#MakeTheirDay: Help employees help customers

Empower your employees to deliver exceptional customer service

by AT&T Business Editorial Team

Your employees are the face of your business. They typically have just as much interaction with your customers, clients or patrons as you do. So they play a big role in the overall customer experience. Perhaps more than you even realize. Which can be great, and sometimes, not so much.

Whether it’s due to a lack of experience, motivation or power, a disengaged employee can give customers a bad impression. And we don’t need to tell you how important first impressions and customer relationships are to a small business. So it’s imperative to create an effective employee management program.

Right now, you’re probably thinking: “OK, there already aren’t enough hours in the day; how the heck am I going to have time for this?”

Well, fortunately, you’re reading an article that contains a few thought-starters on easy ways to inspire and motivate your employees to deliver a top-notch customer experience. So enough with the setup. Let’s get into it.

Put it in writing

It’s easy to poke fun at some of the vague and lofty mission statements commonplace among bigger corporations. But do you know why they all have them? Because they work. And there’s no reason it can’t work for small businesses, too.

It doesn’t have to be poetic or profound. It can even be the classic, “The customer’s always right.” Put it loud and proud in a highly visible backroom or breakroom, introduce it to all employees going forward. Make it the north star of your employee training program, and you just may be surprised at the results.

What’s in it for them?

Depending on your line of business, many of your employees may see their roles as temporary. Students working a summer job or recent grads that are searching for the next step in their career. For them, delivering a great customer experience isn’t top of mind because, frankly, they don’t have as much skin in the game.

Take a step back and ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” If the answer is nothing, it’s probably time to change that.

An obvious incentive is monetary, things like bonuses, gift cards, etc. But there are other, less costly ways to reward employees. Things like extra paid time off, free lunch, a free product or service, or even a casual dress day can motivate employees to look for opportunities to go above and beyond for your customers.

Give them the power

Motivation isn’t the only factor that limits an employee’s ability to deliver exceptional customer service. A common one is actually company policy.

Employees often feel hindered by what they see as concrete rules, and don’t feel they have the right to go off-script, so to speak. Luckily, this has a simple fix: Empower your employees with the flexibility to make judgment calls.

Things like coupons, freebies, the ability to change certain policies and easy access to management are simple tools that can help employees save face in tense situations.

It won’t always be perfect

Sometimes, even when you try to do everything right, the customer experience can still feel lackluster.

Customer-facing roles are stressful, so it’s always important to empathize with their daily challenges. But if some employees are being particularly problematic, there are still ways you can address it.

Try giving them a short-term goal with an incentive, moving them to the backroom and away from the frontlines for a few days, or in some cases, moving them away from a customer-facing role entirely. After all, your employees are truly the face of your business. And it’s your job to make sure it’s as welcoming and helpful as possible.