One staff performance factor can hurt your business above all others. Whatever else you do: no matter how competent and dedicated your employees are: no matter how desirable and valuable your product or service.
The One Factor
It isn’t something employees do consciously. It’s something they fail to do. The one factor is this: whenever a customer or prospect contacts your business, they see your business as the employee or employees they speak to.
Your Employee Is The Business
Let me repeat. The employee or employees your prospect or customer speaks to is “the company” to that prospect or customer. Prospects and customers decide whether to do business or continue to do business with you based on their perception of the value of their interaction with your employee.
The Seamless Customer Experience
A client of mine insists that his customers enjoy a “seamless” experience in any contact with his business. Every employee is held accountable for maintaining their link in the seamless experience.
All Employees Included
The “employee is the business” philosophy applies to all employees. It’s not a philosophy only for customer contact staff such as receptionists, salespeople and customer service specialists. Every employee must understand that in any contact with a prospect or customer for any reason that employee is the business to that prospect or customer.
Because the employee is the business, he or she needs to realize
- Their actions will either enhance or damage the relationship with the customer
- The reason doesn’t matter. It can be a minor query or a major complaint or sales advancement. To the customer, the employee response must make them feel as if their query is extremely important to the employee
- The employee that the customer speaks to not only represents the business: that employee represents all other employees too
- One brusque or terse response can damage all the goodwill built over many previous contacts
- Every positive interaction reinforces the value of the customer/business relationship. This benefits the business and all employees
- Not only are employees the business to the prospect/customer, they are also the product or service the company offers. For instance, if you run a website design business your employees’ treatment of prospects/customers will influence their opinion of all such businesses. If you have a McDonalds franchise, your employees will affect customers’ perception of all franchises and even of hamburgers generally.
What You Can Do
- Make sure you have a crystal clear business focus and a narrow, specific target market. To provide excellent service, employees need to know what you’re in business to sell and who to
- Honour commitments made to prospects/customers. If an employee promises to “phone back in an hour” or “call with the answer tomorrow morning”, they absolutely must do so
- Employees must not blame other employees for errors or omissions. “Our accounts people had some computer problems yesterday so I couldn’t get back to you as promised”. This sort of blaming doesn’t enhance your corporate image. Once it becomes apparent that a deadline can’t be met, contact the customer, apologize and revise the deadline
- Always try to do something to help the prospect/customer: if the person they want isn’t available, take a detailed message and promise to respond within a set time. Honour your commitment
- Develop a customer focused corporate identity that distinguishes your business from your competitors. For example, the client who demands “a seamless experience” runs a plumbing maintenance business. Their slogan is “If we’re late, your plumbing is free”. That’s a hard guarantee to match. And it gives your employees a major benefit to proclaim to customers.
- Lead by example: no matter what you say about the importance of the employee – prospect/customer relationship if all counts for nothing if you fail to treat customers the way you say employees should treat them
- Build special incentives/rewards into your performance systems so that “ideal” customer interactions attract special rewards. For example, in the plumbing maintenance company I’ve mentioned, every plumber receives a special bonus if their work attracts no “callbacks” for a month.
The employee is the business. There’s no doubt about that in the mind of the prospect or customer. But the consequences and implications are far broader than most employees realize. And one poor interaction can do devastatingly harm to your business. Make sure your employees understand this and respond appropriately.
What To Do Now
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