Empower Your Employees 

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If you’re wondering how you can dramatically enhance the customer service experience in your business while decreasing the amount of time you actually spend on customer service activities, consider that the solution might be to empower your employees to do it for you. 

While having systems and procedures in place will most definitely streamline your business and increase efficiencies, the reality is that a business is a “place of varied function,” which means that there are always going to be situations and circumstances that crop up outside of the parameters defined in your business training material, policies and literature. On top of that, individual employees interpret situations and guidelines differently – all of which lead to many customer questions and problems coming directly through to you or the manager of your business.

Having customer inquiries, challenges or disputes handled at a management level not only distracts these people from their key role in the business (working on the business rather than in it) but it also detracts from the customer service experience. That is, your customers have to wait longer, they often don’t receive a personalized solution, and their perception of your customer service members diminishes – that is, you have created a disempowering context for your front-line team by not allowing them to make any decisions or use their initiative to help a customer. 

It is important to note that more and more consumers are looking to do business with people, not businesses. They want to feel special and remembered, thought of as a person not a purchase. The bottom line is that if your customers don’t feel valued and enjoy interacting with the people in your business, you’ll never create the type of raving fans that every business dreams of.  

So what can you do?

You can create a company culture that gives employees the free rein that they need to really go above and beyond to create a WOW customer experience – and that it is their job to do so.  Employees should be given the power to think on their own feet and use their initiative to solve problems and create delight without the need to check with anyone else. Doing so actually increases employee satisfaction at work, as they themselves feel like they are actually making a real difference and gain more confidence in dealing with complaints. And importantly, creating a WOW service culture in your organization is a sure-fire way to increase customer loyalty, retention, and sales.

EXAMPLES OF EMPOWERED EMPLOYEES:

At leading hotel chain, Ritz-Carlton, they empower their people in a number of ways. To start with, they don’t define specific job roles for their employees. Instead, they define the type of experience they want guests to have. For instance, a waiter’s role is not to serve food but to create a memorable experience. It’s also to anticipate customer needs.

The empowerment goes even further – employees can make decisions on their own without having to refer to a supervisor first. Ritz-Carlton employees are empowered to take ownership of complaints, having the authority to spend $2,000 per guest to resolve complaints or problems without referring to management. The result is that guests at the Ritz-Carlton received personalised solutions to their problems rather than standard responses from a customer service “Rule Book” or delayed outcomes because employees need to defer to upper management. 

Zane’s Cycles, one of the top three retail bicycle stores in the U.S., sells high-quality products with a focus on creating enduring relationships with customers.  The founder, multi-millionaire Chris Zane, is relentless in his pursuit of extraordinary customer service, and employs confident team members that he trains with this philosophy.  Just one such example of this in practise is if a customer needs a low-cost item such as ball bearings that cost around a dollar. Zane’s employees are trained to say, “Here, take it. We’ll catch you next time.” The customer feels like they’re getting a “treat” and the resulting good will is worth much more than the cost of the $1 part. Zane’s policies are built around knowing the lifetime value of a customer, and each transaction further cements a brand loyalty that is the envy of retailers nationwide.  

On a smaller scale, Tim Ferriss, author of the run-away bestseller, The 4-hour Work Week extols the value of empowering your employees in order to free up your own time. He reveals that he spent hours every day responding to incoming queries and handling problems and complaints – often processing up to 200 such requests every day – before he created a policy and loose system for his customer service representatives to deal with the problems themselves as long as it would cost less than $100 to resolve. The result saw less than 20 customer-service related emails in his inbox per week, a decrease in the percentage of returns, an overall reduced cost of outsourcing and a boost to his profit margins. 

If you’re still not convinced about the difference that empowering the employees in your business can make, then imagine for a second now that you are an employee in your business facing a minor complaint from a customer:

Scenario A: “I’m sorry, I’m not authorised to do that, you’ll need to speak to the manager.”

Scenario B: “I’m sorry to hear that. What can I do to resolve this for you?”

Still not convinced? Then imagine that you are the customer faced with these two different scenarios and choose which employee you’d do business with…

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