How To Get Coworkers to Step-up Their Service

A question I often receive from customer service professionals is "How do I get my coworkers to improve their service?

It can be frustrating to feel like you are giving it your all while colleague settle for mediocrity (or worse).

Getting your peers to change is tricky. Approach a colleague the wrong way and you risk harming the relationship. Do nothing at all and things will likely stay the same.

That doesn't mean you are powerless. Here are three strategies you can try.

Image source: BigStockPhoto

Image source: BigStockPhoto

Be the Model

"Who was it?!" the woman demanded. "Who is making us look bad?!"

I was facilitating a customer service workshop and was sharing the results of a secret shopping test I had conducted the night before. Four out of five employees I had shopped didn't use any of the company's service standards in my interaction.

This particular employee was incensed. She wanted to know who it was because she felt embarrassed to get such a poor report.

Sadly, she was one of the four people who I had visited who performed poorly. She didn't recognize me because she was too busy chatting with a coworker when I had been her customer the night before.

If you want your coworkers to improve, start by taking a long, hard, figurative look in the mirror.

You can't expect your colleagues to step up their collective game if you aren't doing the same thing. This means you need to be the model of outstanding customer service.

Aside from giving you more credibility with your peers, it’s inspiring to others when they see someone else going the extra mile. It creates subtle but powerful positive peer pressure for them to serve at a higher level.


Identify Shared Challenges

High performing teams work together to solve problems.

For example, a Tier 2 technical support team handled issues that were beyond the scope of expertise for the Tier 1 team. One problem was Tier 1 reps often unnecessarily transferred calls to the Tier 2 team that they should have resolved on their own.

Rather than build silos and cast blame, members of both teams met to identify the top reasons calls were transferred and then mark which ones could be prevented. A Tier 2 rep then put together a job aid that showed Tier 1 reps how to handle those issues on their own.

This approach solved a problem, but it also fostered a sense of teamwork between members of both teams.

Another opportunity is to share common issues with your boss.

Many employees assume that bosses are apathetic toward poor service if they don't take any action to correct it. My research indicates there might be another reason: most employees don’t pass along customer complaints!

The idea isn't to tattle on your coworkers. 

The point is to tell your boss about the top customer complaints you hear, along with some ideas or suggestions for improvement. It might be a policy that customers don't like or a common product defect.

Whatever it is, sharing customer insight with your boss may give him or her needed information to enlist the entire team in taking action.


Ask For Advice

One customer service professional, we'll call him David, wrote to me and explained that he was 26 and had just a few years of experience. He explained that he was the youngest person on his team, and most of his peers were 40 years old or older.

My suggestion to David was to approach his more experienced colleagues and ask them for advice on handling a particular customer service challenge.

Why? Two reasons.

First, asking a coworker for advice is a sign of respect. It shows them you value their wisdom and experience. And that respect makes them more likely to respect you back.

Second, it's human nature that we are our own most credible source of information. If I ask you for a suggestion on handling a particular situation, you'll probably give me a good answer but you'll also be more likely to remember to take your own advice the next time.



In many of the organizations I wrote about in The Service Culture Handbook, leaders cultivate a culture of positive peer pressure. 

Coworkers recognize each other for great performance. They cover for each other without question, which creates a social need for reciprocity (I've got your back, you've got mine). Veteran employees guide new hires to help them succeed too.

You can do your part by trying some of the techniques outlined above. Here's one more bonus technique:

Take a moment to recognize a coworker for doing something well.

Chances are, they'll appreciate you letting them know their contributions are valued. They'll be more likely to do it again. And, there's a chance they'll be a bit more receptive when you have some constructive feedback to share!