Every year, I make a point to set a new goal for my business. Not just for me, but for all the men and women I’m proud to call team members. The goal becomes a theme that we will build on throughout the year, affecting everyone from the CEO to the front line employees. Or as I like to refer to them, my “true” customers.
Prioritizing customer service for the end customer or final consumer is nothing new. But when you are a multi-unit business owner with several layers of management, you probably don’t spend much time engaged in traditional customer service. You do have customers, however; you just may not have thought of them that way.
In 2016, I’m making it a priority to treat my true customers well. Those would be the district managers I interact with on a daily basis and count on to help the business succeed. In turn, I’ll encourage them to treat their “true” customers, the store managers, well. It’s a mission I want to trickle all the way down to our front line employees whose true customer is the final consumer.
Whether you are a business owner or manager, chances are you are providing a work experience for somebody. That somebody is a customer. Employees pay with something much more valuable than money. They pay with their time, their skills, and their effort. Supervisors that expect their teams to treat customers like royalty have an obligation to do the same for their staff.
Here are some ways to get it done:
1. Solicit Regular Feedback
Whether you use anonymous surveys, open discussions, or exit interviews, putting mechanisms in place to generate specific feedback from employees is a critical starting point.
What is the best part about working here? What is the worst part? What would you do differently if you were in charge? Where are we missing opportunities?
2. Schedule Time to Review Feedback Regularly
Weekly, monthly, quarterly — whatever time you select, have a plan for how it will be discussed. I like to review everything before the meeting, then offer my managers a summary of what we will be discussing.
Remember not to spend the entire time on what needs to improve. Dedicate some time to what the employees say is being done well. Not only is that an opportunity to offer praise for good achievement, it’s a chance for your team members to hear what’s working and see how they can implement it, as well.
3. Finish Each Meeting with an Implementation Plan and Make Good on It
Nothing will undercut your efforts to generate regular feedback than a collective sense from your employees that they aren’t being heard. This doesn’t mean you have to solve every problem, but letting people know that their concern was discussed goes a long way.
Compile your meeting notes into a summary email and distribute it to all team members. Begin with what’s going to be a top priority, followed by midterm fixes, long-term fixes, and tabled issues. Finish with anything that won’t be addressed again but offer a detailed explanation why.
4. Be Nice
I’ve been a business owner for more than 20 years and know the pressure women feel to prove that they have the toughness to succeed in business. However, a perpetual scowl and grumpy demeanor will do far more harm than good. It’s difficult to expect your front line employees to wear a smile when dealing with customers if they are regularly greeted with their supervisor’s frown.
Being nice isn’t a weakness, being afraid to be nice is. If you show confidence in your mission and consistency in your operation, there is no reason you can’t be respected while still being nice.
5. Use Your Business to Inspire Your Employees
Would your employees consider their positions to be their jobs, their careers, or their callings? Some would say that answer has more to do with the work than the organization providing it, but I believe a company’s management team has a lot to do with how meaningful they make the work.
As a resale store owner, I don’t describe our team members as selling used clothes. We’re putting cash in local women’s pockets for their gently used items. We’re helping people look like a million bucks for pennies on the dollar. We are selling confidence through clothing without busting the family budget. That’s important work that we can all rally behind.
6. Measure Results
At regular points throughout the year, we’ll take stock of how our efforts are coming. We will look deeply at our retention rates, compare employee satisfaction levels, and review where we are succeeding and where we need improvement.
Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the end of the year to check in on your progress. If your goal is to improve or maintain a high level of “true” customer satisfaction, there is no sense in waiting until December to find out that what you’re doing isn’t working. Analyze results. Develop what’s working. Scrap what isn’t.
For me, success looks like this piece of feedback from one of my most trusted managers. She is one of my true customers whom I am proud to serve.
“Continued support from such a great family/company to work for is making my experience here one to cherish. ‘Take care of the employees and they will take care of the customers’ greatly describes the way you run this “family,” and it truly makes me enjoy going to work everyday. I couldn’t be happier!”
About the Author
Kate Paynter is a pioneer in the $12 billion resale industry. She and her mother, Becky, own and operate several resale franchise units in Cincinnati, Ohio, including upscale women’s resale clothing store, Clothes Mentor.