurs when agents support one another. Having each other’s back and saying “It’s okay, we’ve all been there. Next time try this”, bonds agents together. This effect creates a culture of support and cohesion. 
  • The key is ensuring that feedback is supportive and empathetic. It isn’t about harping on mistakes. It’s about supporting one another for the greater goal of performing better as a unit. 

Having effective agents comes down to trust and support

  • When asked about how the structure at Miro helps her do her job, Hope noted two standout things.
  • The first was her relationship with her team lead. At Miro, agents have regular one-on-ones with their team leads. Hope noted that her team lead is very supportive and believes in her potential more than reading into her short term-performance.
  • Focusing more on her potential gives Hope the confidence to not stress over her mistakes. Mistakes are of course inevitable. There will be off-weeks and off-days. Focusing on the long term goal of improvement keeps motivation and confidence high on those off-days.

“When I was a newbie, the team believed in me more than I believed in myself. That helped me overcome not being confident”

  • The second was the trust within the team. Hope noted that this trust isn’t just developed from the team leads and the management. It’s something that comes from everyone in the department. This environment has a huge positive impact on Hope’s well-being and performance.

“It’s vital to feel that trust. When people can be confident about not [just] your performance but your potential…once this made such an impact on me I started to absorb the same behaviour”

  • Culture breeds culture. Being social animals, human beings absorb the culture around them and internalise it. For better or worse. Luckily at Miro, the culture is one that promotes positivity. Creating an environment where people aren’t scared to fail and feel supported, is surely one of the best traits any team can possess.

If you enjoyed this, check out the rest of our episodes with support heroes from Zoom, Zapier, N26, Github & more. Subscribe and rate 5-star to support!

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