Have you ever walked into an establishment and knew immediately that the staff was checked out? No one greeted you; no one offered any assistance and when you asked a question, it seemed as if you were interrupting them? Well, I had this experience last week. What made it worse is when the employee finally realized that I would continue asking questions about the products, she came over to assist but made it very obvious that she was not happy about it.
As we explored the products and weighed the pros and cons of each, I realized that the young lady was actually very knowledgeable about the products the company sold. A few minutes after coming over to assist me, she switched on and her customer service skills were blatantly obvious. Instead of waiting for my questions, she took a few minutes to find out what I needed, and after explaining the situation to her, she made an excellent product recommendation which turned out to be exactly what I needed to solve a small problem I had been experiencing.
With my selection in hand, we started walking towards the register. It was at this time, that I commented on her product knowledge and her engaging personality. Then my curiosity got the better of me and I asked her why it took so long for her to let her customer service skills show. It seemed as if she was waiting for this question, as she rambled out her response. “Ms. Dean, on the surface, it appears that the company has it all together but this company does nothing to value its employees. We are overworked, unappreciated, never recognized for going above the call of duty, are always faced with customer complaints about the company’s return policy or limited products – something the staff really can do nothing about, the company leaders do not listen to suggestions from us and when we voice our concerns, we are consistently told we should be grateful to have jobs. The company is always changing its policies and it does not provide consistency for its employees or customers.” What a mouthful I thought!
Now we know that there is always more than one side to a story and having been a leader of people for over 15 years, I fully well know that employees do not always understand business decisions. I also know that sometimes, managers do not always believe that company policies, changes and the like should be properly explained to and discussed with employees. They should just come to work and work. It’s what they are paid to do.
As an experienced leader, I understand that there are valid reasons business decisions are made but unfortunately most employees who have not been exposed to business strategy and planning, will not understand the why behind the what unless it is properly explained to them. As business owners, we must move away from the practice of telling employees just do as I say instead of helping them to understand why we do what we do. Now I can go on with this for ages but I won’t. In her response to my question, the customer service agent mentioned quite a few reasons why the staff was disengaged. I won’t go into any of them but I will ask a few questions and leave you to ponder the answers. Here goes:
- As a customer, should I feel the anger/dissatisfaction of your employees?
- As a customer, should I have to prod and encourage your staff members to provide me with a good customer experience?
- As a customer, should my decision on whether to patronize your business again, be clouded by the impressions of your company as relayed by your staff?
- Did you know the customers are prone to believe what employees say about their employer?
- Did you know that disengaged employees can have a devastating impact on your business?
Well, the fact of the matter is how employees feel is how customers will be treated. If their feelings are based on misconceptions, perceptions or assumptions and whether those are right or wrong is irrelevant. What is relevant is that customers are negatively impacted when employees are disengaged. Know this – disengaged employees are a HUGE threat to the success of any company.
Tip of the Week: Assess your current level of employee engagement. Assess your communication strategy. Assess your people because it is in your people you will find the pulse of your organization. Don’t take for granted that employees accept or understand business strategy decisions. Take the time to communicate with your team in a way that they understand. Listen to the voice of your employees and make good faith attempts to share in and resolve their concerns. Staying connected with your employees is no easy task but it is a vital one. Don’t neglect it. It places a huge responsibility on company owners and leaders. Employees have a responsibility in this equation but the leadership drives it. I mean, at the end of the day, what are you in business for; to be successful? If so, whose responsibility is that; yours or your employees? To whom will you leave this decision?