Ever been to a hotel and have a poor customer service experience at the front desk even before you get to your room? How about the dreaded line at the bank to make a deposit, and then get treated poorly by a teller, which made the wait seem enjoyable?
The people who have most of the customer contact for the above examples have no authority, or even adequate training for that matter. The majority of businesses aren’t that smart in some areas of and are run poorly when it comes customer care.
Sure, everybody preaches great customer service, but it is rare when we receive it. And it needs to be genuine, not just the company’s advertising campaigns or cute slogans. It all begins and ends with people, not just policies that keep people from doing their jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big believer in policies if it means that they benefit the customer and not just the company, just for the sake of having a policy.
A corporation is a piece of paper, while a company is made up of people. You are only as good as your worst employee. Customers will blame the whole company for poor service, when in reality, it was only one or two people who made the customer upset or angry.
Let’s revisit that bank or hotel, so I can really get my point across. In both cases, whether it is the teller or the front desk person, who is one of the least paid positions in the company? How about the least trained or have the highest turnover?
It’s typically the employees who come in contact with the most customers on any given day. When you really think about this, it is kind of ridiculous. The plan doesn’t work, never has, and never will – unless you adopt some basic principles.
The following are Hal’s simple principle business ideas:
• Invert the pyramid. Give the people who have all the contact with your customers the most amount of ongoing training, and give them the tools and the budget to take care of problems. Most consumer problems are small anyway.
• Have senior management, including the CEO, make constant visits to the front lines to show support, observe the process and prove you really care about the company and your most important assets, which are it’s people.
• Be like The Ritz-Carlton or Disney, give the front line people a budget to take care of whatever arises. Trust me, it is easier to spend money on the front end, and not on the back end, which is turnover and expensive advertising when sales are slow.
* Word of mouth advertising is free. Don’t believe me, just look at Nordstrom’s advertising budget compared to Dillard’s, Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s, etc. Good reputations are earned, while bad ones are created.
All of this creates a triple win.
• If the customer is taken care of, they will stay as your customer.
• If the employee is happy, creative and can be part of the decision-making process, they will want to stay longer and will reduce turnover.
• Lastly, the company wins, since profits will be up due to a strong loyal customer base.
If all of the most popular business books have been saying this ongoing theme for decades now, maybe they are right and it just works. All the technology and systems will not be as important as a good front line of employees. Common sense is still the greatest innovator.
Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers, “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book.” He can be reached at Halbecker.com.