Support customer orientation in the field
The least qualified employees are often the ones in direct contact with customers—with a major impact on the perceived quality of service. How can you develop customer satisfaction through the engagement of your front-line employees?
In recent years, companies have invested considerably in customer orientation. They have developed sophisticated CRM tools and redesigned their customer interfaces. They have often complemented these changes with good practices guides to harmonize employee behavior in order to optimize customer satisfaction.
The results, however, remain mixed. Many companies continue to encounter the same obstacle, namely, a lack of employee engagement on the part of some of their employees that degrades the perceived quality of service. Indeed, regardless of the objective quality of an offering, the way front-line employees showcase it plays a decisive role in determining customer perceptions.
Whether serving hamburgers assembly line-style or answering calls from disgruntled customers, the ability of field employees to bring something extra to the interaction has a decisive influence on consumers’ impression of the company. Take, for example, a call center rep at Zappos, an online shoe retailer, who received a call from a customer about a shoe order for her husband, who had died in the meantime. Not only did the employee decide to refund the customer, but she also sent a condolence bouquet in the name of the company, a small gesture that the customer—now one of the company’s most loyal—won’t forget any time soon, and that no handbook could have anticipated.
This example may seem anecdotal. Yet companies like Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Zappos and KFC attain remarkable levels of customer satisfaction by giving individual employees the possibility to take initiative, including those in positions traditionally seen as low-level.
- Clearly tell front-line employees that you are counting on their initiative.
- Provide a clear framework for their autonomy.
- Provide them with daily guidance and support for their initiatives.
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