Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Empowering employees, part of Managing a Customer Service Team.
- Outstanding customer service often comes down to empowered employees. They'll find a way to do the right thing, when they're able to adapt to each unique situation. On the other hand, service failures are bound to happen when employees are constrained by senseless policies or rigid rules. This video takes a close look at empowerment. We'll explore reasons why leaders don't always empower their employees, and we'll look at ways to give your employees the freedom to do what's right. Let's start with some reasons why employees aren't empowered. See if any of these apply to your organization.
One reason is fear. Companies are afraid that employees will give away the store if they're allowed to do whatever they want to serve customers. Another reason is consistency. If an employee does something special for one customer, doesn't that mean we have to do the same thing for all customers? That brings us right back to fear of giving away the store. Yet another reason is laziness. It takes a lot of effort to empower employees with clear guidelines and then monitor their actions. Some leaders see rigid policies as a shortcut around all this. Did any of those examples apply to your organization? If so, don't worry. They're all very common.
What's important is realizing that disempowering employees can lead to poor service. It forces employees to rely on their supervisor for even the tiniest of decisions. Or if a supervisor is unavailable, they have to tell the customer "no" when it's obvious that "yes" is the right thing to do. So, how can we empower employees without causing chaos? Here are a few steps you can take. Step one is to ensure everyone on your team understands the customer service vision. This is a shared definition of outstanding service that serves as a compass to point everyone in the right direction.
For example, one company's customer service vision focuses on loyalty. When an employee encounters a difficult situation, they think about what they can do to get the customer to remain loyal. It helps them look beyond policies and focus instead on solutions. There'll always be some red lines that can't be crossed, but the difference between normal procedure and those red lines is a gray area. Creating clear guidelines is a way to let employees know the difference between the red lines and the gray area. The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain provides a terrific example.
Each associate is empowered to spend up to $2,000 to fix a problem for a guest. How much they actually spend is up to their best judgement, but $2,000 is the red line. The third step is to provide employees with feedback about their empowerment decisions. This helps ensure consistency among all employees, and also prevents employees from developing any bad habits. Recognizing an employees good decision will encourage them to be empowered. Coaching employees on poor decisions will help them make better choices in the future.
Now, one word of caution. Be careful not to punish an employee who doesn't cross a red line. If they stayed in the gray, punishing them for making what they thought was the right call will discourage them from being empowered in the future. OK. Now it's up to you to empower your team. Use the three steps to provide a customer service vision, create clear guidelines, and give employees feedback along the way. This is a process that can take some time as you put all the pieces in place, but the potential payoffs are huge.
You'll have happier customers, happier employees, and you'll be a happy boss because you'll spend less time managing situations your employees are empowered to handle.
- Clearly defining outstanding service for employees
- Evaluating service quality
- Identifying obstacles to outstanding service
- Aligning resources to optimize service delivery
- Calculating the cost of poor service