Ever watched, heard, or been a customer who had to demand to speak to a manager? Depending on supervisors and managers to step into escalated situations as solvers is a waste of your resources. Alternatively, when your front-line, customer-facing employees have been educated and empowered, the confidence they display in handling your business creates impeccable customer service and far fewer escalations. An additional benefit is the employee satisfaction that follows. Employees who feel poised to make decisions without fear of being embarrassed, undermined, or overruled by a supervisor will feel valued and take ownership in their work.
While some customers can be understanding when issues arise, many turn into creatures that can sense and smell fear. When an employee is handling a difficult situation, her confidence will instill faith. Confidence makes her appear to be a trusted advisor who will see the customer safely through the storm. Conversely, hesitation, apprehension, or nervousness will worry the customer into losing trust and demanding a manager. Don’t make the mistake of putting your customers in a position where they have to bear their teeth, or putting your employees in the position of having to cower – these mistakes make everyone dissatisfied.
Instilling this confidence is both strategic and tactical. The culture from top to bottom must exude both customer and employee satisfaction. They must be near equals – like the chicken and the egg – your culture will not truly know what comes first because they will be seen as interdependent ideals. Management’s role is to be diligent and dedicated to the required education so that confidence is built and good decisions are made. Without a very concerted effort to teach, confidence can be costly to both customers and your bottom line.
I have had the pleasure of learning this first-hand and from the ground up. I have also been able to observe competitors botch this time and time again and have learned that you cannot make people care; you have to give them a reason to do so. Investment in the growth of your people can provide great dividends – and it’s completely scalable from mom and pop to giant conglomerate. Believing in the power of culture and spending time and resources on education and empowerment are where the choices come in. Having been raised in a very large and visible company with competitors futilely attempting to mimic our culture was eye-opening. Wanting it isn’t enough – and not doing it from the heart is transparent and disingenuous, so the choice is to embrace or be in second (or third, or fourth…) place.
I love hearing about organizations that get this and are doing it right! Please share one deserving of kudos!