12 ways to ensure your internal customers look after your external customers
How can service leaders look after their staff and ensure they are engaged and motivated to better serve customers?
In my last article I spoke of the importance of recruiting 'Service Champions' and in this article I want to emphasise just how important it is to have Great Service Leaders who have the ability to create passionate employees. I am reminded of Dale Carnegie's quote, "When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion."
One key leadership task is to create an environment in which your people can become passionate about your vision. If service leaders are passionate and consistent, reinforcing consistent messages, then your people will quickly understand what is important to you and the organisation. Service leaders and managers who are passionate about service excellence for their customers and who are visionary, inspirational and charismatic will lead your people to achieve great things for the whole organisation.
Highly visible leadership provides powerful reinforcement. It will inspire everyone in the organisation to be part of the cycle of service excellence, adopting a 'Can-Do Attitude'. All employees in great organisations are passionate about what they do and this inspiration extends to customers, investors, suppliers, boards of directors and all other stakeholders.
In its ongoing series of 'Top 10 Best Companies to Work For', Fortune magazine has highlighted that when employees are asked why they love working for the best companies they don't mention pay, reward schemes or advancing to a more senior position. They speak first of the sincerity of the relationships at work. These passionate employees describe their work culture as an extension of home, or like being with family. They speak enthusiastically of their colleagues as being supportive.
Managers of these top ten companies are characterised as genuinely caring; every single employee really matters. These employees looked forward to going to work - a place to maximise their talent with like-minded people.
Successful businesses are built on high calibre relationships which in turn reflect on the way employees treat their customers. As Richard Branson was quoted: "If you look after your internal customers you don’t have to worry about the external customers."
I think we all know what he means. Richard Branson and Alan Hughes, former CEO of First Direct, have both stated whenever they have a few moments to spare they would go into their call centres and talk to their people on the front line - can you imagine what this meant to those employees? Motivation levels sky rocketed. Incidentally, First Direct were the first bank to provide a crèche, showing their concern was not only for their staff but their families too
If you look after your internal customers you don’t have to worry about the external customers.
- Providing high-quality training and development – continually reinforcing the importance of service excellence, particularly with the goal of changing mindsets and attitudes towards customers;
- Operating an 'open door' policy in which service leaders and managers are approachable and following the example of Peter Cunningham, head of retail operations at World Duty Free – ensuring that your service leaders spend at least 80% of their time with customers and staff;
- Leading by example and displaying consistent and genuine behaviour which also translates into leaving your personal problems at home;
- Having respect for a good work-life balance - e.g. offering the opportunity for flexible working;
- Encouraging fairness at work, including promoting equality and diversity;
- Ensuring proactive and regular communication, staff newsletters and regular team meetings;
- Conducting regular appraisals with positive feedback - restating service objectives and recognising your staff's contribution;
- Encouraging your teams to be innovative, via staff suggestion schemes, for example;
- Empowering your people to own customers problems and 'Go the Extra Mile' for them;
- Gaining staff feedback on how employees feel about their roles, the support they receive and suggested business improvements which they may have identified; (one global company developed a “Mood Rater” – on the first Wednesday in every month they select fifty employees to ask exactly how they feel at that moment in time);
- Offering employees the chance to socialise with colleagues at organised events, team building events, talent shows, A Wine Appreciation Group and putting them forward for Customer Service Awards;
- Recognising and rewarding employees for exceptional performance and innovative ideas to improve the customer experience.
After 15 years in Higher Education both in Business Development and Marketing I set up Customer 1st International in 2005. Through my 7 years of working with the Institute of Customer Service I became a Subject Matter Expert in customer service for Accenture (USA) developing 6 e-learning programmes for Unilever. Last year I launched two...