How to Get Your Social Care Agents Obsessed with Service

"Why is that aircraft in San Salvador?"

A customer posted the message along with a photo of the plane's tail number on JetBlue's Facebook page.

It might seem like a trivial question, but the social care agent who responded knew it was important to the customer. There are aviation enthusiasts whose hobby is vicariously traveling around the globe by tracking an airline's fleet of planes.

The social care agent didn't know the answer, so she made some inquiries to find out. It took time to research and other departments had to get involved.

She was finally able to respond and tell the customer the plane was there for maintenance.

This agent was clearly obsessed with serving her customers. Most agents would ignore the question or reply with a generic "I don't know" answer and move on. But not this one.

The question is how does JetBlue and other leading brands get their social care agents obsessed in the first place?

Here are three things JetBlue does that you can do, too.

Have a Vision

JetBlue has a clear purpose statement that provides all of its employees (called crewmembers) with a shared definition of outstanding service: Inspire Humanity.

I call this a customer service vision because it helps employees visualize the type of service they are trying to provide for their customers.

You can see Inspire Humanity come to life with this social care agent. She wasn't just trying to respond to a customer question. Her goal was to inspire her customer by connecting with him on a human-to-human level.

That's why she went out of her way to find an answer. She knew this was something he cared about.

A good customer service vision fits three criteria:

  1. The vision is simple and easy to understand.
  2. The vision is focused on customers.
  3. The vision represents both who we are now and who we hope to be in the future.

Now, here's the good news. There's a good chance that your company has a customer service vision already. In many organizations, there's a mission statement or an externally-focused brand promise statement that matches these three criteria.

So you don't need to reinvent the wheel. You just need to make sure your social care agents all understand what your brand stands for.

Constant Reinforcement

Employees tend to understand how important something is by how often their leaders talk about it.

At JetBlue, leaders talk about the Inspire Humanity vision all the time. Laurie Meacham, who leads JetBlue's social care team, has ongoing discussions with her agents about the vision and how they can bring it to life.

The goal is ensuring everyone can answer three questions about the vision:

  1. What is the customer service vision?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. How do I personally contribute?

JetBlue's social care team members work from home, but they travel to the company's Salt Lake City headquarters once per quarter to re-engage with each other and the vision.

This presents a great opportunity to share stories that reinforce the vision, such as the social care agent who researched the reason a particular plane was in San Salvador.

Empower Employees

We tend to think of employee empowerment as giving people the authority to bend policies, but true empowerment is made up of three components:

  1. Authority
  2. Resources
  3. Procedures

Without all three, many social care agents are forced to provide unhelpful responses to customer needs, either because they aren't able to take the time needed to resolve the issue or they don't have resources or procedures that enable them to help the customer.

Let's go back to that JetBlue social care agent. She had the authority to spend extra time researching information for her customer. She also had the resources to find that information, in this case a connection with someone in another department. Finally, she had procedures that allowed her to identify the customer's question, spend time researching it, and then respond accordingly.

Conclusion

I've spent the past few years conducting research for my new book, The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Service.

Time and time again, I found that leading companies like JetBlue follow these same steps to get their people obsessed about serving customers. You can do it too, if you stick with it!

Jeff Toister is President of Toister Performance Solutions, Inc. and the author of The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service. Follow him on Twitter: @toister