I had a great conversation recently with a good friend of mine. Paul beams with pride when he talks about his new role, he actually smiles when he tells you about his job. Perhaps more surprising, to me at least, when you realise his change in career, from builder to working in retail.
After applying his trade skills for over 20 years in the building industry, he is now tapping into his natural ability in Customer Service. When he needed a change in working environment, he took a part time position in Next retail, which has now become a full time job that he loves. Paul gave me the plenty of reasons to understand why he loves working in retail. Most importantly he feels empowered to be himself and make decisions that enable him to look after his customers. He described how the best part of his working day is helping people. Despite being in one of the retailers busiest stores, he remembers his customers and they remember him, often returning to the store and looking for Paul to help them. Paul has the confidence in the products, the service that the company delivers and the process in place, to know that he and his colleagues can look after Customers needs. He told me how employees are encouraged to go ‘off script’ when greeting customers to the store to better reflect their own personality, in Paul’s case that is always going to be a winning start to any customer relation. Paul is enthusiastic in his role and motivated to take personal responsibility for making things happen. He takes time to notice and acknowledge his customers, cheerfully meets and greets, pays compliments, offers assistance, has a conversation with customers and remembers detail. He takes personal responsibility for store and product knowledge, often touring the store before beginning work, to be sure he is up to date with the latest product trends and ranges.
With the right combination, Empowerment & Responsibility equals Great Customer Service.
By contrast I recently visited a worldwide clothing retail company in which the sales assistant had to defer to a supervisor to authorise a 50p sale item. There has to be trust, not being trusted to manage a 50p sale not only keeps customers waiting, but shows a lack of confidence in employee integrity and ability.
Roger Trapp recently reported in his excellent article “Poor Customer Service Explained by lack of Employee Engagement” that the good news is that because employee engagement levels are generally so low at the front line any company that tackles the issue seriously stands to enjoy a substantial competitive advantage.
Be a good leader and create an empowered team that embraces responsibility:
- Be respectful to others and yourself.
- Become a good listener – make time to listen (turn off your PC and have a face to face conversation!)
- Be sincere when dealing with people – (you don’t need to go on a body language course to spot insincerity)
- Set a good example – demonstrate your commitment to your (internal) Customers
- Reflect on your performance – don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, hone your leadership and communication skills
- Delegate tasks with clearly defined roles, policies and procedures – People work better and work better together, when they know what is expected of them
- Work with an ‘Open Door’ Policy – It is important that people feel you are prepared to listed to ideas and that their opinions are valued
- Train for success – Actively promote employee training to optimize performance.
- Relinquish your powers – Not all of them! However, show confidence in your teams ability through autonomy and let them get on with it. Empower your team by demonstrating a belief in their ability to achieve results.
- Recognise achievement and acknowledge good performance
“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” — General George Smith Patton, Jr.