How to Change Your Team’s Behavior

How to Change Your Team’s Behavior

This post is part of The Supportive, Mathew Patterson’s column for customer service professionals. Learn what The Supportive is, or browse through all of the posts from this series.

You were — and still are — really good at providing customer service. That’s why you ended up being promoted to a leadership role in the first place. But now your boss is telling you to let go and let your team do that work, because you have different work to do now.

If only it was that easy. Watching people deliver service in a different way than you did, do it poorly, in a different order, or not do certain things at all … it’s hard. You just want to jump back in and show them again to prove you’ve still got it and that you know what you’re talking about.

Of course you can’t keep doing that, though, because you’ll only stunt the growth of your team while failing to achieve in your new role.

I’ve been there.

However, maintaining high-quality standards really does matter. So how can you change your team’s behavior without being patronizing or relying on the force of your role authority? This is the essential problem of leadership, and you could fill a library with books on the topic, but who has time for that today? Not you.

So let’s start with this one simple secret that doctors couldn't care less if you found out about.

Make the right thing easy

Call it efficiency, call it laziness, or call it a life hack, but if you can make the right thing also the easiest thing, most people will usually do the right thing in any area of life.

For me, that means buying duplicate cleaning brushes so that I can immediately scrub the shower out when I think of doing it, rather than spending 45 seconds walking to the laundry to retrieve the brush. That’s never going to happen.

It’s the same reason I placed a bowl at the front door to hold keys and bills so I don’t thoughtlessly drop them on whatever flat surface I pass by first. And it’s why my former colleague Breetel has multiple laundry baskets.

For customer service teams, making the right thing easy might mean putting contextual customer data into the help desk on the same page rather than asking people to search another system.

It might mean creating a simple tag for “add this to the knowledge base” instead of asking support team members to fill out a special request form.

It might mean assigning conversations to the right people automatically instead of having them hunt and peck through the queue like hungry chickens.

When your best practices line up with the “default” options, or the obviously quickest way to do things, that’s the way they’ll get done.

More advice on shaping behaviors

When you’ve made the right things easy, there will still be plenty of opportunities for creating an effective team. Here are some books to help you inspire change for the better:

  • Atomic Habits — Forming good habits makes doing things the right way take much less effort. James Clear’s book is helpful for understanding how habits form (and how to break the bad ones).

  • On the topic of habits, Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habit is another good option.

  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard — This book includes highly actionable help on how to make change happen.

  • Illuminate — Learn how to present information in a way that leads to action.

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Mathew Patterson
Mathew Patterson

After running a support team for years, Mat joined the marketing team at Help Scout, where we make excellent customer service achievable for companies of all sizes. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.