The role of team leader in handling customer complaints

Even the most profitable and reputed businesses receive complaints from customers. These complaints come in all forms – written and oral, direct and indirect, online and offline.

Every business wants to handle these complaints well. We all want to know the best practices to handle customer complaints and how to optimize support agents’ efficiency and effectiveness.

But what kind of metrics measure the performance of team leaders? Do we even know what their role is? Of course, the role of team leaders is to manage customer support agents. But what does “managing” agents really mean?

Do we know what the roles of team leaders really are?
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The conventional answer to the last question is “to get the required numbers” i.e. ensure that agents are meeting their respective targets. But do we have systems and processes in place for them to follow and metrics to measure their output as we have for agents?

The role of team leaders is crucial yet underrated in the daily functioning of teams that manage customer complaint. This is because their actions affect the morale of their subordinates which in turn, impacts the attrition and performance of agents.

Here are five crucial roles that team leaders should be part of the key roles and responsibilities for all team leaders.

1. Measuring the Intangible

Look at the computer screens of most team leaders and you’ll find dashboards and spreadsheets open. It’s easy to measure tangible numbers and performance using this data. But data and numbers are essential indicators of behaviours and capabilities of people, both of which can be gauged and improved.

Team leaders must use data to guide them to track motivation, strengths and weaknesses, and capabilities of their respective agents. When they understand the reasons behind the numbers, they understand their people – what drives them and makes them tick.

The only way to measure the intangible is to have a meaningful dialogue with the team members regularly. Understand their concerns and challenges. The output of dialogue is much more relevant than Dashboards. 

Once they identify these influencing factors, the next point becomes easier.

2. Providing Coaching and Training

A common mistake that many leaders commit is to show performance numbers to subordinates and say, “You must improve.” Well, if subordinates knew how to improve, wouldn’t they have done so already? People don’t just need to know what to improve in, they also need help with how to improve.

After gauging the strengths and weaknesses of their people, the next step for team leaders should be to provide relevant and consist coaching in ways that people will absorb. They should coach their agents on ways to communicate better with callers, provide better issues resolutions, and be more efficient. They should identify specific areas where their people need training and ensure that their people get the requisite training.

This doesn’t just help improve agents’ performance but also the quality of training. When team leaders find repeated areas where their agents are lacking, they can pass on this feedback to the training department who can build courseware to strengthen these aspects before agents hit the floor.

Here’s what team leaders can do to improve the performance and morale of their support agents
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3. Conveying Customer Feedback

Let’s face it. Managing customer complaints is a tough and thankless job. People vent out all kinds of frustration, and the agents become helpless targets. No wonder they feel stressed and exhausted at the end of the day. Team leaders can do a lot to reduce this stress and frustration.

One way for team leaders to make life better for their agents is to pass on positive feedback to them. Every team leader tells their agents when the latter receive negative feedback from customers. Barely anyone says a word when a customer appreciates an agent. But appreciation always motivates everyone – including you and me – and keeps us going.

Apart from passing on positive customer messages, team leaders can also share tiny positive messages with individual agents on their own.

4. Engaging Team Members

Another common mistake that many leaders commit is to expect people to only follow their orders and to approach them solutions, not problems. If people can find their own solutions to problems, why are managers getting paid?

Such behaviour of managers impacts team motivation which in turn impacts performance. Instead of giving orders, team leaders should involve the people closest to the ground – the agents – on aspects related to achieving targets and setting processes. They should also be more proactive in solving problems that their people bring to them instead of pitting them on the backburner.

Research shows that engaged employees display improved performance reduction in attrition. Engagement doesn’t just mean team outings and foosball; it means involving people closest to the ground in decisions to improve processes and achieve targets. This makes people feel that they’re contributing to something meaningful and more open to doing better because they feel ownership in the process and the outcome.

5. Tracking Performance Metrics

All the actions account for null if people do not achieve their targets. While it’s true that the actions mentioned above will push people to perform at their best, it’s also highly possible that team leaders will get involved in emotionally engaging their people that performance takes a hit.

Team leaders must realize that their actions are a means to an end – to ensure that their agents deliver the metrics expected from them. They must take every action with this end goal in mind. This means that they must also be prepared to make tough decisions and get rid of people who try to take them for a ride or repeatedly underperform despite being provided with a positive environment to improve.

Summing Up

As the old saying goes, people don’t quit their jobs but quit their bosses. Team leaders can do a lot to engage and empower their people. This reduces attrition and increases the motivation of customer complaint agents.

They keep the environment positive and makes people look forward to coming to work. And happier employees are more productive in quality and quantity.

How do you ensure that managers bring out the best in their people? Do leave a comment. We would love to hear.

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