According to a recent Gallup poll, employees who feel valued and supported are far more likely to go above and beyond for their customers. Based on these studies, the leader who spends time and effort to enhance the employee experience will likely see a return in productivity and customer satisfaction.
The employee-customer connection
In service-based businesses, the employee-customer connection is wildly important. Employees want to be proud of the work they do, and there is no greater indication of a job well done than a happy customer. Creating a loyal and happy customer base starts with fostering a strong connection with employees.
Service-based businesses and their connection with human beings have become even more important in an increasingly digital world. While a company can still foster a good customer service experience through digital means, the human bond is still integral to the overall experience.
This notion reinforces the point that employees who put their all into fostering this bond and creating happy customers are the employees who are most engaged.
Unhappy employees create unhappy customers
Many people don’t realize the effect that a happy employee can have on creating a good customer experience — or an unhappy employee on a negative one. The mood and attitude of that worker will affect your entire shopping or dining experience, likely to the point where you may not want to visit that establishment again. This highlights the direct correlation between unhappy employees and dissatisfied customers — one that business owners want to avoid at all costs.
This consideration is important in any customer-service business, but particularly in customer-facing positions. Things like an employee’s facial expression, tone of voice, and body language can adversely affect customer interactions if it’s clear the employee is unhappy.
Many face-to-face customer service employees, such as retail or food service workers, can be underpaid, overworked, and mistreated. The jobs can often be high-stress, which is all the more reason for leadership and business owners to take the time to invest in showing their employees some appreciation.
Enhancing the employee experience
There are many ways employers can enhance the employee experience, even in jobs typically thought of as thankless. How an employer chooses to engage and show appreciation to employees may depend on the industry, the type of employee, and the size of the organization.
It all begins with the hire
Having engaged customer service employees begins with hiring employees who are good with people. After all, not everyone is cut out to work with the public.
Being thoughtful about vetting potential employees can save a lot of headaches later on. Employees should be kind and have a service-based mindset. Those with previous customer service experience are likely to be more aware of what to expect, and less likely to have a negative outlook from the get-go.
Empower your employees to use their skills
One of the biggest issues with customer service-based positions is that they are often thought to be “unskilled” labor, but this notion could not be further from the truth. Working with customers and having them walk away happy with the interaction takes a number of skills.
Employees should be empowered to have some agency with their jobs and have the ability to make decisions, use their personalities and abilities, and do what it takes to help a customer without a lot of micro-management or oversight from the top. Trusting the people you hired to do their jobs goes a long way in empowering employees, which creates employee happiness.
Keep an open door
Employees who feel ignored or unheard will not be happy. In fact, they will be more likely to leave your organization.
This is why it’s important to hear employees’ concerns, ideas, and complaints, then work with them to find solutions or elevate their ideas to key stakeholders and those who can turn those ideas into applicable processes. Just as we need to listen to customers in our service-based businesses, we need to hear the feedback of those employees who regularly interface with customers.
Reward a job well done
Few people fail to respond to a well-deserved reward. Leaders should build incentives into customer-based service jobs and give employees goals to strive towards.
Offer time off, fun events, and prizes for reaching sales goals or for hitting a certain number of positive customer reviews. Yes, employees should want to be kind and helpful to customers because it is the right thing to do, but a little incentive goes a long way in helping them get there.
Be realistic and encourage rest
You can’t work people to the bone and expect happy, engaged employees. Remember: at the end of the day, we are all human beings, and we all have our limits — even if we believe strongly in the product or service we are providing.
Encourage rest, time off, downtime, and shift breaks with your employees. Be attuned to their needs and take notice if someone seems to be dealing with an upsetting issue or is having an “off” day and may need to take a breather.
Working with customers can sometimes be difficult, and everyone needs a break every once in a while. If employees are aware that they can rest or take a breather without putting their jobs in jeopardy, they are likely to be more satisfied with their roles.
Customer service is a rewarding career, and building a team of talented service providers can be an exciting undertaking. By paying attention to the needs of one’s employees and engaging them, you are setting them up for success and allowing them to pass those good feelings down to the customer.
Shiela Mie Legaspi is the President of Cyberbacker.