Delivering a level of service that will build true customer
loyalty means caring for your employees..
I just returned from speaking at another Conference on
Customer Service Strategies. I enjoyed three days of learning
and networking with some of the best and the brightest minds in
the field, and in the entrepreneurial community.
There was one thing in particular that was so rewarding for
me this year. The absolute recognition and affirmation in almost
every session that I attended that without creating an
environment where the workers feel valued and good about coming
to work, you cannot even hope to deliver a level of service that
will build true customer loyalty.
Well it's about time. Isn't it? Wasn't it ludicrous to believe
that we could ask workers to care about customers if they didn't
feel cared about? Isn't it crazy to think that we can ask people
to take "ownership" of the customer and the customer's problems
if we don't take ownership and create a workplace where people
can feel their sense of self-worth grow and where they can learn
and develop as people as well as performers?
Creating an environment where both customers and employees want
to pledge their loyalty is a function of good planning as much
as good intention. As companies begin to compete for qualified
personnel (like they are now competing for customers) we all
need to get better at developing and keeping talented staff.
Losing talented employees costs you money and often costs you
The challenge to find qualified, "good" people will get tougher.
If you are hiring technical staff or knowledge workers, you are
already feeling the pinch and it will get worse. What can you do
to assure that you are building the type of workforce that will
help you create loyalty, internally and externally? Here is a
short checklist for creating a workforce that will help you grow
Most companies don't put the time in up-front to understand what
kind of people thrive in their cultures and the kind of people
they need to take good care of customers and to grow the
company. Develop a profile of the kind of person that succeeds
in your company. Know specifically what kinds of attitudes and
skills serve your customers best. For some positions (like
service or sales) it may make sense to do some testing. After
all, some things, like empathy, a key customer caring skill,
cannot be taught.
Learn the latest in behavioral hiring techniques and make
sure everyone who interviews know what they are. Make sure the
applicant gets interviewed by a number of people. Prepare well
for interviews by talking to other members of the hiring team
and writing down key interview questions. Check references.
This is where most companies really fall short. It's not enough
to show someone the rest rooms, the accounting department and
the cafeteria and then show them to their department. Companies
that deliver world-class service (even the small ones) have a
formal orientation program, an employee handbook and a variety
of ways to introduce the new employee to the company.
During the orientation an employee is told clearly what the
company (and the department) expects of them. They are told the
kinds of things they need to do to succeed and even the kinds of
things they would need to do to be fired. The standards of the
company are clearly articulated, and a good teacher/trainer will
share examples of how those standards are implemented in
day-to-day life. This is the time to explain the impact of
certain behaviors on the customer, and the company’s
philosophies and belief systems regarding the customers. It’s
also time to look at who the “internal” customers and suppliers
are in the value chain.
Every one needs to know what is expected of them. The clearer
the job description and the clearer the expectations are
articulated the better a new hire's chance for success. Don't
"throw people in the water and see how well they swim". That old
management technique sets people up for failure, not success.
Train everyone in the company in "recovery skills" - the art
of dealing with an angry or distressed customer. Know that
today's workers expect you to provide them with more then just
the training to do their job, but also on skills that are
transferable and help grow them professionally, such as
computer, communication skills, and interpersonal skills.
Training pays you back. Most companies do not do enough of it.
Create an environment where people can be heard and can
participate. The key relationship skills in business today have
to do with building trust, respecting others ideas and opinions
and communication honestly without blame or judgment. People
want to make a difference and make a contribution.
If you want them to care about the customers you have to care
about them. Younger people especially want to have fun at work.
The generation formerly called "X" (they don't like the moniker,
so will someone please come up with something that works?) and
the ones that follow have different values and don't want their
father's workplace! The new generations want to feel excited and
engaged in their work. They expect that you’ll ask and respect
their opinions. They want work that matters, and even with that
they don’t plan on staying too long.
Just as customer loyalty is critical to the long-term success of
your business, so too is employee loyalty. Start today to look
at the systems you have set up to support your growth in the
About the Author
ęCopyright 2008 JoAnna Brandi & Company, Inc. All rights
JoAnna Brandi is Publisher of the Customer Care Coach ™ a weekly
training program on mastering "The Art and Science of Exquisite
Customer Care." She is the author of "Winning at Customer
Retention, 101 Ways to Keep 'em Happy, Keep 'em Loyal and Keep 'em
Coming Back" and "Building Customer Loyalty - 21 Essential
Elements in ACTION" she writes a free email tip on customer
caring. You can sign up at