Empower your frontline
Michael Brown -- Casual Living, March 1, 2008
Retailers rely on attracting loyal, devoted customers who return again and again and recommend your business to their friends and families. However, many businesses fail to provide a customer service experience that satisfies, much less exceeds expectations.
So what’s the secret to creating a world-class service strategy? Treating the employee as No.1.
In order to deliver a proactive customer service experience, businesses need to build their approach and strategies around those that execute it. And who knows how to handle customers better than frontline employees?
Businesses hoping to deliver superior service need to utilize frontline employee knowledge by listening to, equipping, empowering, involving and valuing the feedback and expertise they can offer. If companies can show employees they are concerned and committed to their well-being, then they can expect passionate and enthusiastic employees who unleash their enthusiasm onto the customer experience.
There are a number of ways to assess and formulate an employee-centric service strategy, but there are three important steps that managers and owners can enact for immediate results: Gratitude, Bubble-Up Innovation and Make-It-Right Power.
Gratitude is a building block for motivating employees and business. Management receives recognition, so why not frontline employees, the people who act as the face of the company? Appreciation, a simple, but overlooked act, inspires employees to work to their full potential.
Respecting frontline staff seems simple, but is often overlooked when developing a manager/employee relationship that’s necessary to initiate innovative training and service advances.
Businesses that create positive relationships with their employees will soon find workers are a treasure trove of ideas on how to improve service and efficiency. Harnessing their knowledge and input is a phenomenon called “Bubble-Up Innovation.”
Frontline employees have viewpoints and experiences from face-to-face time with customers that only they can articulate. A concerted effort to tap into knowledge from these experiences can prove invaluable.
But how can managers utilize such a resource?
Place a tape recorder in a Bubble-Up 'zone’ where employees can record their ideas. They’re more likely to give you ideas if they don’t have to spend a lot of time writing them down. Try rewarding innovative behaviors. Gift certificates, movie tickets and spot bonuses (instant cash recognition) are all good incentives.
By incorporating the ideas and feedback employees provide, businesses will see a decline in the number of customer complaints and issues. However, there will always be complaints.
Nine times out of 10, a customer problem starts with a simple issue that can be solved in a matter of minutes. These issues can make the difference between one-time customers and loyal patrons. Frontline employees typically encounter and discover customer problems and should therefore be equipped and enabled to instantly resolve them.
This is what I call Make-It-Right Power. It makes the frontline experience run more smoothly and efficiently for both customers and employees. What follows are some steps to give frontline employees Make-It-Right Power:
Spend some time with the frontline employees to understand how they currently solve customers’ problems.
Find out from the employees what would make it easier for them solve these problems.
Record this gathered knowledge into a “best practice document.”
Establish Make-It-Right authority for every employee in the organization.
Define a policy and procedure around how to administer Make-It-Right Power.
Provide the necessary training.
Once a frontline employee has Make-It-Right Power, they can solve the problems that customers want resolved instantly.
By incorporating these three service strategies, businesses will deliver a competitive edge unlike any other. Remember, it starts by offering frontline employees a healthy and cohesive working environment where their contributions are valued and respected.