The customer service team is the backbone of any business, and it’s no secret that their performance can make or break a customer’s experience with a business — especially considering that customer service teams are often the only interaction many of them have with a brand. To stand apart in today’s competitive landscape, organizations must focus on empowering their support teams through proper training, coaching, feedback, and mentorship, which leads to happier employees and more meaningful customer experiences.
We spoke with Jaime Cornell, an expert in organizational development at Farmgirl Flowers, to explore why harnessing these developmental tools are critical to the modern customer service team and how neglecting them can be costly to the future of the brand.
1. How important are feedback, coaching, and mentorship to professional development?
JC: Feedback, coaching, and mentorship are all essential for professional development. Together, they provide opportunities for individuals to improve their skills, learn new things, and become more effective in their roles.
Feedback at the moment is important because it helps individuals understand how others perceive their actions and behaviors. It can highlight areas for improvement, positively reinforce what is being done well, and provide insights into how to become more effective in the workplace. Without direct, timely, and specific feedback, individuals may not be aware of their strengths and weaknesses or know how to improve.
Coaching can help individuals develop new skills, overcome obstacles, and become more confident. Coaching is important because it provides a structured approach to professional development by practicing active listening and asking strategic questions based on what is being shared. It involves working with a coach to identify goals, develop a plan to achieve them, and receive feedback and support along the way.
Mentorship is valuable because it involves working with someone with more experience and knowledge in a particular field. A mentor can guide, advise, and support to help individuals grow and develop their careers. They can also offer insights into the industry (often, the advice of what NOT to do can be the most valuable!) and provide networking opportunities.
Overall, feedback, coaching, and mentorship are critical for professional development. When accessed at the right time, all three experiences provide opportunities for individuals to learn, grow, and become more effective in their roles.
2. What indicates an employee’s interest in career development or taking on additional responsibility?
JC: Employees interested in career development tend to take a proactive approach to their work. They look for ways to improve their skills, seek new challenges, and are typically the first to raise their hands for “stretch assignments” without being asked.
Employees interested in career development also tend to:
1. Ask questions about their role, the organization, and the industry. They want to learn more about the business and understand how it can contribute to its success.
2. Seek feedback from their managers, colleagues, and mentors. They want to know how they can improve and what steps they can take to achieve their career goals.
3. Attend training or development programs to look for opportunities to learn new skills, gain new knowledge, and network with others in their industry.
4. Volunteer for new projects to broaden their experience and take on new challenges that will help them grow professionally.
5. Express their career goals to their managers or mentors. They want to ensure their goals align with the organization’s goals and work together to achieve them.
Overall, employees interested in career development tend to be motivated, curious, and eager to learn. Employers can support their growth by providing training opportunities and challenging them with new projects and responsibilities.
3. How have coaching and mentorship evolved in the post-covid era?
JC: As we’ve all likely experienced in one way or another, the pandemic accelerated the shift to remote/hybrid work and forced organizations to adapt their coaching and mentorship programs to this new reality. While there have been challenges, the shift has opened up new opportunities for employees to connect, learn, and grow.
1. Increased accessibility and flexibility: Many coaching and mentorship programs have moved to a virtual setting, making it easier for employees to connect with coaches and mentors from anywhere in the world. Participants can plan sessions that work best for their schedule, and they can access resources and materials at their convenience.
2. Focus on well-being: The pandemic increased awareness of the importance of mental health and well-being. Many coaching and mentorship programs have expanded to include topics like self-care, resilience, and change management.
4. What are some of the successful techniques you have used to advance an employee’s career?
JC: Commitment to advancing employees’ careers requires a combination of techniques. Employers who invest in these techniques can create a more engaged and motivated workforce, reduce turnover, and build a stronger organization.
1. Career mapping: One of the most effective techniques for advancing employees’ careers is to create a career plan. This involves setting career goals (often with the help of a coach or mentor), identifying skills needed to achieve those goals, and creating a plan to develop those skills.
2. Training and development: Knowing the decisive difference between the two and providing BOTH training and development opportunities can help employees gain new skills and knowledge. This can include on-the-job training, workshops, seminars, online courses, and providing leadership development ”stretch” opportunities. All these can help employees develop the skills needed to advance into leadership roles.
3. Mentoring: Mentoring programs can effectively help employees develop their skills and advance their careers. Mentors can provide guidance, support, and advice to help employees achieve their goals.
4. Job rotation/responsibility swap programs: Job rotation involves moving employees from one role to another. This can help employees gain new skills, broaden their experience, and prepare for more advanced roles.
5. Performance reviews: Regular performance reviews can help employees understand how they are progressing. Reviews can provide feedback on strengths and areas for improvement and identify development opportunities.
6. Networking: Encouraging employees to network with others in their industry can help them build relationships, gain new knowledge, and discover new career opportunities.
5. Are there specific resources that you use to drive learning and development?
JC: I utilize a few resources with those I work with.
1. Online courses: Many online courses can help employees learn new skills and gain knowledge. Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, and edX offer various courses on topics such as leadership, project management, communication, and technology.
2. Conferences and workshops: Attending conferences and workshops can provide employees with opportunities to network, learn new skills, and stay up-to-date with industry trends.
3. Internal training programs: Many organizations offer internal training programs to help employees develop their skills and advance their careers. These programs can include on-the-job training, job shadowing, and mentoring. For example, there are many specific and curated resources available at Farmgirl Flowers, including a Leadership Foundations experience.
4. Books and articles: Employees can use resources like Amazon, Goodreads, and Google Scholar to find books and articles related to their field.
5. Podcasts: Listening to podcasts can be a convenient and effective way for employees to learn on the go. Podcasts cover a wide range of topics, including business, technology, leadership, and personal development.
6. Webinars: Many webinars are free or at a low cost and can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.
Neglecting training, coaching, feedback, and mentorship for your customer service team can be a costly mistake. In today’s competitive business landscape, providing these critical elements to your agents is essential for creating a customer-centric culture and ensuring positive customer experiences. Failure to invest in your support team can result in subpar customer interactions, negative feedback, and, ultimately, a loss of business. By becoming a champion of these important elements, you can ensure your customer service team has access to the resources they need to succeed.
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