Great Frontline Employees can Increase Bottom-line

“Your bottom-line starts with your front line”. – John Villere

This quote encompasses the essence of the subject – it is a fact that the frontline employees are the face of the company and their demeanour and customer service would define the company. Frontline employees are the ones that come in direct contact with the customers and will either be effective in keeping customers happy or not. Whatever their attitude towards the customers is, will define whether the customers continue doing business and even provide references to others, which in turn directly impacts the company’s bottom-line. How frontline employees treat customers is an exact reflection of how they are being treated as employees in the company. Do your company and its leadership understand and conduct themselves in a manner that the frontline employees positively affect the bottom-line? If the answer is no, then it should come as no surprise if your bottom-line is not increasing in the way you expected.

Every business is dependent on the customer’s loyalty and profitability which arise out of satisfaction of needs and expectations being met. Frontline employees and service providers need to be focused on as much as the importance of the bottom-line and customer satisfaction. We continually speak about how much value customers attach to the ‘humanization’ and personalization of interactions and relationships with the company. Without the frontline employees all customers would have are technology and rote machine recordings. Frontline employees bridge this gap – by relating to the customers, relating to each other, caring for customers and giving them an empathetic hearing. These factors are indispensable to ensuring long term customer satisfaction and loyalty.

No one – especially adults – like being told how they should conduct themselves or behave with others. However, frontline employees need to be mindful of their reactions and words at every moment since one wrong word or ‘inappropriate’ behaviour could result in customer ire. They are expected to remain calm and composed in the most stressful of situations and also resolve the customer’s issues ensuring a positive contribution towards the bottom-line. It would therefore make a lot of business and ethical sense to ensure that your frontline employees are well taken care of. To reiterate what we said earlier – treat your frontline employees and all staff in the way you expect them to treat your external customers by investing time and resources in them. For customers, treat each one as special and as the only one you have, to reflect that you want the customer for life.

Again, customer service is a highly challenging job and more often than not it is stressful requiring a strong resolve and determination to see situations through. Having this as the premise, it is safe to say that not everyone is ‘cut out’ to be a great frontline service provider. To be successful and remain calm in this position, frontline employees must be selected on the basis of the essential traits required – empathetic, composed, cheerful, thinking clearly under stress and having an attitude of service. Armed with these good traits, it would be much easier to train and coach these people for the requisite skills and knowledge required for the job. Of course, this would be the thumb rule only if the company itself has a ‘congenial’, well-liked and positive disposition with a strong customer focus. The frontline employees thus recruited would be an extension of the company’s culture and they would be trained to reinforce and mirror these positive qualities on to the customers.

Sourcing and getting the kind of frontline employees who would be ideal to service customers is not becoming easier. There are so many factors that are proving to be major stumbling blocks – competition, emergence of new companies, increasing prices leading employees to switch jobs for even a slightly better salary, lack of training and many such factors. Unless enough is done to attract the right staff, this problem will only escalate and hiring companies need to look at ingenious and creative ways to attract and retain the right kind of staff and maybe even look at hiring staff from sources that may seem unusual. A well-defined recruiting methodology and interviewing tactics would always be required. Some companies are devising methods to get a feel of the emotional intelligence of their prospective frontline employees since a higher threshold would mean that such staff would have better control of their emotions and also be able to recognize and consequently control the emotions of those they interact with.

Once you are lucky enough to get the right staff on-board, ensure that they have all the necessary equipment, technology, office facilities and most importantly structured customer data showing trends in behaviour and buying. Frontline employees would be more effective and efficient in their work if all the ‘tools’ were handed to them with the requisite discretion to use them as required. It is the company’s responsibility to make the job of the frontline employees easier and care should be taken to constantly solicit their feedback on what works for the customers and what more they would need. Feedback from this set of employees would reveal any inadequacies and inefficiencies early on and prevent them from blowing up to full-fledged customer complaints. Regular staff meetings should be conducted to brainstorm ideas of what can be done to improve customer service and thereby increase customer satisfaction and ultimately the bottom-line. A stronger and growing bottom-line is beneficial for everyone in the company translating to better salaries, increases, bonuses, benefits, facilities and other such things that contribute to a more congenial work environment.

Your frontline employees cannot remain neglected or ignored for too long. Companies must actively look at ways to motivate this set of employees given the critical role they play in the success of the company. Constant monitoring would help to remove conflicts, ambiguity in the job, managing the different backgrounds and cultures that the employees may represent. Empowerment and leeway is necessary to ensure that these frontline employees feel trusted to make good decisions with regard to engaging with customers. Ensure that any differences are sorted out and employee complaints are looked in to and dealt with swiftly and effectively. Spot recognition and praise for a job well-done and long term rewards and awards would serve to keep the morale upbeat for your ‘band’ of frontline employees.

If customers are the life-blood of your business, frontline employees are the backbone. When they provide stellar customer service, your delighted customers will bring you repeat business, talk about you to others, bring more business to you and constantly recommend you to others via mediums like social sites. And every company knows how indispensable and effective customer testimonials can be to further their business and gain a sustained growing bottom-line. Such solid testimonies build a robust reputation which competition will find really tough to get ahead of. It would be best to start ‘defeating’ your competition right at the beginning – by having a solid base of frontline employees. Give your company a sizeable and noteworthy advantage over competition and keep strengthening and increasing this advantage by improving the efficiency of your frontline employees.

Given the dependence of a company on its frontline employees it seems rather appalling that this set of employees seem to be the lowest paid in a company. The fact that attrition among this particular set of staff is so high can be attributed to the fact that they are not treated right – often overworked, hardly any time off, low pay, treated with contempt and hardly ever asked about the issues they may be facing. This is such poor behaviour towards a set of employees who are crucial and extremely necessary to the success of a company and it’s bottom-line. If they fail in their duty to make the customer happy no other great strategy or top line management would be able to salvage the situation. How your customer is treated at the first instance will be the lasting impression they carry of your company and this lasting impression is essentially the responsibility of your frontline employees.
Treat them like the stars they are and recognize the hard work they put in daily, every day and remember to make them a vital portion of any strategies, policies and corporate goals. Your customer’s happiness and your company’s bottom-line depend on the frontline employees providing the best in class customer service. This is a challenge – take a good look at how your frontline employees are being treated at your company and make the necessary changes to appreciate them.

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