• September 1, 2005
  • By Lior Arussy, founder and president, Strativity Group

Find Out What Employees Are Afraid Of

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You've tried the motivational speakers who came to deliver another touching story--it had the lasting impact equivalent to the patience of a kindergartner. You've exhausted the skills trainers and delivered a plethora of tools to enhance employee productivity. Still, you sense there is more to the problem than meets the eye. You don't get the sense that your salespeople are selling at their maximum potential. You're not convinced that your service people are truly trying to meet--let alone exceed--customer expectations. A hunch tells you that your employees could do more, if only they had the desire. Although you have provided them with great incentive programs, you're convinced deep down that they are not fully committed. You're probably right. Your employees are not giving you 110 percent of their efforts. They somehow fall short of your expectations. You are not alone: This is a problem shared by almost any company or employer. The bad news is that it takes more than a motivational speech or the promise of a trip to the Bahamas to get them committed. Most companies established their relationship with employees on the premise that they will do what they are told in exchange for a salary. This premise captures only a small part of the employees' true capabilities. Under this premise employees will never be fully committed. They will do the bare minimum to get their paycheck. Bottom line, there is no way to pay employees to smile sincerely. They need to want to do it, to actually deliver an authentic experience to customers. During our research we discovered that many employees do not reach their full level of commitment and productivity because of fear. Employees developed different types of fear during the course of their contact with customers. It is these fears that make them perform in a reluctant fashion, which does not maximize the full potential of their relationship with customers. The fears can be related to price or product, competition, or the nature of the relationship with customers. Employees may act on a fear that the competition is better, or that the price the company charges for the services employees represent is excessive and unjustified. Employees' fears may stem from doubting the value of the product or its ability to perform as promised. When shadowed by fear, employee performance will be minimized and reserved, and will cost the company in unnecessary discounts, lost sales, and diminished loyalty. Often, employees feel that by interacting with customers they lend some of their personal credibility to the interaction. If they lack conviction in the products they represent, they will be reluctant to go all the way to deliver excellence. Employees' fears, doubts, and lack of conviction stand between companies and excellent performance. Acting on the premise that employees will do what they are being paid to do has brought companies to failure. They took employee conviction for granted, failed to sell their own value proposition to their employees, and then they expected them to believe in the products without any evidence. To elevate employee performance to the excellence level you seek, you need to redesign your relationship with them to include understanding, and to address their fears. This is at the core of the employee experience, and it has a direct impact on the customer experience. If you do not know what employees are afraid of, if you do not have convincing evidence to ease their fears, no motivational speech or other superficial fix will be successful. After all, if you fail to sell to those on your payroll, how do you expect customers to buy from you? Lior Arussy is the president of Strativity Group and the author of several books, including his latest, Passionate & Profitable: Why Customer Strategies Fail and 10 Steps to Do Them Right! (John Wiley & Sons, 2005).
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