Your customer service employees are important, and by 2020 their effectiveness as a team will be a key differentiator between you and your competitors, according to the 2017 report Customers 2020.

“Changes such as the explosion of digital, the empowered customer, and the acceleration of innovation are having a profound impact on customer expectations… Immediate resolution will not be fast enough as customers will expect companies to proactively address their current and future needs,” explain study authors.

Making your customer service team more productive now is one of the best ways to plan for the future. Luckily, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get your team working faster and more efficiently—a few more breaks, a little inspiration, and some modifications to processes may be just what you need.

1. Encourage More Breaks

It may sound counterproductive, but short brain breaks are proven to increase productivity by 34 percent. Many of your hardest working team members may try to power through when they’re on a deadline, but it’s just as important to take a true break, even—and especially—when there is a deadline around the corner.

Encourage team members to take breaks together by having everyone choose a break buddy. They can hold each other accountable for stepping away from the desk for 10 minutes and provide necessary distraction with friendly conversation.

You can also introduce split shifts, where employees work half their day, take a long lunch break and then return later in the afternoon to finish. They’ll return feeling refreshed and ready to be productive, rather than trudging through until 5pm.

2. Show Employees That They’re Valued

If your team member feels valued and cared for they’re more likely be committed, loyal, and productive, according to Harvard Business Review. Luckily, there are many ways to show your customer service employees that you value their work and commitment to the company, including:
– Regular 1-on-1 meetings between employees and team leaders.
– Feedback sessions, where employees can share their thoughts on a new tool or process.
– Flex working options for employees who need to come in late, leave early, or deal with something at home.
– Regular recognition of hard work, in team meetings or scheduled recognition ceremonies.
– Build this into your team or company culture; when it’s woven into the fabric of your company, it becomes second nature for everyone.

3. Give Your Team Ownership

Giving an individual on your team more responsibility or ownership on a project sends them a strong message: that you trust in their abilities to do the job. This, in turn, can have a significant impact on productivity:

“There’s nothing more powerful at building productivity than building someone’s self-esteem in your company.“ says Wade Harman with Convinceandconvert.com. He continues, “Giving ownership to them can be as simple as allowing [employees] to make decisions, lead a project, or be responsible for a task.”

Consider each employee’s strengths when determining which projects they can lead. Recognizing what they do well, and rewarding that with an empowering task, will bring out the best in their work.

4. Simplify Customer Service Procedures
All customer service departments should have a workflow to follow. One of the keys to improving productivity on your team is to keep this workflow simple and straightforward, and sometimes, old processes are anything but:

“Processes and pathways that were once simple and easy to negotiate when there were only 10 or 20 people in the company, become complex, inefficient, and time-consuming when the company grows to 500 or 1000 employees,” according to Simply Outdated Corporate Processes.

In customer service, simpler procedures lead to shorter interactions, more efficiency, and ultimately more satisfied customers. Here are a few ways to simplify, from Kapdesk:
– Upgrade old software for the faster, newer model, where tags and organization can be used to make employees’ lives easier (and the work faster).
– Provide multiple support channels, with specific employees dedicated to each one.
– Automate responses to common questions and emails—but avoid the “automated feel” and tone.
– Use a team-wide chat platform so co-workers can talk with one another quickly and easily, even on a call.

5. Limit Distractions

Contrary to popular belief, multitasking does not make us more productive. In fact, studies show quite the opposite. Every distraction that we deal with during a workday can result in 23 minutes of lost productivity. Encourage your team members to resist flipping between their social media accounts and the work website.
Help them set a schedule where they respond to colleague’s emails at certain times of the day, instead of flipping between screens in the middle of a project. This simple step can lead to a noticeable increase in productivity right away.
Be More Productive
At the end of the day, there are many ways to help your customer service team be more productive. Cater these ideas to the needs of your team and company to make them most effective. When employees are productive, the company wins.

BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time writer, consultant, and business owner. She’s been featured in Forbes and Business Insider and has written for Manta, StartupNation, Salesforce and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 and connect LinkedIn.