Monday, May 4, 2009

Gain employee commitment

I was asked by a potential client in a meeting recently, “How do you get people to do more than just process customer orders and do more than just get by?” Understand that I was there to get them to hire me to help improve their training programs and thus the effectiveness if their people…to help improve people performance. And I answered the question as follows, “Frankly, most of that comes in hiring the right people.”

Perhaps, I had just talked myself out of a job.

I did go on to talk about ways that training can help improve people’s attitude about why taking care of customers is an important thing to do. The more I thought about it afterwards, the more I realized these lessons also apply to how managers should lead their teams. In other words, these are behaviors of good leaders who engage employees in the higher purpose of the job rather than as just a job to do.

Integrate company values throughout company life

Integrate company values throughout training programs, meetings, and employee communications. Companies often teach training classes as separate modules independent of each other, for example, Customer Service skills from 9am to 12pm; Product Training from 1pm to 3pm; and Systems Training from 3pm to 5pm. The customer service skills vital to company values should be integrated throughout all training, so it becomes part of the language of how employees should operate in their jobs.

These customer service values should be used similarly in team meetings, and managers should use this language when speaking with employees in any type of communication.

The golden rule

Make it personal, by asking your people, “how do you feel when you call a company for service and they don’t help you?” Do you want to treat someone else that way? Most people will answer no.

Set goals that encourage people to make customers happy

Watch how you set goals and recognize great performance. It is easy to set up policies that actually discourage helping customers. Set up your goals so that if a customer leaves your store happy or hangs up the phone happy, your people did a great job. Then, shout from the rooftop to everyone in the company, what a great job that employee did to make the customer happy.

Listen to your people

Listen to your people’s ideas about how to improve how customers get serviced and implement the good ideas. Your people talk to customers every day and often know more than you about what customer are complaining about and what customers want. People love to be heard. Show your people that respect, listen to them, and involve them in the process. They will surely be more committed to your cause, if you do.

Although it is true that the best way to get people to care deeply about servicing customers is to hire people with that attitude…think Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom and Charles Schwab…but there are ways to train and manage people to improve their willingness to care about your customers as you do. It all depends on defining how you want people to treat your customers, integrating that message throughout company life and creating an environment and incentives that encourage people to want to treat customers as you want them treated.

Not an easy task, but it can be done.

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