Frontline employees need a strong mentor.

Merriam-Webster defines the word mentor in the following way:

“a : a trusted counselor or guide b : tutor, coach.”

And isn’t this what the best managers, team leaders and colleagues strive to be for us? We want to keep our best people doing their best and feeling good about what they do. As we look at the new year stretching before us, it’s a great time to think about how to positively mentor the very people who not only mean so much to our organization, but also the very people we serve.

I’m talking about the contact center reps, customer service pros, support responders, and everyone else who might be dealing with customers directly.

With our key performance indicators and big goals in business, we rely on important revenue markers to show how we’re doing. Profit going up? Everyone wins. Profit going down? Well, you know what they say about how mud slides downhill. If the leaders aren’t happy, then workers hear about that in a direct way. Changes around training are made. More accountability is put into place. And those star players of the past can become the grumpy colleagues of the future.

Words matter.

That’s why I like to really look at what we are saying to our teams. So if you are in the role of a mentor in your organization, here are a few questions to promote meaningful and emotional connections with customers, instead of just clocking in and clocking out.

1. How did the customer feel?

Following a customer interaction, ask your contact center rep how she thought the customer felt at the beginning of the experience. Listen for words that describe real emotion connected to the reason the customer had to make contact.

If your reps are answering this question with “fine” or “angry like everyone who calls me,” you have real clues to help you improve the experience for customers and employees alike.

2. How do you feel?

Ask the rep how he felt when he solved a customer’s issue within the first contact. Did he feel proud? Happy for the customer? Or was he too focused on the metrics around his time or number of calls answered?

Reps can become desensitized to how they are actually helping people. They can feel like the only way to get through their shift is to remove emotion from their interactions. Make sure they take a minute to celebrate the good work they are doing, and hear that recognition from leadership.

3. What improvements do you think would help our work?

The word empowerment is tossed around a lot regarding employee engagement, so why not practice empowering your team with real input? This question communicates several things, including how their feedback matters.

By looking for their unique insights, the organization is investing in being truly customer-centric. Don’t let these improvement ideas fall into the abyss. Make sure there is a process to capture the best ideas and provide credit to the workers who shared them.

Anyone with a mentor in his or her life will tell you it’s not a formal, checkbox process that creates that relationship. It’s about taking the time to listen, prompt, and listen again. Empower your employees to give their best to your customers by giving your best to them.