In my regular newsletter, I pointed out how companies should empower and support frontline staff to improve customer satisfaction by doing what the supervisor ultimately does, without having to check with the supervisor each and every time.
Many readers sent in follow-up questions and suggestions to improve customer satisfaction.
Question: “If we do give staff more power, how can we measure if it is properly utilized?”
You should measure utilization of empowerment only by counting returning customer visits or resulting customer compliments. If your high-value customers come back, make new purchases or praise your service, then your staff empowerment policy is effective and is working to improve customer satisfaction.
However, if high-value customers do not praise and come back, or if only low-value customers are happy and returning, then you need to change your staff empowerment formula to improve customer satisfaction.
Here’s a hint: Contact some of your high-value customers who did not return. Ask them why they didn’t come back – and what your staff should have done to earn their repeat visit. Listen carefully. Your former customers will tell you exactly what to do to improve customer satisfaction.
And here’s an added bonus: Just asking “non-returning customers” what it would take to get them back – very often gets them back! Sometimes it’s not money that counts, but your time and personal attention.
Question: “How do we know where to set limits so the liability of additional cost are minimized?”
To limit your liability, put a simple cap on expenditures allowed without supervisor approval. Be sure to link the financial cap to actual client value. Small clients, small cap. Big clients with big budgets, larger amounts allowed. Test this over time to get the right mix of flexibility and generosity by tracking your clients’ reactions to efforts to improve customer satisfaction.
Remember, the ultimate deciding factor is whether good clients return and how much they are worth to your business with their repeat purchases and referrals. As long as customers come back, buy more and refer others, your expense is not a liability, it’s a smart investment to improve customer satisfaction.
Ken Orr, a Hotel Manager in New Zealand, wrote:
After many long meetings to discuss our customer service levels, we came to a standstill. Supervisors and managers alike insisted they were doing all they could with the frontline staff we have. Every time the frontliners had an issue, I had to come to the rescue.
We knuckled down to find a solution. An “empowerment pad” was our answer. Each frontline staff member now carries one of these pads and when they see or hear of an issue in our hotel they note down the problem, quickly solve it and then pass on the docket for future consultation.
We provided solutions to all the issues we could think of and told the frontliners to seek and destroy all of our remaining customer-frustrating and lack-of-empowerment issues.
The staff are visibly more vibrant and do not fear the situations they get into with our clients; they are now looking for potential problems and pre-empting the solutions! Our supervisors are relaxed and they are now encouraging and motivating the staff like never before.
I have read your newsletter to all my staff. Thank you for a perfectly timed lesson in customer service. Our organization is moving upward; it is very exhilarating.
Thanks, again! Ken Orr
Ken’s got the right idea – and is enjoying the right results of efforts to improve customer satisfaction. You can do this with your team, too
Question: “If the frontline staff is not actually our own staff, but belong to an authorized distributor or service center (independent entities), can we apply the same principle?”
Yes! I believe the same principle can apply and even become the foundation for stronger collaboration between you and your authorized “Service Partners.” When you show trust by allowing distributors and licensees to make real decisions with real dollars for real customers, they will feel your real appreciation and respect.
That can make your company stand out from all the other companies whose products they also distribute, and can also lead to active word-of-mouth recommendations for you. A real win-win that will improve customer satisfaction.
Key Learning Point To Improve Customer Satisfaction
Empowerment is intelligent fuel for creating self-motivated staff who will love the customers, love their jobs – and love working with you!
Action Steps To Improve Customer Satisfaction
Make “empowerment” your topic of the month. Get everyone involved to improve customer satisfaction. Give frontline staff all the empowerment you can imagine, and then try giving a little bit more. The risks are low, the learning value is high and the benefits are truly rewarding.
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Copyright, Ron Kaufman. Used with permission. Ron Kaufman is the world’s leading educator and motivator for upgrading customer service and uplifting service culture. He is author of the bestselling “Uplifting Service” book and founder of Uplifting Service. To enjoy more customer service training and service culture articles, visit www.RonKaufman.com.
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