Communication needs to be a two-way street.
Posted Mar 17, 2008
What's the first thing you can you do to ensure that your customers are happy and loyal? Make sure that you have happy, loyal employees. There is a direct correlation between employee and customer satisfaction. Happy employees are more likely to go the extra mile for a customer. Because they talk positively about their work to friends and family, happy employees are a valuable source of advertising and goodwill.
Customer service needs to come from the inside out. Raise your employees' level of satisfaction by doing the following:
Know What They're Thinking
Survey your employees to find out if they are satisfied. How are current business conditions impacting them? Do they have the tools, training and resources to do well? Do they feel empowered? What personal issues are impacting their work? Remember the proper balance of work and home life is essential to an employee's ability to provide exceptional customer service. After listening carefully to your employee, it's important to make the changes that will help them please your customers.
Communication needs to be a two-way street between you and your employees. Be sure that you clearly explain your company's goals, policies and procedures. Let employees know about the health of your business, as well as customer feedback, both good and bad. Employees shouldn't hear about impending changes through the grapevine. It is also important to make it easy for employees to communicate with you. For example, the head of an academic department at a hospital has an open door policy for all of his employees. However, he asks that when a group needs to speak with him, they let him know the issue in advance so he can prepare. His employees truly appreciate this openness and accessibility.
Focus on the Good
It is human nature to focus on problems. But when you are constantly "putting out fires" you tend to only notice what isn't going well. Employees can wear down when they only hear criticism. Criticism rarely inspires employees. When you only see problems, the problems tend to increase. Instead of only focusing on employee shortcomings, focus on what they do right. Though it seems like doing one's job correctly is a basic expectation, people like to be recognized and rewarded. For example, the service manager of a large automotive dealership put up a "Most Wanted" bulletin board to acknowledge employees for going "above and beyond." This effort, combined with an employee appreciation barbeque, helped to elevate the department's Employee Satisfaction Scores.
Recognize and Reward
Rewards need to be shaped to the individual. A blanket approach won't work as well as understanding what motivates your employees. Some might like a bonus; a few may find time off rewarding; others simply need an "attaboy." This isn't to say you shouldn't address problems in performance, but make sure if you have to take corrective action, it's done in a positive way that helps the employee learn and improve.
Employees are much happier when they are trained to do their job well and know what is expected of them. Throwing a new employee into an unfamiliar work environment without adequate training is a recipe for disaster. Create a mentoring system, so that employees can help each other do better.
Get Out of Their Way
Micromanaging never makes for a positive work environment. Simply put, if you hired someone to do a job, get out of their way. If your employees are properly trained, and you have effectively communicated your policies and procedures, it's best to let them work on their own. This can also allow an individual to bring creativity to their work, which will improve morale and service.
Employees must be empowered to do the right thing. Empowerment allows an employee to feel trusted and respected. Being able to take care of a disgruntled customer quickly ensures they will either become or remain a loyal customer. When an employee tells a customer, "there is nothing I can do about that," you've created a situation in which neither the employee nor the customer is happy.
Make Work Fun
Even the most difficult or sensitive work environment needs to be a fun. Obviously, a beauty salon can be looser than an oncology clinic, but fun is essential. Find creative ways to loosen things up, but be careful to include the customer in the fun or keep it apart from the customer's experience altogether. Fun can be as simple as letting employees choose the music. Or allowing them to have personal pictures at their desk. Make the fun fit your business, your employees and of course, your customers. Focus your attention on doing the things you need to do to create happy, loyal employees and you can guarantee your customers will be happy and loyal, too.
About the Author
Laurie Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org), the author of The Teleprompter Manual, for Executives, Politicians, Broadcasters and Speakers, is an international speaker, trainer, and consultant who helps people improve their sales, service, and presentation skills. She can be contacted through www.thedifference.net, or by calling 1-877-999-3433.