I am excited to start my “Friends on Friday” guest blog post. This article by Marilyn Suttle focuses on employees and internal customers, which is one of my favorite topics. Thank you Marilyn for your contribution.
No one wakes up in the morning thinking, “I wonder how I can suck the life out of my staff today?” Yet, common mistakes managers make can have drastic effects on morale and ultimately the customer experience. What happens on the inside of a company eventually shows up on the outside. If you’re making the following mistakes, challenge yourself to test out the alternatives listed below and notice what happens.
Mistake 1: Do not involve your staff when hiring their coworkers.
Hiring is tricky business. Even when you think you’ve found the right person, only time will tell if they’ll excel on the job. One of the biggest mistakes managers make is to hire too quickly. They don’t take the time to have the employees who will work closely with the new hire participate in the interviews. Much like the “new kid in school,” your new hire can find herself under scrutiny from coworkers who feel they had no choice with whom they have to work with every day.
Instead, bypass this problem by slowing down the hiring process. Add additional interviews that include employees who would work most closely with the potential new hire. When coworkers get to be part of the selection process, they naturally take ownership for helping those people acclimate and become successful on the job.
Mistake 2: Be silent when things are running smoothly.
It isn’t always easy to manage a service staff, especially when times are tough. It makes sense to speak up when problems arise to ensure things get back on track. But what do you say when your staff is working hard and things are coasting along as planned? Many managers consider that “business as usual” and make the mistake of saying nothing.
I observed a competent manager hired into a crazy-busy position filled with barely manageable client expectations. She was under the gun from day one. During her first few months, her staff began feeling more stressed than usual and less engaged. It wasn’t that she was overly tough or abrasive. The problem was she only had something to say when problems, oversights, or mistakes came to her attention. Employees are internal customers. When they don’t feel appreciated, it has a negative impact on the work they produce. Lack of appreciation is a major reason that key talent lose enthusiasm and leave.
Instead of silence, take time regularly to notice and acknowledge what’s going right. When you see it, say it, “I appreciate you for staying late to complete the order. It made a great impression on our new client.” When a staff member comes up with a creative suggestion that solves a client issue, don’t say, “Okay, go ahead and do that,” without including, “Great solution!” or “That’s the kind of creative thinking that makes our clients want to do business with us.”
You might be thinking, “Yeah, but Marilyn, my staff is SUPPOSED to do the right things. That’s what they’re hired to do. Why should I have to point out the expected?” The bottom line? Those who feel their work is appreciated are more engaged. It doesn’t cost anything and it creates a “you belong here” feeling that inspires even greater quality work and resourcefulness.
Mistake 3: Blame your staff for letting customer service standards slip
Your company spends time and money to develop customer service policies and everyone is trained. You confirm with each staff member that they understand the new expectations, and offer to answer any questions. Shortly after, they stop following through. All that training evaporates and you’re back where you started. Do you get frustrated with your staff? Do you throw your hands up and complain? Over time, even the best of your people can start slipping back into old habits. It’s aggravating! And it’s not their fault.
Instead of blaming and resenting your staff, do what it takes to make service standards stick. Reinforce your standards regularly. Every business has an internal culture of “the way things are done.” When you try to change things, there will be a certain amount of resistance, a clinging to the old ways. Reinforcement doesn’t have to be hard, though it has to be consistent. The moment you stop reinforcing your standards is the moment things start slipping back.
After I am brought in to train for a business, I recommend a series of reinforcement calls. These calls are weekly and quick. If your staff knows that in a week’s time they will have an opportunity to share a success, they prepare. It stays “top of mind.” I suggest spending the first five minutes going over one particular point made in the training, then the call is turned over to the manager who gives each employee a couple minutes to share an example of how they each recently applied that service excellence practice. Each employee gets time to shine. Each employee gets to see how peers are using the skills. The manager gets to acknowledge the good work they’re doing. This is just one of many reinforcement techniques. What you focus on grows, and turns into “the way things are done.”
What about you?
What do you do to keep your internal customers morale high?
Results coach Marilyn Suttle is an international conference speaker and co-author of the bestselling book, “Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan.” She works with companies who want to create and maintain cultures of customer service excellence. For more information on Marilyn’s presentations, online training, and books, contact (248) 348-1023 or Marilyn@MarilynSuttle.com or visit www.WhosYourGladys.com