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Internal Connectivity – 3 Ways to Determine How Well Your Company is Connected

While it is important to focus on sales growth and profit margins, it’s also critical to understand what is connected to a company’s ability to function well internally. You know how the saying goes – “what happens on the inside becomes visible on the outside.” Here are 3 ways to determine how well your company is connected internally.

Core Values

It is a good idea to have a set of core values as they are connected to the culture of the company. Core values should define:

How the company will treat the employees.

How the employees will treat one another.

How everyone will treat the customer.

When these are defined with core value statements and adhered to, the culture should be a positive one where everyone is treated with respect and dignity – even when disagreeing. No one is allowed to violate the core values as they are the foundation of the company. Are your core values well defined and adhered to by all?

Role Descriptions and Performance Standards

Role descriptions act as another agent of connectivity in two ways. First, they provide detailed information regarding what role is responsible for what tasks. Secondly role descriptions are connected to the training experience as they act as the training outline for the role. When a new employee or an employee moving to a new role is trained, the role description is utilized to ensure the person receives training for each task that they will be held accountable for performing.

Performance standards are connected to a couple of items as well. They speak to the standard to which the person is held accountable when performing tasks listed on the role description. When combined with the role description, this is connected to employees receiving an objective performance review. Most employees prefer objectivity vs subjectivity when it comes to performance reviews. When employees feel that they are managed objectively, morale tends to be higher. So, we can say that objectively managing employees is connected to employee morale. How well is your company connected in this area?

Processes

Remember, when we listed the role tasks on the role description? Well, more than likely there is a process for completing the tasks. Analyzing your current processes is connected to your company’s ability to operate efficiently and effectively. When processes are analyzed with employees that participate in the process and or are impacted by the process, cross functional connectivity is addressed to ensure the needs of all within the process are met.

As a consultant, I often find that task completion procedures are not captured in any format. Creating written or video procedures for completing tasks is connected to employees being properly trained which is connected to customers – both internal and external customers – receiving a good experience. Procedure creation is also connected to the retention of task completion knowledge vs someone having this critical information in their head. What are the consequences should this person decide to leave the company? How well is your company connected in this area?

Internal connectivity is important to a company’s long-term viability. Look at the three areas discussed in this article. What does the internal connectivity look like at your company? Check your connections to ensure you stay on the path to longevity.

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Performance Appraisals Do Create Customer Experiences

During my corporate customer service career, I learned very early the importance of a having a system in place for fair performance appraisals. Believe it or not, providing objective performance evaluations does impact the level of service received by your customers. When employees feel the performance appraisal process is objective and fair, morale is positively impacted. This can surely lead to customers receiving a great customer experience. Let’s talk about a few ways to ensure employees receive a fair appraisal.

Job Description
This is where the performance appraisal process begins. Every position within your company should have a job description as it’s the framework of the performance evaluation. When provided with a job description, employees are made aware of the primary tasks for which they are held responsible. While most job descriptions carry disclaimers which state that the tasks listed are not all-encompassing as employees may be asked from time to time to perform tasks not listed, one is still aware of one’s primary duties. Providing a job description sets the tone for the employee experience.

Performance Standards
Once a job description is in place, it’s time to add performance standards to the appraisal equation. In other words, once an employee is made aware of their position tasks, you want to provide them with information regarding how their tasks will be measured for evaluation. The key in establishing performance standards is to properly establish the standard. If the standard is number based, determine what the right number should be. Okay, so how do I do that Errol? I suggest spending time observing employees performing their specific tasks or even performing them yourself. Doing so gives one a good idea of what’s the right number should be. Also remember to think about the level of quality that is necessary to meet the customer’s (both internal and external) expectation when performing the task. This is also important when establishing a numbers based standard. What should that product look like when the customer receives it? How many quality installations can be done by an employee in the time allotted for his/her shift? How many minutes is the right number of minutes in order for an agent to provide a quality experience on the phone or when web chatting with customers? Remember to include quality when establishing numbers based standards as this will surely help to prevent rework – additional phone calls from unsatisfied customers or perhaps a return trip to a customer’s home or place of business. When the number is set unrealistically high, quality usually goes out of the window as employees are more focused on “getting that number.”

The Period Performance Appraisals
It always a good idea to meet with employees periodically during the appraisal period to talk about where the employee is in regards to the performance standards. Most employees want to know where they are in regards to meeting performance expectations. Periodic communication provides the opportunity to let the employee know where they are currently meeting or exceeding performance standards and perhaps identify areas of opportunity for improvement. These conversations are crucial as employees feel that they have been provided ample time to correct certain behaviors prior to the actual performance appraisal. Make it a practice to spend time with employees and offer coaching and guidance to insure employees know that you care about their success.

The Appraisal
Now if one has taken the time to develop job descriptions, performance standards and provide periodic updates during the appraisal period this should be the easiest part of the appraisal review system. There should be no surprises as this stage of the appraisal process. Employees should be fully aware of where they stand in regards to their performance. The appraisal meeting should be conducted in the most positive manner possible. Highlight the good performance and then provide feedback on the areas requiring improvement. Get agreement on a plan to address these areas as this requires the employee to buy-in to the process. Allow the employee to express his/her opinion in regards to their performance rating. Always refer back to the periodic reviews when addressing an employee’s disagreement with a performance rating. Doing so will assist in keep the appraisal review on track.

When employees feel that they are held accountable to reasonable performance standards and provided with objective evaluations, they are more inclined to provide a higher level of service to customers. Remember, it’s critical to develop Job Descriptions and Performance Standards, provide periodic updates during the Appraisal Period and conduct objective Appraisals. Happy employees create happy customers!

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Don’t Do This in Front of the Customer

Once upon entering a fast food franchise (yes I know it’s not healthy, but oh well) I witnessed a verbal altercation between if you can believe it – two employees! From what I could gather, there seems to have been an error on a customer’s order and one employee was trying to place the blame on the other. I was somewhat dumbfounded as both employees seemed not to notice that I had entered or that all of the attention of the eat-in diners was upon them. Finally, I moved closer to the order station and whispered to get their attention – “Hey – you really shouldn’t do this in front of the customer.”

I don’t know how many of you have witnessed similar encounter, but I do know it’s not the way one should represent their respective company to customers. When errors happen, they should be discussed out of the customer’s sight. It’s important to work as a team – not to place blame, especially in front of the customer! While it is necessary to determine how the error occurred it’s probably a good idea to not allow it to become heated. Employees should be trained to continue to work as a team, even in the midst of an employee induced issue.

The fast food as well as other industries require employees to quickly provide a great customer experience through producing a quality product in a timely manner. This means everyone working in tandem to make sure the customer’s order is fulfilled properly. Rarely will you see the person taking the order actually preparing the order. Each person is relying upon the other to properly complete their portion of the order fulfillment routine. As with any process where we humans are involved, errors will sometimes occur. When they do, it’s important to quickly resolve the issue for the customer. When discussing the error with the team, one should look to the system first for the breakdown and strive to preserve the dignity of the employee who contributed to the error. Moreover, employees should strive to preserve the customer’s perception of the company. As we all know, customers have smartphones with cameras and recording capabilities. One could unknowingly become a social media hit!

Remember when errors occur in fulfilling customers orders, especially in a public setting, choose an opportune time to discuss the situation. Just don’t do it in front of the customer!

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Employee Morale Does Create Customer Experiences

It’s often been said that customer contact employees are key to creating great customer experiences. There is a lot of validity to this statement as customers depend upon the person with whom they interact to provide a high level of service. In continuing the series on the necessary ingredients for creating great customer experiences, let’s focus on employee morale.

During my management days, I expected my team to be ready to handle their duties every day. However, I also knew that it was my responsibility to maintain a high level of team morale. When employees are happy, they are more inclined to create happy customers. When one takes the time to understand what impacts the customer facing employee, one is in a position to create an environment conducive for high employee morale. Here are a few issues that impact the morale of customer facing employees.

Corporate Culture
When the culture of the organization is employee-friendly, morale has a tendency to remain high. Employee turnover is more than likely very low, which leads to highly experienced customer facing personnel. Does the culture allow employees to express their needs and or concerns? Is leadership responsive to these needs and concerns? Are core values in place that include the importance of employees to the organization’s success? A healthy corporate culture is important to sustaining employee morale. Remember, your paying customer is the direct beneficiary of high employee morale.

Management Expertise
Oftentimes, managers/supervisors are placed in their role without the proper training. This can certainly impact employee morale as it leads to managers making decisions that may negatively impact their subordinates. I suggest that companies take the time to properly indoctrinate new managers/supervisors. Provide people skills training. Managers/supervisors should possess competent communication skills, have the ability to create synergy amongst their direct reports and be able to be the spokesperson for their team with upper management. When faced with situations that may negatively impact their team, managers/supervisors must be courageous enough to tactfully address their concerns with upper management. Make sure they understand how what they’re responsible for impacts the rest of the company. Be sure to also help them to understand how the rest of the company impacts their responsibility. This knowledge helps managers/supervisors make good operational decisions, which usually leads to an improved level of employee morale. Remember, one of the most common reasons for employee discontent is the level of supervision provided by the front line manager. Make sure that this is not the case for your company by properly developing manager/supervisor personnel.

Objective Performance Evaluation
This is a major component in consistently maintaining employee morale at a high level. Employee performance appraisal should be based upon reasonable objective standards. The standards should in turn be built from a job description. A performance appraisal based on subjectivity instead of objectivity is a recipe for disaster. Employees lose confidence in the company’s ability to properly appraise their performance, which leads to lower employee morale, which can certainly lead to employee turnover. Make sure that positions within your company have a job description. Develop performance standards based upon reasonable expectations. In other words, develop “real world” performance goals. A sure fire way to antagonize employees is to hold them accountable to goals that you can’t explain. The only way to develop “real world” goals is to spend time in the “real world”. Determine what is achievable. Look for ways to improve the employee experience that will assist them in creating a great customer experience. Make sure employees understand what they’re being held accountable for and be consistent across the employee base. Refrain from preferential treatment as this will lead to a drop in employee morale. Employees want to know that they are all held to the same standard.

Keep employee morale high in your company. Create a great Corporate Culture, make sure management/supervisory personnel have the proper level of Management Expertise and provide Objective Performance Evaluations. Your paying customer will certainly benefit from your decision to do all three! For more insights on improving morale, see this article “How to Improve Employee Morale and Job Satisfaction”.

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