For any small business owner, finding and keeping the right staff can be an ongoing frustration.
I speak to many business owners who despair at the lack of commitment, enthusiasm and dedication of their employees. But when I then ask them about their staff training, development and incentive program, I often draw a blank stare.
In turbulent times, investing in your staff can be one of the most powerful ways to create a competitive advantage.
Trying to do more with less is a fatal mistake that many retailers – particularly many larger brands – have made in recent times. Cutting staff, cutting staff training and cutting staff benefits and incentives have mortally wounded some of Australia’s most recognised retailers, now suffering from appalling customer service levels as a result.
If consumers get a crappy experience, they don’t come back. Simple as that. Worse, they’ll also encourage their friends to boycott the brand. An in a town the size of Noosa, negative word-of-mouth can spell the end of a business.
On the flipside, many clever businesses have increased their investment in their staff. They’ve developed a strong service culture and made their staff passionate champions of the brand.
Your staff culture sets both the standards and the tone for your business. Culture can be crafted, shaped and created intentionally. It can also drift and decay without your attention and ongoing assessment.
Are your core values, service vision and mission clearly articulated and visible for your staff to see? Regardless of whether you have 5 staff members or 50, every one of them should be familiar with and understand these integral aspects of your brand as well as know how to live and enact them every day (even when you’re not there).
I see many business owners investing heavily in technical training but very little in the service side of things. If your staff have perfect technical ability but aren’t great at delivering on the customer experience, it’s training dollars wasted; it’s the poor customer service that your customers will remember.
Consider these six steps to ensuring that your staff members are not only performing on the technical skill side of their role, but also delivering memorable customer experiences that generate positive word-of-mouth and advocacy for your business:
- Make your team culture, vision and mission part of your recruitment and orientation process. Get your staff excited about delivering memorable customer experiences from the get-go.
- Explain the bigger ‘why’ for creating a strong service culture – make sure your team understands that if customers are happy, the business grows and so does their role. Communicate the individual benefits to them of a thriving business and involve them in the process. Sometimes the best customer service initiatives will come from your staff.
- Empower your staff to ‘step up’ and go above and beyond customer expectations. Give them free reign to wow your customers without having to ask for permission.
- Reward and recognise strong customer service performance in your staff. Whatever behavior you reward you will see more of.
- Establish strong channels of feedback for your customers. Ensure you are capturing comments and reviews from multiple channels. Often, it’s the feedback you don’t get that you have to worry about so better to know about it all – good and bad.
- Ensure customer service is an ongoing discussion with your staff. A one-off customer service training program is not going to achieve a long-term, consistent customer service culture. Commit to a monthly meeting with your staff to continue the discussion, share customer reviews and reward exceptional performance.