Customer Service from the Inside Out

By Laurie Brown

Jerry loved his job and he loved his clients. He truly enjoyed helping them. His Customer Service Index (CSI) scores were through the roof. Then one day his company was sold. Although he got to keep his job, his world changed that day, and so did the world of his customers.

Jerry’s new managers were changing processes and procedures daily. They were constantly on him, insisting he spend less time with each customer so that he could be more “productive”. He was openly criticized and corrected.

Jerry’s morale plummeted. He came to work angry and resentful. Although he still loved his clients, they noticed his unease. Even though he tried to hide his unhappiness, his bad attitude oozed out in his tone of voice and his customers felt it, too. The company’s CSI scores started dropping and lead to a serious decline in business. The new owners had no idea why the profitable business they bought was losing its loyal customers. They weren’t aware of the basic truths about keeping loyal customers.

What’s the first thing you can you do to ensure that your customers are happy and loyal? You need to 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, taking personal ownership of their customer’s experience. Because they talk positively about their place of work to friends and family, happy employees are a valuable source of advertising and good will.

Customer service needs to come from the inside out. Before you concentrate on elevating your customer satisfaction scores, raise your employee’s level of satisfaction by doing the following:

Know What They’re Thinking: Survey your employees to find out if they are satisfied with their work and work environment. How are current business conditions impacting them? Do they have the tools, training and resources to do their job well? Do they feel empowered to resolve issues? What personal life issues are impacting their work? Remember that 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’s ideas, opinions and concerns, it’s important to make the changes that will help them please your customers.

Communicate: Communication needs to be a two-way street between you and your employees. Be sure that you have clearly explained your company’s goals, policies and procedures. You also need to let employees know about the health of your business, as well as any customer feedback you receive, both good and bad. Employees shouldn’t hear about impending changes through the grapevine.

It is also important that you make it easy for your employees to communicate with you. Take for example, the head of an academic department at a major metropolitan hospital who has an open door policy for all of his employees. They know they can talk to him whenever they need to. However, he does ask that when a group of employees needs to speak with him, they let him know the issue in advance so he can be better prepared by getting background information. His employees truly appreciate this openness and accessibility and rate their job satisfaction highly.

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 only what isn’t going well. Employees can wear down when they only hear criticism. Criticism rarely inspires employees to be great. When you only see problems, the problems tend to increase.

Instead of only focusing on your employees 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: Remember rewards need to be shaped to the individual. A blanket approach won’t work as well as understanding what motivates each of your employees. Some might like a bonus; others may find time off more rewarding; while others simply need an “attaboy” now and again.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t address problems in performance, but make sure even if you have to take corrective action, it’s done in a positive way that helps the employee learn and improve.

Train: 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. So that employees can help each other do better, if at all possible, create a mentoring system.

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 the way and let them do it. If your employees have been properly trained, and you have effectively communicated your policies and procedures to them, it’s usually best they be allowed to make their work their own. This can also allow an individual to bring creativity to their work, which will improve your employee’s morale, the service provided to your customers and your bottom line.

Empower: For truly happy employees and satisfied customers, your 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 that 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 place to work. Obviously, a beauty salon can be looser with their fun than an oncology clinic, but fun is always 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. A customer who calls up and hears raucous laughter may be turned off.

Fun can be as simple as letting employees choose their own 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.

Read other articles and learn more about Laurie Brown.

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