During my career in the customer service industry, I have often witnessed (along with being subjected to ) an imbalance in the level of value exhibited toward employees who are in turn expected to value the customers. Companies often forget that employees are humans and not robots. It is imperative for companies to strive to make their employees feel valued as that “feeling” has an immediate positive impact as it flows from the employee to the customer. It’s important to involve employees when setting performance standards, operational goals and developing improvement projects. If an employee considers their workload to be unrealistic and hampers their efforts to meet their performance goals, the internal/external customer is impacted via the employee’s hurried behavior, heightened frustration level and unwillingness to go the extra mile. Develop performance standards based on quality – not solely on quantity. This method incents the employee to give their full effort to the customer. Quality over quantity also promotes doing the job right the first time with an eye on reducing the necessity for rework.
Employees have the answers to most issues within a company. Create an environment where they feel safe in voicing their concerns or submitting ideas for improvement. Remove fear from the workplace as this “evil” will only cause stagnation throughout the enterprise. Just as customers will discontinue their relationship with your business without bothering to tell you why, employees will leave if their need to feel valued is not met. Don’t use the old cliché of ” The job market is pretty tough right now. You should be glad you have a job.” as a tool to mistreat or ignore your employees. They already know times are tough! Let your employees know you appreciate their efforts during the tough times. Utilize all of the brainpower available to make sure you survive during the tough times. When employees feel valued, they will naturally provide great service to each other and to the external customer.
I have witnessed first hand the power of valuing employees. While working as an operations analyst for a major telecommunications company, I was tasked with seeking out areas of the business as candidates for process improvement projects. My first action was to always just spend time with the employees as they performed the tasks for a full day without asking any questions. The next step was to get them involved by asking them to help me develop a flow chart of the process. The next step was to get all involved in the process in the same room so that they could all see the flowchart and identify areas of opportunity. A redesign of the process resulted in a more efficient process for all including the external customer. Their pride of ownership was easily detectable through their voice tones and body language when the new process was fully implemented. The customer ultimately benefited from this feeling of ” I had a part in this – my opinion matters.”
Remember to honor your employees as people in the same manner that you advise them to honor your customer. Just as you would survey your customers (you are surveying your customers – right??) for their opinion regarding your product/service, do the same for your employees regarding their work environment. How do they feel about their performance standards? What are their concerns regarding the work environment.? Just as you would seriously consider your customers feedback for product/service improvements , do the same with feedback from your employees. Implement ideas and suggestions to show employees you value their input. Reward employees for input that results in greater efficiency or cost savings. Take the time to properly train your employees as this instills confidence and directly impacts the level of service received by both internal and external customers. Managers should spend time servicing the customer in order to get the employee’s perspective on providing service to internal/external customers. Loyalty must be created inside of the company before it can flow out to the customer. Internal loyalty to employees leads to external customer loyalty. Internal loyalty to employees leads to employee retention which leads to external customer retention. Employee retention creates a higher level of service delivery as the internal/external customer receives the benefit of a more experienced service provider.
Before expecting employees to deliver great service in order to create loyal customers, create loyal employees by valuing them as capable, intelligent and industrious human beings. Your business will benefit when your employees believe that you care about them.