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Article 4 min read

Customer service agents finally get the recognition they deserve

It’s been another year of high stress and raised customer expectations. That’s why this Customer Service Week is a great time to give your support teams a high five for a job well done.

By Suzanne Barnecut, Director, Content Marketing

Last updated October 7, 2022

Examples of bad customer behaviour are typically what make for breaking news in the world of customer service. These are the kind of stories we’ve seen more frequently throughout the past few years as staffing and supply shortages mount and consumer stress levels run rampant.

More than a lack of gratitude or a bit of unpleasantness, many frontline customer service agents have faced truly difficult scenarios. Last year, industry expert Blake Morgan recounted in Forbes several incidents of customer violence on flights or down the aisles of Target, prompting the impacted brands to put measures in place to protect staff. And Netomi’s 2022 State of Customer Service report revealed that 33 per cent of customers have screamed or sworn at agents, and 5 per cent have taken it even further by threatening an agent’s job or threatening to assault an agent physically.

And here in the UK, the number of shop workers who have faced abusive customers has risen by 25 per cent since February this year according to the latest Institute of Customer Service (ICS) data, while the British Medical Association revealed in May that criminal violence in GP surgeries had almost doubled in five years. In October 2021, a survey conducted for the ICS found that half of those customer agents dealing regularly with the public such as in call centres had experienced abuse in the past six months–a 6 per cent rise–and 27 per cent had been physically assaulted.

That’s not okay.

Customer service agents are so often the unsung heroes, whose core mission is to right a situation and provide a great experience. Yet we consumers forget this when we message, chat, email, or call a company in a moment of annoyance. In recent research from Zendesk, 66 per cent of companies reported that customers are less patient—meanwhile, support volumes climb.

Celebrate good service

While it’s great to celebrate in the best of times, it’s also important to champion wins when the going gets tough. For this year’s International Customer Service Week, we had some fun manifesting the types of headlines we’d love to see more often. Here are a few examples:

Customer Service Week headlines

Customer Service Week headlines

Customer Service Week headlines

Customer Service Week headlines

Often, it’s the customer service agent who tempers the customer’s behaviour, transforming a problem into an easy, personal conversation. When that happens, customers respond in turn.

The first thing we can do to celebrate our support teams is to invest in their everyday well-being and job success, as it is the agent experience that underpins the customer experience.

Keep the high fives coming

At Zendesk, we believe that appreciating our customer service teams should be a year-round endeavour. But we also love to celebrate specific moments in time. As we close out Customer Service Week, here are a few ways our Advocacy org celebrated:

  • Volunteering through our Benevity platform and our Advocacy for Good program

  • Spending time as a team, bonding over a competitive digital trivia match

  • Participating in wellness initiatives including online yoga and meditation, an Origami class, and other global agent-run wellness sessions

  • Receiving company-wide thank yous and virtual high fives via a dedicated Slack channel and Jamboard

  • Expensing a meal, or opting to pay it forward to an organisation in need

In 2022, our advocates were also “customer zero”—working within a completely rearchitected instance of Zendesk, built on our latest technology. This was a large project that involved a lot of change, and change management, and that lays the groundwork for the next generation of support.

“This past year we put a heavy focus on being a role model of our own methodologies, and truthfully, it’s not easy being customer zero,” shares Caitlin Keohane, SVP of Global Customer Advocacy. “We ask our advocates to provide best-in-class front-line support to our customers, and we also want them to share their learnings with the entire company—what worked well, where there was friction, and what would allow us to better serve our customers—so that Zendesk continues to be a platform that all agents love.”

It’s a tall order—for everyone. So we encourage you to celebrate now, and also to find ways to continue recognising great support. Keep the high fives coming—to your team, and to the brands and service agents you admire or interact with who are doing a fantastic job. Because great service matters, and so many agents are giving newsworthy performances.

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