I haven't met a person who took time out of their life to strive for a job, with the sole intent of losing customers for their employer. I haven't seen it. However, I've trained, coached, and mentored lots of people who gave me first impression when I met them; it seemed they just didn't give-a-care.
The problem presents itself in many ways, such as the delayed or non-existent customer greeting, failing to ask clarifying questions before responding to the customer, and my all-time favorite, failing to thank the customer for their business before signaling over the customer's head, "next!"
While business leaders don't set out to obliterate their customer base or brand, that's exactly what happens when there isn't a targeted and relevant learning and development strategy in place which is easily accessible to leaders and front-line staff.
Internal customers are the primary customers...period. When our most valuable asset, the employee, is lacking the proper cues, knowledge, and delivery techniques, our business lacks credibility. When a business lacks credibility, its target market will suffer and seek out greener pastures.
The purpose of this writing isn't to provide an extensive how-to on training staff to give-a-care. The purpose is to share four points which will help get the needle moving in the right direction, because your employees' lacking will be your front-door customer's pain.
1. GIVE-A-CARE, FROM THE TOP
It's not enough to retort "customer service is key." Your employees already have the key! Oftentimes, however, they don't know which way it turns to offer competent customer service and unlock their best level of customer care excellence. Employees are either relying on us to advocate for them at the top, where they don't have a voice, or to roll up our sleeves and get on the line with them. It's how we gain perspective. Pick your poison.
Internal customers recognize when they have a voice and when they don't. They either see it in the guidance and tools which they don't have ready access, or they see it in how we may work over them rather than with them.
Employees don't see it any other way.
Sure, as business leaders, we know there are internal and external drivers beyond our control but to expect employees to buy-in, engage, or so-called "take one for the team," then we too must shift our perception of the worker. They are real people, who think, have intuition and skills which are oftentimes not being leveraged, and they feel it.
When we've given-a-care from the top, have built trusting relationships, and shown our investment in our employees need to stretch, it makes the bitter pills, which will come, much easier to swallow.
When you give-a-care from the top, you have a curiosity about your employees, above requiring them to complete tasks and follow rules which will unlock their potential and level up your business's customer service acumen.
2. ASK YOUR EMPLOYEES TO REVERSE ROLES & BE THE CUSTOMER
There's nothing like a little improv or even scripted acting to liven up a training session. Role reversal adds flavor to training and makes the learning objectives more relevant. Creative learning strategies make knowledge retention and performance enhancement more probable.
It's not really about letting out your inner thespian or seeking curtain calls. It's about relating, connecting, and inspiring the best in your team, in a relevant way. Let your employees show you what resonates with them by asking them the last thing they learned and what medium they used to access the knowledge.
In fact, some of the best ideas for learning on-the-job have come from the employees! Don't stop at roleplaying and fireside chats though, have your team watch a short video where customer service is done well or not-so-well. Ask your employees their thoughts about customer service values, and have fun while beefing up your team's understanding of customer service expectations.
3. OFFER AN EAR
When we, or our customers, observe an employee demonstrating subpar behavior, we sometimes assume ill-intent or that we made a mistake in hiring. While one or both of our assumptions can be true, the culprit is an even more common underlier.
Employees who feel dispensable or excluded from decisions that affect how they are expected to work will eventually underperform, even when "the numbers" say something different.
When employees feel unheard or undervalued, they will underperform. It's a self-preservation instinct. The individual, to survive, must figure out how they can continue to sacrifice energy toward some activity which they perceive will not give them what they need in return. Giving-a-care to listen can increase employee engagement and over time restore your employees' willingness to improve their performance!
Of course, performance issues present themselves in many ways, but the root is often connected to learning and development deficits. Mentorship can help curb knowledge retention and work culture disconnect.
4. SUPPORT EMPLOYEES WITH MENTORSHIP
A proven way to help your employees learn and grow is to support them with mentorship. Of course, it isn't always practical to provide a mentor for every employee, but maybe you don't have to. Employees are more resourceful than we or they realize. Employees can find their own mentor, even if it's in a virtual setting, but they may need an incentive other than their paycheck to get onboard...sorry.
The great thing is that we all have different values. Some of us rank money as more inspiring than recognition. Others prefer competitive benchmarks over more money as an incentive.
Remember, giving-a-care doesn't cost lots of money, but it does take lots of strategizing to be consistent and effective. Who's at your leadership table? Who's speaking up in your meetings? Who's advocating for the real interests of your internal customers? Who knows what those real interests and ideas are? Do your employees really believe their voices will make a difference? If not, the walls will talk and your employees' behavior will reflect their feelings.
As leaders, shouldn't we give-a-care to dig deeper? After all, good talent is not the easiest to attract and retain. I'm grateful you've chosen to read this and likely other tips on building trust between you and your staff. It's a great sign that work cultures will be better for the business, the customer and staff.
Help your talent meet their focus by helping them to give-a-care.
Learning & Development Leader
Customer Service Clinic