“If you take care of your employees they will take care of your customers and your business will take care of itself.” – J W Marriott
In the last exposition, we spoke about establishing a culture focused on customers and we said that it is employees who either make or defeat the establishment of such a culture. A company that remains focused on customers would consciously enable better customer experiences, and to do so, would ensure happy and empowered employees. Such employees have the willingness and capability to make spot decisions that would be focused on the customers and their needs. Empowered employees become so by receiving the best training and the permission to utilize their training and knowledge to do whatever is best for the customer, with alignment to business needs.
We know that customers can be finicky and also that their expectations and demands change rapidly. Empowered employees would be equipped to deal with these sudden changes, be flexible, and be in a position to provide creative solutions to tricky problems. Companies must ensure that all their employees feel empowered to make customer-focused decisions and have the ability to stand by their outcomes. When employees consistently display such behaviour, it would be the onus of the company to reinforce it by recognizing and rewarding them suitably. This enhances the confidence employees would have in their decision-making abilities and would result in happier and more empowered employees. If an employee were to make a decision that proves inadequate, they must be given an opportunity to make it right and provided coaching to ensure they feel confident to carry on. Belittling or reprimanding a poor decision could lead to a loss of confidence and could leave the employee feeling unvalued.
For truly empowered employees, the company would need to allow them freedom to act in favour of the customer, the ability to implement the most effective solution for the customer, and have the gumption to carry the effects of the decision. A company without a customer-centric culture would not have empowered employees since every policy and strategy would be focused on the business and employees would be expected to stick by the ‘rule book’. Over time, such employees lose motivation, confidence, and would be unable to make any decisions for themselves or the customers, unless they received express instructions from their managers. A company with such employees would be weak and inefficient, slowly leading to its collapse.
A company with a robust culture focused on customers, would also be aligned towards making its employees feel special and valued. Empowered employees ensure that they provide memorable customer experiences, which in turn gives rise to customer retention, brand loyalty, and advocacy. A company with such ‘weaponry’ heads rapidly towards huge profits and sustainable growth. Empowered employees can adapt to and affect changes more easily and efficiently. They are also high in empathy and would do whatever it takes to go beyond what customers expect and provide the highest level of customer experiences. Empowered employees are not just motivated but are able to motivate those around them such that customers get the same top class experiences from every interaction and touch-point. This level of service becomes the competitive differentiator for any company.
Creating a culture of service and focus on customers requires that a company pay close attention to the training and empowerment of all its employees, such that each one acts consistently with the kind of experiences customers would expect. Regular communication, motivation from leadership, reward, and recognition programs are all great methods to reinforce good habits and positive behaviour. Empowered employees use every customer interaction as an opportunity to display the company’s commitment to providing the best in class service at every touch-point and a persistent desire to improve each time. Empowered employees, over time, make it a habit to provide excellence, and this would reflect in their work output and quality, which in turn would make them feel more confident and satisfied with their jobs. Happy employees work harder and remain with a company for longer – this is a significant contributor to the success of any company.
A company’s workforce is its backbone and the primary contact point for customers and with others outside of it. They can make a company and its offerings look good or reflect them in a poor light, depending on how the company makes them feel. When customers feel special and valued, it is most definitely the result of empowered employees making the perceptible difference. When service is bad, a company should know for sure that its employees are not executing the customer service strategies in the way they should and this would be because the company does not treat them right. Poor customer service is often seen as an outcome of laxity or apathy on the part of the employees expected to provide it. This would be true but the root cause for the lack of interest in serving customers is lack of empowerment and respect for employees. When employees are put in situations of empowerment and given opportunities to test the limits of their skills, they would prove themselves worthy and the company’s chances of being known for top class service increase significantly.
There is no doubt that empowered employees make the best employees and are better positioned to deliver top class service. A company must regularly evaluate whether it is giving ample leeway and authority to its employees to serve customers to the best of their ability. Some of the most successful companies are the ones that have empowered their employees to such an extent that they know exactly what their customers would want and how best to deliver on those expectations. The employees at such companies do not dither when making decisions that would be in the best interest of customers and as a result are not only able to serve well, but are able to provide such service to a very large customer base. The voice of their customers is unanimous when it comes to praising such companies. This is possibly the most foolproof and effective method a company has to forge and remain ahead of its competitors.
Empowered employees never shy away from training and development opportunities, and in fact are motivated to do whatever it takes to improve. They become more confident and at ease when dealing with the most difficult customers, annoying co-workers and demanding situations. They do not hesitate to respond to queries, find spot fixes for problems, assist customers in troubleshooting, and any other such demands on their expertise and time. Empowered employees come across as secure and self-assured, without being arrogant or appearing nonchalant. Customers in turn, feel confident and reassured when interacting with such company representatives, encouraging them to come back again.
Empowered employees are a company’s best asset and are a winning proposition for it. Customers enjoy the benefits of top class service and creative offerings, while employees feel happy, secure, satisfied, and engaged in their jobs. The fact is that customers want to deal with people – people who care and understand their emotions and would reciprocate with personalized solutions and empathy. A company that has these qualities will ultimately see its business growing and profits rising – making it a formidable force to reckon with. Are your employees empowered?