Have you ever had a job that you simply couldn’t stand, due to a poor relationship between the decision-makers and the employees responsible for carrying out those decisions? It feels like no matter how strong an effort you make or how much you like serving the customers despite the poor work environment, it’s hard to perform at your best with so much negativity in the air. As a business owner, apathetic, disengaged employees can spell real disaster for the quality of your customer service, and the data consistently show how disengagement correlates with poor customer service. This is an age-old problem that has always been a hurdle for business.
The positive side is that genuinely engaged employees are more likely to do what’s necessary to provide great service, because they’re empowered to make the necessary decisions and have the support they need to get the job done effectively.
In an article published in LinkedIn about this topic, author Peter Ankerstjerne, the CMO at ISS, a global provider of facility services, talks about the relationship between trust and good customer experience:
“Any good relationship is built on trust and transparency. Based on our research it is clear that these traits are, in fact, key drivers of customer experience and customer retention.”
Ask any employee or a leader with experience in customer service, and you’ll probably have an easy time getting a more detailed list of the most desirable traits that they look for in a healthy relationship with management. Would trust and transparency rank near the top of that list? Of course! No matter what type of relationship you’re talking about, those are some very important traits to identify.
But what about when that trust isn’t there, or it has eroded over time? What if the decisions made by leadership share little consistency, and even less information about why each decision was made? What if even the most basic, quality-of-life issues in the office take forever to resolve, and the “solutions” are completely out of touch with the needs of the people who will be most affected by them?
“Are employees in fact happy and engaged or are they disengaged and disillusioned about management or other aspects of their employment.” Ankerstjerne asks. “This will have a direct effect on the quality provided and thereby their engagement with the end-users on a day-to-day level.”
There are a ton of reasons that employees become disengaged, but the end result tends to look very similar. No matter how much effort your most dedicated employees expend to make the best of a challenging situation, customer service will suffer when employees do not feel connected or denied the tools they need to do the best job they can for the customer. Trust and transparency mean a ton to customers, and just as much to the employees who represent your business to those customers every day.
Giving Employees a Reason to Be Engaged Has Big Benefits for Customer Service
Now, think about a job you really loved, even if your pay-grade, title, and job description were not quite perfect. Perhaps you had a great boss, a strong sense of teamwork among employees, maybe a few extra perks that made you look forward to coming into work each day. No matter the reason, there are huge benefits to a healthy company culture, and a committed group of employees.
Engagement is a two-way street, because active, involved leaders are more likely to have employees who are active and involved. In customer service situations, it’s crucial not just to provide a healthy working environment, but to empower employees to make the right decisions based on their training, experience, and read of the situation. It’s all about being transparent in how you want employees to approach customer service, and trusting them to make the right decisions.
In addition to the benefits for employee engagement, an empowered workforce is also much better equipped to adapt to the unique challenges of customer service because they have the knowledge and authority to tailor solutions to each individual situation. It takes effort to make good customer service happen, and your employees will be much more willing to make that effort when they feel positively connected in the workplace—both with their employer(s) and their peers, given the tools to do the job right, and have a stake in the outcome.
So if you’re on the management side of things and want to improve customer experience, take some time to look objectively at your employment and business policies. Are there bottlenecks or barriers that could be removed to ensure better outcomes? Take a survey of your employees to find out how they’re feeling. Do they feel they have what they need to do a great job, or do they feel some disconnection? What frustrations are they having on a daily basis that contribute to poor customer service?
Taking the temperature of your business in this way, on a regular basis, can help everyone do a better job of keeping your customers happy. Isn’t that why we’re in business in the first place?