How to Improve the Customer Experience by Empowering Frontline Employees
Service excellence is achieved through people. Every individual needs to understand who its customers are (internal and external) and what they need to be doing to provide service excellence. All individuals (and particularly customer facing ones) need to be given the authority and freedom to act to deliver service that is ‘customer warm’ and as empathic to customer needs as it is possible to be.
What happens between our frontline employees and our customers makes or breaks the enterprise at the “moment of truth.” Meet customers’ expectations and we both win. Miss and everyone loses. The ultimate success or failure of those critical, person-to-person transactions turns on success or failure when it comes to hiring good people, training them thoroughly, and managing them in a way that encourages them to “do what needs to be done” for customers.
Frontline service people must be able to “stand up” – sometimes literally – to a high level of customer contact. Not all of it will be pleasant. Dealing with customers calls for a level of maturity and self-esteem that allows personal feelings and problems to be put aside, to focus on customers and their wants and problems. Service workers need social skills and an understanding of the normal rules of social behavior.
Service workers also need tolerance and stamina. The strain of constant, intensive encounters with people who are essentially strangers leads to burnout. Under the constant stress and pressure, service providers need to be able to continue to perform capably and willingly without withdrawing into robotic, detached behavior or becoming aggressive and hostile.
Empowerment means encouraging every individual to make that extra effort, or to use their imagination and initiative. It also means tolerating their mistakes when well-intentioned efforts fail to work out exactly as planned. The goal is that best of all worlds where empowered employees confidently and capably address unique problems and opportunities as and when they occur.
The featured video clip is a short excerpt from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder eLearning program, Improving Customer Service: An RSB eLearning Course.