Creating a Frontline That
Improves the Bottom
By John Skabelund
you left a convenience store lately, wondering why the cashier seemed
so put-out, even hostile, while ringing up your purchase?
Do you long for a simple “Thank you,” or a “Have a nice
day,” when your change is handed to you at the video rental place?
Have you had the impulse to reach across the counter and tickle
the disgruntled robot who’s handing you your change, just to see if
you could get a smile or even eye contact?
What has happened to America’s frontline?
the country, at retail businesses, restaurants, and even customer
service centers, on the job apathy runs rampant.
Unreliable, bored, unmotivated, unfriendly, and even openly
antagonistic frontline employees give your customers a bad impression
of your business and make it difficult for them to want to come back.
You may already have experienced the tremendous impact your
frontline’s attitude can have on your repeat business and thus your
and more frontline employees are clocking in for work, while clocking
out mentally. What can you
do about it?
the long-term, money alone appears to do little to improve the
frontline’s motivation. If
a bigger paycheck doesn’t cure the “I’m just here for the
check” attitude, then what will? Here are some suggestions for
working with your employees to get your frontline to start caring
about your bottom line.
Share the vision.
Show your frontline
employees the big picture and help them to realize their role in the
organization and the impact of their work on the business.
Rather than letting them feel like a dispensable cog in
management’s machine, make clear the tie-in between good customer
service and repeat business. Most
frontline employees, when they understand how necessary repeat
business is to keep the company running, will respond positively, if
only to ensure that they will continue to have a place to come to work
each day and a steady paycheck.
encouragement for a job well done can make an individual feel good in
the short term, employees need proof that they are integral to the
business’ success if you are to achieve long-term results.
A business-owner who couldn’t spare a lot initially for his
receptionist’s salary hired the least expensive employee he could
find. After a few months,
however, a colleague called him to say that not only was he treated
rudely by the receptionist, but he was told, when he tried to order a
product, “We ain’t got none of them.”
Lesson learned, the owner hired a Director of First Impressions
to answer phone calls and take orders.
He explained the impact of the position on the company and how
important it was to make a great first impression on every customer.
Now, whoever answers the phone not only hears praise from
management for doing a great job, but is given proof that he or she is
a valuable asset to the company’s continuing success.
Invest in your employees.
A manager with high
turnover blamed “today’s kids’ lack of loyalty” instead of
looking for substantial root causes for his inability to maintain a
reliable staff. Though it
is easy to attribute high employee turnover to a Generation Y
characteristic, the real cause of the problem often lies with the
employer and a lack of effort to encourage employee buy-in.
may never have thought about it in these terms, but management usually
makes decisions based on information that the frontline doesn’t
have. So, feeling
misunderstood and unheard, frontline employees retreat to an extremely
unproductive “Us versus Them” stance in relation to management.
Employees who feel detached from the organization’s
decision-making process find it very easy just to show up for a
paycheck, give minimal effort, and, finally, not show up at all.
your employees are stale, revive them by giving them an opportunity to
be heard. Invest some time
and involve your staff in the decision-making process whenever
possible and you’ll see the pay off.
They will in turn invest in you and your company with their
time, energy, skills, and loyalty.
you simply take the time to ask employees their views on matters
affecting the organization, they will feel more involved and
empowered; their loyalty is a natural byproduct of those feelings.
When you make decisions that are contrary to the frontline’s
point of view, explain the factors that went into the decision-making
process and how their input shaped the final decision.
Telling an employee
that they have done a great job makes them feel good for the
short-term, but eventually wears off.
Excellent frontline employees might not be with your business
for long, as your customers see an exceptional level of service and
try to woo your people over to their businesses.
So it’s essential for you to establish a rewards system that
works in order to keep your best employees.
skilled clerk who’d been working at a convenience store for a year
had a stack of business cards from the store’s customers who had
offered him jobs in a wide variety of industries.
He hadn’t left yet. More
than the money, he appreciated his employer’s flexibility with
scheduling; he valued his time more than money, and his manager had
discovered what he valued most, then developed a way for him to earn
it isn’t always money that motivates your frontline.
Whenever possible, reward improved and consistently good
performance with whatever each employee wants most.
Create the frontline you want and need.
Don’t despair that
there just aren’t any good workers out there anymore.
You can have the frontline staff you want and that your
business needs by taking action. Start
today by explaining your organization’s big picture to every
employee. Ensure that they
understand their direct impact on your business’ bottom line.
Follow that up by making each employee feel like he or she is a
part of the business by giving everyone a voice in decision-making
whenever you can. Finally,
develop a reward system for improved performance.
Whether it is profit-sharing or something else they value, you
will develop employee loyalty by making an effort to recognize and
compensate superior performance. If
you follow these steps, you will find yourself with a frontline that
cares as much about your company’s bottom line as you do.
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