Tips for Managing Small Business Customer Representatives
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Help Your People, Help Your Business

By Jeannie Walters, President of Vox, Inc.

Whenever I tell people that Vox is focused on the customer experience, I hear about someone’s last bad experience as a customer. I would say about 80% of the time, it’s related to an employee at the company. (The other 20% is reserved for inexplicably complicated – or just plain wrong – bills and bad 800-number auto prompts among a few other things.)

Tips for Managing Small Business Customer Representatives

It’s no surprise, then, to learn that employee retention is directly related to customer retention. Happy employees = happy customers. “Remember the good ol’ days,” my new friend will say to me. “When the bank teller knew your name and treated you like a person? When the salesperson at the department store was actually interested in serving you?
When the cashier at the drug store actually smiled and didn’t just grunt while taking your money?”

Often times, a recommendation is directly related to a personal connection. “Call Steve at Bank XYZ. He’s my guy.” It’s not truly the bank we’re recommending. It’s Steve.

But Steve isn’t just Steve – he’s representing the company. Steve can only be the go-to guy if his employer recognizes just that. His employer has to give him the support, discretion and tools to do his job in a way that enriches each experience for each and every customer.

Well here’s the chicken & egg scenario. You have to know your customers in order to hire, train and retain the right employees. Employee retention doesn’t mean diddly if they’re the wrong employees.

And now that we’re in a world full of lay-offs, government bailouts and doing much more with a lot less, employees are nervous, uncertain and possibly disengaged.

As the employer, how can you help your employees stay engaged? Employee engagement will be a critical factor in delivering on your own customer experience.

  1. Remember your employees are not only dealing with your company issues. They’re dealing with their spouse’s company issues, the outside news about your industry, and the world in general. Families are making harder choices now than they have in a long time – the stress will follow them to work.
  2. Provide ample ways for your employees to provide input in a safe, constructive way. With so much angst about employment, many employees are becoming increasingly afraid to voice their true opinions. The risk is a bunch of sycophants who tell you just what they think you want to hear – not what’s best for your company or customers. Encourage frank feedback by providing anonymous ways for employees to offer suggestions and ask questions.
  3. Don’t forget about team building. Even in cost-conscious times, it’s important to help each employee connect with the others they work with. This can be done in ways far less elaborate than expensive get-aways or all-day meetings. Serving together to help others – like volunteering at a soup kitchen or community center – can be a wonderful, positive bonding experience.
  4. Communicate about your organizational goals and achievements. Do this often. Repeat yourself. Then do it again. Connecting an employee’s individual contributions to the small successes you may be achieving will help your employees feel positive about the direction you’re going as an organization.
  5. CELEBRATE the little victories. Celebrations can be small recognitions – a group email recognizing someone, for instance – but it’s important to share good news as often as possible.
  6. Finally, connect with your customers. Engaging your customers will help your employees truly understand what’s needed in today’s market. This will undoubtedly lead to better success and richer engagement.

Everyone has too much to think about these days. Make it your job to think about ways to engage your employees and everyone wins.

Photo credit: Mr. Kris

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