As leaders, managers, and business owners, it’s challenging to get our staff to go the extra mile to deliver excellent, let alone quality or sometimes, adequate customer service. We hear whispers about staff saying things to our clientele like, “sorry, I can’t help you” or “I don’t know” or, perhaps worst of all, “It’s not my department” which is code for ‘it’s not my job’.
In an age of customized customer experiences, and in an era where having the monopoly on any product or service is long gone, we can’t afford to drive clientele away. As leaders, the customer service buck stops with us. The good news is that we can then do something about it.
One of the biggest problems with our staff under-performing is management tying their hands.
Often an employee will not serve a customer because they’ve not been told how to, have been penalized when they’ve tried to, or they’ve simply not been informed to pass an issue along to the appropriate staff so the customer’s issue can be solved.
Our employees need to be empowered to solve customer problems.
2 Ways to Empower Your Staff to Deliver Heightened Customer Experiences
Empower Staff to Admit Their Mistakes
Despite our Canadian heritage of saying sorry for everything, there seems to be an allergy to apology developing in the customer service realm. More and more, when a mistake has been made by anyone on staff, there is less apology and more denial. Even blaming of other (conveniently unavailable) staff, or even of the customer themselves.
This week, a friend of mine was in the hair salon, and the stylist just finishing with her new cut.
“How does that look?” the stylist asked, clearly believing the job to be done.
“Good,” my friend said, and then she noticed the hair on one side wasn’t curled the same as the other side, so it looked uneven. “But this side doesn’t look even. Can we fix that?”
“Oh. That’s the part where you moved your head, remember? And I couldn’t curl it properly because of that.” She waited a beat, looking at my friend, perhaps waiting for her to apologize for making the stylist do a bad job, I’m not sure, then proceeded to style the hair. As she re-curled the stray, uneven strands, the stylist added, “If that’s what you need to feel comfortable, then that’s what we’ll do.”
My friend was livid. Not only was she being blamed for the stylist’s mistake, but shamed for requesting the change be made.
If we’re creating a culture in which staff understand the customer is always right, and to argue with or blame the customer is damaging to the business, they’ll see admitting their mistakes as a strength and an asset. Customers then, will also feel more valued and be more likely to return.
Empower Staff to Be there in the Moment.
I remember early in my career, I was in a business group with about ten other agents, and each of us was sharing our ideas in turn. When it was my turn to speak, I noticed one seasoned agent sat there listening intently and looking at me with such intensity in his eyes that I felt I was the only one in the room, yet, there were 10 others.
Afterward, I told him how I appreciated his undivided attention and learned from that what it feels like to receive such. It impacted the way I serve clients even to this day, which is with the goal of giving them my full and undivided attention.
When our staff serve customers though, the phone rings, the line grows longer, and their attention is pulled in five different directions, all while a customer is trying to communicate. This leaves customers feeling like a number. More specifically, it leaves them feeling like a zero. No wonder retail is being challenged by online businesses like Amazon.
One instance where this DIDN’T happen, was when I was in line at the customer service desk at a Canadian Tire. I’d waited for almost twenty minutes, slowly shuffling forward as another customer was dealt with, another step forward, and another step forward until finally I was next in line. Just before the clerk called me up, the phone rang and she answered it. She chose to serve the customer on the phone before the customer who had already been waiting for her attention for twenty or so minutes. To me, it felt like someone had just butted in line and that had been honored by service staff. I was none too pleased.
The point is, when we’re serving customers, we need to be present and attentive. They pay us money, we pay them attention. If we don’t, we lose.
How to empower our staff to deliver such boils down to two things: First, modeling this among the staff. Give them permission to solve problems and don't chastise them for poor decisions, instead, use the experience as a teaching lesson and you will turn an otherwise basic employee into a customer centric superstar. Imagine the positive effect on your business when an otherwise disgruntled customer is actually heard and someone is actually trying to help them. Second, give them that undivided attention too, to show what it looks like and how it feels to receive it. Talk to them about it. This is something that most often goes unsaid, so it then goes undone. Teach them this stuff. Then give them permission to let the incoming call be answered and placed on hold assigning phone duties differently so people in the middle of serving customers aren’t pulled in five different directions. Allow them to serve.
Customers are the life blood of every business, and that blood will stop flowing into businesses that don’t treat them well. Referrals and repeat business comes from satisfied customers. (With all the options out there, no one has to put up with much). The difference these days between a successful company and a failed one is the ability to please their customers.