Keeping your promises is essential. This might seem obvious, but organizations fail at it every day because they don’t have system that makes it possible. They often depend on employees to figure out how juggle the regular service required within their role while saying yes to little customer whims that are out of the scope of the norm. Teaching them to say yes is a fantastic idea, but without a secure process to help them follow through it can backfire miserably.
I had to stop by a well-known cosmetics, fragrance, and beauty store last night to find myself a new hair product because I ran out of my favorite and then found that it had been discontinued. Ugh. One of roughly 3 shoppers in the store, the other customers and I were actually outnumbered by the employees. I walked to the back of the store where the products were organized by brand in 6 (yes 6!) full rows. I was looking for descriptions similar to my old one when an employee stopped and asked if she could help me. I was so grateful that someone was going to rescue me from this little hell I’d found until I realized she knew about as much about the products as I did.
To her credit, she called on her headset to a coworker to help find something that would suit me, but her coworker never responded. She then said she’d go find someone and ask while I continued to look around. Unfortunately, after 10 minutes had passed and I was not approached by her or another associate for help, I felt ignored and walked out. On my way I passed 4 associates socializing, including the one who said she’d return with help. Clearly no one had prepared this young woman with the product knowledge to help me or the process to find someone who could. Too bad for them; I’m spendy on my hair. Set up for success and avoid this hiccup by considering these three thoughts from someone who has failed at it, done it right, and been the customer of both:
- Make sure following through is a priority throughout the organization. It is not enough to presume that staff, at any level, consider the significance of this unless it is an explicit part of the organization’s customer service plan and values.
- Make sure there is an operational plan that supports follow through for your customer facing employees. Maybe they have promised to return a call or email a customer a receipt – or maybe a customer is patiently awaiting your attention; it could be anything. As they continue to help customers the promises can be forgotten or reprioritized which reflects poorly on the employee and the organization.
What do you do to make sure promises are kept and follow through is a priority?
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!