Take away your customer’s choice and you could be giving away a customer- 4 tips on the give and take of customer service.
Customers are fickle, temperamental and sometimes they are outright crazy! There is a fine line between “the customer is always right” and allowing the customer to take advantage of you. So is there a way to create a win-win situation? Maybe not always but it is sure worth a try because in this economy losing even one customer is a really bad thing. So how can your protect the company without alienating the customer?
1) Like everything, communication is a key component in making sure that everyone is on the same page with your policies. Simply putting something in writing may not truly be enough if you are really interested in making sure that your customer understands. This is especially true if you are dealing with a very diverse customer population (there is no way to be sure there is a good enough level of comprehension) or if the information is technical in nature (just because it makes perfect sense to you does not mean it is intuitive to every one). Just like in marketing, it is best to get your message across using several different mediums on several different occasions.
2) Think twice before limiting your customer’s choices or imposing your will on them. Yesterday I found out that I owe Verizon Wireless $299 for a replacement phone. Long story short, I consider the phone defective and they consider it damaged- fair enough. What is not fair is that I don’t have the choice to buy the replacement, get my “damaged” phone back and have it repaired or simply purchase a different phone. Verizon has made all of the decisions for me- and I am beyond angry. I did not realize I was giving away all of my rights…well, not all of them. I still have the right to change carriers which is likely my course of action. Seems silly that they would give up a long time customer with six phone lines because they do not want to offer their customers a choice of phone replacement options.
3) Always strive for the win-win solution. Maybe you can’t give a full refund or offer free shipping or whatever but is there something else you can do so that both parties are happy? I will hazard to guess that 98% of the time by simply listening to the customer’s concerns you can find a solution that is agreeable to both sides.
4) Get creative. Once, I was working as an install coordinator for a big box store. A customer’s carpet install was delayed but the installer did not let the customer know and she spent most of her day waiting on an installer that never showed. By the time she called me she was really mad (and rightfully so). The store would occasionally offer a discount for the inconvenience but I could tell that this was not about money. The
customer lost valuable time. She told me that she was working on her landscaping and could have been out getting her supplies instead of twiddling her thumbs at home. I asked her about her project and found out she was going out to get some top soil and mulch (guess what- we have that!). So I arranged for the store to deliver her top soil, mulch and a few really nice flowers at no charge. This was a lot less than the discount the manager would have given and it thrilled the customer because “we gave her back lost time” and a gift as well. Win-win!!
Most businesses want to call themselves customer service oriented. Customer delight has to be more than a motto. You always need to strive to make the customer as satisfied as possible. Sometimes this is extra work and can be a real headache but it WILL be worth it in the long run!
The “Go-To” guy….every manager has one. You know who I am talking about, that person you count on for everything. Great person to have on the team to be sure, but by relying on them completely you are doing not only them but the rest of your staff a disservice as well.
Your “Go-To” can get anything done. They are fast and accurate and you trust them with all of the important assignments. Logical, I know, but the damage you are doing seems to defy logic and may happen so gradually that you don’t even realize there is a problem until it is too late.
Traditional motivational theories tell us that people need to have responsibility and need to feel valued to stay motivated. So by this logic, our top performer should feel great being relied on so heavily. But two things are at play here. First, it is important to note that one thing that can cause dissatisfaction is unfair treatment. Is it fair to keep burdening your A-player with extra work? Just because they can do it, does it mean they should have to? And let’s not forget the rest of your staff. How are they feeling when they see the “important stuff” going to the same person over and over? My guess is that they feel that you don’t trust them. That lack of trust (real or perceived) is a morale killer in and of itself.
The other consideration comes down to equity as well. Does the “Go-To” person receive compensation that is in line with the additional responsibilities or has it just become an expectation that this individual be given extra work or tougher assignments simply because you know you can count on them getting done? If the output (compensation) does not equal input (the employee’s capability and hard work), Adam’s Equity Theory, as well as others of course, tells us that the employee will become dissatisfied and will reduce effort, become disgruntled or disruptive and in extreme cases will leave the job, or should I say leave you?
The decision is not easy and will require work on your part but you have to choose to either distribute the responsibility (which is a terrific opportunity to allow other employees to shine) or come to the conclusion that you will continue on the current path knowing that there is a chance that eventually you will likely loose one or more truly valuable assets to your organization.
I just finished watching the movie about the NFL football player, Michael Oher. Of course, the movie is very inspiring and has wonderful life lessons weaved throughout. Today as I contemplated those lessons I had a thought not about what did happen to this young man but what could have happened. In one scene, Lee Ann walks on to the practice field and has a talk with Michael to motivate him to make the right plays. That scene was absolutely pivotal to Michael’s success and it occurred to me that it was because Lee Ann knew how to motivate Michael that he was ultimately able to succeed.
It wasn’t that the coach did not want Michael to succeed. He did what he knew to do to improve Michael’s performance- it just was not the right thing for this player. If Lee Ann had not stepped in, could Michael have ever reached the level of success he now enjoys? Or would he been doomed to mediocre performance because he never discovered the right motivation to become great? Is the same thing true for our employees? If we don’t find the meaningful way to reach each individual employee, could we be missing out on the opportunity to help make them great?
If there was ever a glowing example on why it is vital that managers get to know their employees and work to discover what motivates them on a personal level, this is it. So, how in the world can you figure out what makes your employees thrive? Start with the basics and work from there.
- Mission and Vision Statements– Do your employees know where they are going and why? With well articulated statements, an employee can understand their role in your organization and will feel part of the big picture. Everyone wants to feel part of something bigger than themselves- this helps achieve that need.
- Human Resource Strategies– Your employees are your greatest asset and your HR policies need to reflect the fact that you understand this and that you are striving to care for your employee’s best interests. This would include basics like compensation and benefit packages as well as internal motivators like training and development opportunities.
- Extra-mile incentives– Performance based incentive programs help to motivate employees to go the extra mile. Identifying opportunities to provide bonuses, flex time, additional education resources, and anything else that rewards the employee for high performance or enables them to increase their performance levels can be great motivators.
- Daily encouragement– Please do not discount the impact of a kind word and the gift of time. Sincere appreciation and acknowledgement of the employee is a hugely, often overlooked way to motivate your employees. A simple thank you, giving your employee your time to listen to their ideas and concerns, understanding and providing the tools that they need to be effective in their jobs are effective daily things that managers can do to help your employees become successful.
There is no magic formula to employee motivation because what moves each person is as individual as the person himself. It is an understandingly daunting task to uncover this information but using the basics above begins you on the path to providing the strong foundation needed to create a motivation program that will develop super-star employees.
The way you treat your employees will determine whether they just “show up for work” or if they give it their all. I am surprised how simple the concept is yet how difficult it is for business managers to grasp.
Every day I hear from employers about how the employees don’t care, how they take advantage of things, how they are unreliable. And for a small percentage of these conversations, I do believe that there may have been some poor choices made in the hiring process but for the majority, the blame lays squarely at the feet of the manager. How can I say such a thing? Simple, because the same people that are telling me about the employee issues they are having are usually the ones working very diligently to create processes and policies that treat the employee as no more than a number. So, why the surprise when the employee acts that way?
This, my friends, breaks one of the cardinal rules of employee relationship management. Rules? Okay, rules is a harsh word and we all know rules are made to be broken but there are a few “best practices”, if you will, that simply have to be given credence. Here are a few of the biggies:
- They don’t call it the “Golden Rule” for nothing. Really, if you can follow this you have got the majority of this employee relationship thing licked. Treating your employees the way you would like to be treated is huge but honestly I think it is quickly and easily lost in the shuffle. Let’s face it, you have a hundred things to worry about so analyzing the psychology behind every process or policy you implement seems daunting. But even a moment to pause and ask yourself, “How would I feel if I were them?” will be a great start.
- Trust is a two way street. Don’t take for granted that your employees trust you. Why? Because it is not automatic and has to be reciprocal. You have to earn their trust and you have to trust them. Sure, this is hard- no one said working with people was going to be easy- but it is a critical step in creating a relationship with your employees that paves the way to people who will go the extra mile for you.
- Give them opportunities to grow. This goes hand in hand with trust. You may find the occasional individual that is happy doing the same thing over and over again and that is great. However, many need to grow…notice I said need and not want. This is not optional. If you trust the employee, you can give them new experiences and chances to expand their skills. Not only does that make them more valuable to you, but it also fulfills the employees desire to learn and grow- a win-win situation.
- Create allies with communication. Everyone wants to be part of the in-crowd and by keeping them abreast of any changes not only quells rumors, which can quickly sap morale, but makes them feel part of the big picture. Of course I am not suggesting complete transparency but I am definitely warning against keeping everything as closely guarded secrets and “need to know” status intelligence. Holding back information that could have been shared makes the employee feel that they were not worthy of the consideration- you never want an employee to feel that you do not value them, NEVER!
Whether your employee makes minimum wage or 100k a year, at the end of the day, each and every employee is a person. People are unique, unpredictable, a real handful and a true joy. They are the greatest asset any company will ever have …now the trick is to always remember this and to treat them as you would any precious commodity.
Performance Management…even just writing those two words I imagine supervisors everywhere rolling their eyes and sighing loudly. The pencil-whipped annual reviews, the stressful meeting and the disgruntled employee that always result…why do we put ourselves though the torture?
Well, there are two pretty compelling reasons. First, if you actually start to think of performance management as an ongoing process of employee development instead of a time and place to tell your employee everything they have done wrong in the past year (or at least as far back as you can remember anyway), it will prove to be one of the best things you will ever do for your organization. It is a process that will elevate your good employees and weed out those that are not suitable for your company. If that doesn’t make you want to investigate this idea further maybe this will- your A-players not only want it but will leave you and go where they can find it.
Strong statement? Sure, but this is serious stuff and not something that can be broken down in a single blog but consider this; You are the A-Player on the team 1) you want to hear that you are appreciated and that your employer is invested in making you even better and 2) if there is no performance management in place, the B and C-Players are getting away with murder. And who is picking up the slack? That’s right! Your A-Player….and how long do you think it will be before this super star decides to take his talents elsewhere?
Hopefully, long enough for you to grab a good book on the subject or consult a professional and begin to seriously manage your staff so that everyone is on the same page, working from the same playbook and achieving the level of performance that you know they can accomplish.
Nearly all men can stand adversity,but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.–Abraham Lincoln
Every leadership class I have ever taken or given has a section devoted to power. I have, in the work environment, defined power as the ability to influence others’ actions and behaviors. Many, immediately thinks of power as a bad thing. I believe this stems from the abuse of power. Like Abe says, it is a true test of character to have power. We all have met our share of “Power Bullies”. People with a title, wielding their label like a saber. This is one type of power but there are all kinds of power in the workplace and I have broken them into three categories.
First, there is legitimate power. This includes positional power, coercive power and reward power. In this category, you have power based on your title or position and you use that to force people to do what you want. Usually, they are not acting how you want because they want to but rather, because they either fear or desire what you can do for them. Sure, this power works- for a while. Eventually, people will tire of being manipulated simply because you hold a position of power. If you have not earned their respect along with that title, you will not keep people motivated for long.
The next category is informational power. This includes expertise power (the “what you know”) or the connection power (the “who you know”). In business, leadership should have the knowledge of what they are doing and know the right people to forge solid relationships- this is almost a given. This power block does instill a little higher level of trust and devotion in the people you lead but is not enough in and of itself. So what is?
The final group is one type by itself and in my opinion the most coveted and powerful of all; referent power. This power comes from being liked and respected. People do what you want because they want to do it. No matter what you do or think, this power can not be bought or given- it is simply earned. It comes from having strong values and morals that others are aligned with such as trust, integrity and ethics. Even if your title is non-existent, people are gravitated to follow you. This makes you a true leader with real power.
Enjoying the beautiful spring day (finally), I really noticed how quickly the trees and flowers had changed from the stark, colorless state that they were in just a few short weeks ago to showy wonders of nature. This started thinking about change in general (not just as it applies to HR or business) and I remembered the quote, “The only thing constant is change”. While of course I believe that to be true, I was hoping that I could find even one thing that remained the same; something that I can count on to be steady and stable. I pondered this and ran through all kinds of stuff I thought had the chance of being unchanged. Nothing, and I mean nothing that I could consider, held true. Even a rock changes-albeit usually gradually over time.
So then it comes down to perception. The rock is changed- maybe by elements of nature, maybe by force of humans- but the question becomes, does this change matter to me? A rock that changes ever so subtly by flowing water is nonetheless changing but the change is so small and the effects of the change is so insignificant that no one really even notices- or cares. But what happens when the change does matter?
William Bridges’ book, Managing Transitions, (http://www.amazon.com/Managing-Transitions-Making-Most-Change/dp/0738213802/ref=pd_sim_b_5) really breaks down how we can make the most of change when it hits home. He reminds us that the situational shift is not the most difficult to manage but the psychological components is where the real work lies.
Unfortunately in my experiences, it is the psychological effects that the managers will do anything to avoid. I have seen everything from telling staff that nothing has changed (when in all actuality a significant shift in culture and business operation was taking place), to trying to make it seem like the change is wonderful- which it may be for some people and the company itself- but for others it may be mean job elimination or other consequential variation. Both efforts generally seem to do more harm than good. Managers need to accept that there will be grieving, fear, and other really uncomfortable emotions that must be honored and not simply pushed under the rug if they want to help minimize the distress and disruptions caused by the change.