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Happy staff means happy customers 

At some point in most organizations’ relationships with their clientele, a (potential) customer will interact with a member of staff. Every time they talk, email, meet or chat on the phone, it adds to the customer’s experience with the organization, their attitude towards it, and ultimately, whether they will come back. The ‘front line’ employees are, therefore, largely responsible for the experience that customers have with an organization.

It is highly ironic, then, that staff with so much power are often paid disproportionately little attention by that organization. Helpline operators, branch assistants and other roles with a heavy customer interaction focus are usually considered low value jobs. As such they are relatively poorly paid, subject to stringent performance management measures that could inadvertently trigger undesirable behaviors, and receive relatively little investment from an HR perspective.

This may, once, have been an appropriate and cost effective way of engaging people to do relatively lowly valued work. It is, however, increasingly recognized that the loyalty engendered through the customer experience is a critical aspect of commercial success, especially in the current climate.

Yet, if you look at the economy, thanks to the financial crisis, a loss of faith in financial institutions is being coupled with less money to invest in them. It means employees continue to have a role in the success of an organization, disproportionate to the investment the organization makes in them. How can we expect these people to be true brand ambassadors and inspire (potential) customers if we don’t inspire them? Companies need to meet this challenge by investing in understanding them, aligning their needs with those of the company, and getting them bought into its vision.

Companies may want to:

  • review their vision and strategy to make sure that this element is adequately reflected;
  • look at their recruitment and training policies, to ensure that they bring into the organization people with appropriate skills, and actively work to refresh and update these skills in the workforce;
  • reduce their reliance on quantitative targets and focus on qualitative targets instead; and
  • where appropriate, introduce culture change and communications programs to alter attitudes and improve skills

Ultimately, the increasingly savvy consumer wants to be served with quality and integrity. It has never been more important to focus on customer relationship management – but rather than wait to fix a problem, issues should be rectified at source. Anything less and the only thing we will see is a rise in customer dissatisfaction and an increase in customer churn.

By: Sarah Machin, Advisor in the UK

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