Michael D. Brown
Early in my professional career as a Frontline Manager, I was bombarded with overly-prescriptive customer service program initiatives, lofty sales goals, budget cuts, new competition, and more aggressive competitors. I initially started by just executing the programs that were given to me. However, simple execution was only delivering marginal customer service results. I knew I could do better. I knew that something was missing; something was preventing me from moving the business further, faster.
I tried pushing the various programs on the Frontline Employees. I tried the whip, I tried sugar coating, I tried baiting. I tried everything to get the Frontline Employees to take the customer service programs and initiatives higher. Still, I wanted to do more—something fun and creative but still within the guidelines. I tried every program designed to increase employee participation, all to no avail. But I noticed there was a loophole. Nowhere did it say that you couldn’t motivate your employees by innovative means. Nothing said you couldn’t present the offer in a more creative, team-oriented way.
There was also nothing that really said what I couldn’t do to excite, motivate and equip Frontline Employees to a level where they could deliver a customer service experience that was World-Class and exceeded expectations. I refer to this experience, and the business mindset that produces it, as Fresh Customer Service.
The key word in this business equation is “fresh.” Year after year, after they’ve racked their brains for catchy phrases, upselling, cross-selling, and any other customer service gimmick you can name, leaders and managers bump their heads against the wall and stand in disbelief that their customer service performance is stagnant or, worse yet, declining. The current norm is to downsize training and reduce funds spent on developing employees and making a great experience for the customer. Reward and Recognition (R&R) is down and investment in the employees typically amounts to peanuts. Most of the aforementioned customer service strategies are outdated. Few actually work. Don’t forget: You get what you pay for. And often customers get much less than that—and they know it. In this age, a customer can find your services duplicated or your products cheaper on the next block. The one way you can differentiate yourself in a sea of similar competition is by offering exemplary customer service. This will never happen if you use the same stale, outdated, failed approach to customer service that you and your competitors have always used before. The business world needs a makeover. A new perspective. A fresh approach. Fresh Customer Service demystifies the process of attracting loyal, happy customers who return again and again and recommend your business to their friends and families. This type of customer reaction, what some may consider as a minor detail, can actually tip the scales and prove the difference between a prosperous organization and a bankrupt organization. So what’s the secret? The Frontline Employee.
I know, I know, the struggle to turn just-any-old customer into a loyal customer is unyielding, and the burden of competition is so stiff you don’t have time to think about what Mary Jo at the cash register and Frank the Janitor have to say about things.
But these are the exact people to whom you need to listen and show your appreciation—the operator who answers customer complaint calls, the construction worker who is building a new home, the consultant who is trying to move a client, the greeter who welcomes the customer at the entrance of the store, the cashier who tallies the customer’s total at the register. If you are a manager, frontline leader, supervisor, entrepreneur, director, HR rep, small business owner or CEO and you can offer your Frontline Employees a healthy, fruitful, cohesive working environment where their contributions are valued and respected, the Frontline Employees will take care of the customers. And the customers will be loyal customers, and the bottom line will reflect it.
Remember this important business fact: The employee is number one, not the customer. The customer is number two.
Granted, this is a radical notion that flies in the face of everything you have ever learned about customer service. But if the common wisdom regarding customer service is right, why is there an almost universal agreement among the shopping public that customer service stinks? Let me repeat this near-heresy of customer service philosophy: The employee is number one, not the customer. The customer is number two.
The key to running a successful operation is believing and practicing the concept that customers should always come second—employees matter more in the immediate sense and should therefore come first. After all, happy employees unleash their enthusiasm and passion from within, and that passion is contagious. It infects everyone around them, including customers.
Far too often, the “top brass” sees the Frontline Employee as an obstacle to, rather than a catalyst for, providing a World-Class customer experience. It is taken as a given that the majority of Frontline Employees will be disgruntled clock-watchers who don’t really care about their customers or even their jobs, judging by their high turnover rates. Sadly, this viewpoint is often informed by at least some truth, but it’s a classic “chicken and egg” scenario. What came first, management’s resignation to a poor professional attitude on the part of the Frontline Employees, or the poor professional attitude itself? Without any real incentive or recognition, why should Frontline Employees make it their personal mission to ensure that every customer who walks through the door is exposed to a World-Class customer experience?
I’ve learned ways to make employees happy, and one simple way is by thanking them every day. Thank them for going above and beyond their job descriptions. And why not thank them for doing what they’re supposed to be doing? It sure can’t hurt anyone. The Frontline Employee is the most important asset, resource and ally to an organization’s operations. He and his quest to deliver a World-Class customer service experience are paramount. We must take care of all of our Frontline Employees first if we ever hope to effectively and consistently reach the customer. We must treat each employee with the utmost trust, honesty, respect, integrity, and commitment to his or her well-being.
We should always seek to maximize the talent of each employee and work to enhance his or her quality of life. We must also value diversity among our staff and work to fulfill their personal aspirations. Only then will the Frontline Employee be more apt to pour his or her heart into providing a World-Class customer service experience and delivering the goals and objectives of the organization.
As I mentioned earlier, nowhere does it say that you can’t motivate your employees through innovative means. Tradition dictates that the Frontline Employees be treated as an afterthought, but that tradition isn’t law. Getting fresh with your customer service policies, procedures and overall mindset isn’t illegal, but it is necessary if you ever hope to deliver a world-class customer service experience that customers will knock your doors down to experience.
About the Author:
Michael D. Brown is a sought after motivational speaker, management expert, consultant, and best-selling author. Through Michael's signature programs and commitment to delivering results both through and with people, he has helped a number of Fortune 500 companies create and deliver world-class experiences that led to double-digit growth to their bottom lines.
Click the following link to learn more about: Michael D. Brown
The current norm is to downsize training and reduce funds spent on developing employees and making a great experience for the customer. Reward and Recognition (R&R) is down and investment in the employees typically amounts to peanuts. Most of the aforementioned customer service strategies are outdated. Few actually work. Don’t forget: You get what you pay for. And often customers get much less than that—and they know it.
In this age, a customer can find your services duplicated or your products cheaper on the next block. The one way you can differentiate yourself in a sea of similar competition is by offering exemplary customer service.
1 - Move from a generic form of Customer Service to World-Class Customer Service.
2 - Improve your bottom line through fresh customer service.
3 - Motivate and retain your employees by empowering and equipping them with the tools necessary to deliver World-Class customer service.