Customer Service: A Sense of Mission

(Shared by Jennifer Dunn, Program Assistant, Endeavor Center, OSU South Centers) by:

Job satisfaction isn’t something we tend to naturally associate with the position of customer service representative—which is why the team at Kars4Kids is worth a closer look, even if your business doesn’t have a dedicated customer service department.

Burnout isn’t a foregone conclusion for the team working phones at this nonprofit car donation program. One of the reps has, in fact, been with Kars4Kids for seven years. The manager of the customer service team has been on the job for 11 years.

That’s an incredible record, considering the data. These are dedicated customer service people; their sole responsibility is to interact with customers.

Customer service burnout: What the data say

In general, just how bad is the burnout associated with people who work directly with customers? The turnover rate should give you some idea. Back in 2013, turnover for customer service representatives was running at an incredibly high 30 to 45 percent, whereas the average turnover rate of employees for all industries in the United States was 15.1 percent.

Researchers have struggled to understand what might help prevent burnout. More money? Job security? Because if we could only help our customer-facing teams feel good about what they do, the theory goes, it’s likely they’d stick around longer and generate more customer loyalty. There’s generally a limit, on the other hand, to how much an organization can pay people in those roles. That means you’re going to have to find a different way to satisfy those employees so they won’t walk out in a huff.

One research trial found that more important than the money, more important than job security, is that the team member sees  himself as “playing a positive role within the wider organization.” Managers can help with this by keeping the team well-informed about the organization’s mission, even in for-profit companies. The manager can also convey to team members that they are valued and that their contribution is important. Finally, if reps feel they’re benefiting from company practices, they are more likely to feel good about their place of work and stick around a spell.

The right attitude can help prevent customer service burnout

Preventing customer service burnout, in other words, is about attitude. Team member attitude can be influenced by how well management keeps the team in the loop about the bigger picture. At Kars4Kids, this means sharing stories with the customer service team of kids helped by the organization. The customer service representatives come to know that each car donation represents another child mentored, or a scholarship to TheZone, a summer camp focusing on the personal growth of the campers.


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