One of the most overlooked aspects of great customer experience is the self-confidence of those who work with customers.
Self-confidence is important because it is inextricably tied to competence.
When frontline service reps lack confidence in their positions, they often fumble about struggling to perform. This creates a further decrease in confidence, which results in a downward spiral that is inevitably felt by the customer.
We’ve all seen it happen.
The link between confidence and competence is not only in the mind of the service provider but also in the mind of the customer.
When a customer engages with a rep, who’s stumbling for words, fumbling about for information, and generally not presenting themselves as confident in their dealings with the customer, the customer will often make judgements about the rep’s competence based on this behavior.
For customers, competence is a signal that lets them know that the person they’re working with has the requisite skills and abilities to complete their transaction or resolve their issue.
Customers often interpret a lack of confidence as a lack of competence.
When evaluating those working in customer-facing roles, you will tend to find that self-confidence comes from three major sources:
At the heart of a frontline rep’s confidence is comfort — comfort with people, comfort with the environment, and comfort with the roles and responsibilities of their job.
Key to a customer service rep’s confidence is comfort: with people, the environment, & their job.
The easiest way for organizational leaders and managers to impact the confidence of their team members is to look at the above three dynamics and to do everything they can to maximize the chances of success in each one.
When it comes to overall psychological self-confidence, effective hiring practices are key. The interview process should be designed to make sure that people who actually have to deal with other people for a living are actually comfortable dealing with other people for a living.
While comfort in the environment and the confidence that comes with it is usually acquired over time, this process can be shortened through techniques like orientation, shadowing, and realistic role play. Absent exigent or extreme circumstances, environmental comfort is generally the quickest and easiest dynamic to remedy.
Finally, and often most importantly, the skill sets needed to create great service and the knowledge base needed to be confident in one’s products and services comes from training.
Too often training focuses only on the product or service side. Reps are onboarded to learn the system and the basics of the products and services their company offers; however, they are not given customer service skills training and this is often one of the most crucial flaws in most organizational training programs.
Product knowledge is crucial. Understanding systems is essential. But without the ability to work with people in productive ways and to handle difficult situations, frontline reps will not have the confidence they need to navigate the wide range of interactions they will have in a customer-facing role.
When I wrote Be Your Customer’s Hero, I purposely made sure that the jacket copy included the words, competence and confidence. In a book written for frontline customer service reps, I knew how important it was to address the confidence issue head on.
I watched too many frontline reps struggle over the years, not confident in their dealings with customers and delivering average to poor experiences as a result.
Frontline reps can only deliver great customer experiences when they have the skills and knowledge needed to create those experiences and have the confidence to use those skills and knowledge at the right place with the right customer at the right time.
From a managerial perspective, confidence can certainly seem hard to measure. While measuring confidence at scale certainly requires careful testing and survey approaches, for those in more direct supervisory positions, there are a few key techniques you can easily use to determine if a lack of self-confidence is at the heart of a rep’s challenges.
Self-confidence may be hard to manage and even harder to measure, but looking at your team’s performance through the lens of self-confidence can often be immensely useful in helping them become the team members you want them to be.
The more you can do to bolster the confidence of your team members, not through empty slogans and false bravado, but by strategically supporting and solidifying the building blocks of confidence, the more comfortable they will be in their roles and the more happy your customers will be to interact with them.
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