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Customer service is an inside job

Your employees’ attitudes and actions matter

Story by Randi Busse

Customer service is a critical function in every organization. It is something that business owners must count on their employees to consistently deliver. But how can employees deliver exceptional service if they’re not feeling empowered, appreciated and respected?

We think about improving customer service through additional training or incentives, even though effective results often come from something much more human: how your employees feel about their job. Employee job satisfaction directly affects attitude, performance and customer experience with your company. In short, happy employees make happy customers.

Unfortunately, job satisfaction and engagement are not as common as they should be. Studies show that only 20 percent of employees feel valued at work, and 49 percent are dissatisfied with their direct supervisors. What would motivate employees to go above and beyond if they do not feel valued?

Employees are the frontline ambassadors of a brand, shaping each customer’s experience. Exceptional service scores stem from their dedication, training and genuine care.

Get to the root

Employees may be unhappy or disengaged for different reasons. Some are frustrated with company bureaucracy, lack of feedback and even feelings of exclusion. Getting to the root of employee dissatisfaction can help resolve long-standing organizational problems.

The good news is that doing so doesn’t have to be an expensive corporate endeavor. It can be as simple as asking staff how they feel about their jobs, their bosses and the organization as a whole. Effecting change starts with listening to what employees say and, when appropriate, putting their suggestions into action.

Assess the employee landscape

Measuring employee satisfaction and engagement can be done in several ways. It’s essential to find the most effective approach for your staff.

Employee surveys: Surveys often yield more honest responses via anonymity. To encourage in-depth responses, use only open-ended questions rather than yes/no or rating questions. The idea is to get to the reason behind the rating.

Personal interviews: A one-on-one conversation allows for the most personal and responsive look at the employee experience. Questions like “If you were in charge, what would you do differently?” empower employees to share solutions. Hiring an outside consultant to perform these interviews may yield more honest responses.

Focus groups: Create focus groups that include one person from each department. Ask for their feedback on what’s working and what’s not. Encourage honest communication between departments to work out disconnects and help develop a more seamless customer experience, while also helping employees understand how their actions affect other staff members.

Satisfied versus engaged

You might find that your employees are satisfied enough with their jobs and the organization to keep contributing at their current level. Satisfied employees are OK, but engaged employees are better.

Being engaged means possessing an ownership mentality. Engagement manifests itself in commitment; in doing more than asked. Engaged employees are those most likely to deliver the stellar customer service most business owners promise, yet few deliver on. 

Tick placed in excellent checkbox on customer service satisfaction survey form

Responding to feedback

Asking for and listening to employee feedback is critical to improving engagement. It’s even more important to take action on the feedback. If you ask employees to share their thoughts, you should be prepared to work on any opportunities they bring up.

Your employees possess a tremendous amount of intelligence that goes beyond their jobs skills and knowledge. They know what works and what doesn’t. They know what the kinks are – and what customers are sharing. Tap into their insights to improve the employee experience. Doing so creates an environment that inspires employees to share their thoughts and willingly contribute to providing customers with an outstanding experience.

Engaged staff empowered to provide excellent customer service will establish your organization as one that puts customers and employees first. Sounds like a win-win to me! What are you waiting for?

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