Leaders: Do You Treat Your Customer Service Reps Like Adults?

In customer service organizations and technical IT (information technology) customer service teams, I see a lingering trend of leaders treating front line customer service reps, global service desk agents, and technical support analysts like children.

Selfless, professional caring is an adult emotion and behavior yet managers treat reps as children who need to be monitored, controlled, scored, and highly directed.

Leaders, Treat & Engage Customer Service Reps Like Adults Image by: BetterWorks

Key Question on Engaging Customer Service Reps:

Do you score your reps performance or do they first review their customer interactions and note the improvements they will make?

If they first assess their performance, you are treating your customer service reps and IT global service desk analysts like adults. You engage in dialogue with them and brainstorm interaction improvements. You are treating them as valued employees entrusted with the weighty responsibility of customer service.

Bravo! They own both the concept and the delivery of customer care. When you engage them in self-assessment, they will engage the customers with spirit and skill.

The result will far exceed that of the directive parental approach in other call centers, BPO contact centers, and IT front line service desks. Businesses with highly engaged employees experience five times the success of other organizations for the employees have a voice in their responsibilities and a personal stake in the results of their performance.

Engage front line reps like trusted adults:

  • Give them access to professional customer service training so that their self-assessments will be based on high quality standards. If their assessments miss the mark completely, you will have both your experience and professional standards to teach and coach them.
  • Allow them to give feedback to each other as team members working toward the shared goal of outstanding customer service.
  • Engage them to increase the standards they will reach. You will be amazed at how high they will set the bar.
  • Tap them for front line service improvement ideas while you as leader take on the bigger challenges of breaking down silos and process barriers to outstanding customer service. The reps and front line team leaders are rich with insights from working with the customers.

Interestingly, initial self-assessment in performance reviews has been the standard for over 20 years with professional jobs in organizations. Yet on the front line of customer service, the model is parent/child.

The very traditional “leaders judging the reps” approach is a non-starter for today’s customer care.

To ask employees to suggest customer service improvements requires that leaders first ask the reps to assess their current performance and valuable improvements. Excellence is achieved through mutual assessment, dialogue, and shared ownership based on respect and trust.

Employee engagement in customer service is overdue yet never too late. I’ve worked with thousands and would be pleased to work with all of you to engage their talents with ownership and a true stake in the outcome.

What winning customer service employee engagement steps have you taken that you will share with us in the comments section below?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Engage Employees Through Their Entrepreneurial Spirit

The Performance Appraisal Treadmill

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

7 Responses to “Leaders: Do You Treat Your Customer Service Reps Like Adults?”

  1. Shep Hyken says:

    Treat them the way you want the customer treated. Model the behavior.

  2. Khalid says:

    Hi Kate,

    That’s exactly what I was insisting yesterday with a project leader! He was suggesting to push training IT people after doing the project so it doesn’t get delayed but I stopped the project and I fought for having training at the beginning of the project! I hope I was treating my IT support as adults 🙂


  3. I love this: “Employee engagement in customer service is overdue yet never too late.” I think every job can be engaging and empowering. Ever watch Undercover Boss? 🙂
    When I did customer service back in 2001-4 at a Web Dept., I was the only one! I would have loved to be able to share scenarios and responses to hone my craft and skills with my coworkers in a formal group (think, art critique.)
    But I agree, the very best way to engage customer service employees is to ask them what improvements should be made. They hear first hand the feedback and frustrations customers have. Talk about an untapped resource right down the hall!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      So grateful for your visit and comment. Love your perspective about being able to give feedback and share scenarios … e.g. art critique. Interesting image .. no pun intended 🙂

      Hope you will visit often and offer your view on any topic of interest here at Smart SenseAbilities(tm).


  4. Sean Glaze says:


    Nice post on an important topic!
    Reminds me of the quote “If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe…
    Our job as leaders of any team is to inspire ownership and responsibility!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Sean,
      I am fond of Goethe quotes and very pleased you have offered this one for this post. It is tremendously demoralizing to be treated like a child and simultaneously be required to act like an adult.

      I hope this post will help break through some errant leadership approaches.

      So grateful you have offered your perspective here. Hope you will come back to Smart SenseAbilities(tm) and lend your experience to any post of interest!

      Warmest regards and thanks,

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