A collection of articles written by Customer 1st

Revolutionise Your Customers' Experiences and Transform Your Organisational Culture By Developing Your People

3rd January 2011 | Posted in Customer Service Skills

The festive season is a time when we think of others, show we care, and ensure that our family and friends know they are appreciated. It is a great motivator, and with 2012 here, perhaps we should also consider what we can do for our employees to show them, too, that we care about them and want to make their working lives fulfilled.

I have worked in both the public and the private sectors, and for me, one thing that always stands out is the way that leaders spend large amounts of money recruiting enthusiastic people and then all too often after a brief induction expect them to learn the job from their team members. Many employees no doubt receive great support but unfortunately start to feel uncomfortable and even out of their depth as time goes by. They can feel too embarrassed to ask for help. New staff members do not want to admit that they cannot do the job they have been selected for. Consequently, they may become anxious, and unfortunately for the organisation that has gone to great expense to recruit them, some of those employees with great potential resign. Why is that, I wonder?

I suspect the answer is simple: organisations still do not fully understand the importance of learning and training. Many do not invest sufficiently in developing all of their staff.

There is plenty of evidence that good training gives employees the knowledge and skills that are essential to do their job properly. Knowledge and skills impact competence, and competence impacts behaviour, especially where customers are concerned. Employers often need reminding that when a customer comes into contact with reception staff, call centres, managers, and even the porters and cleaners, all of those people really do impact the customer’s experience. Customers’ interactions with employees deeply affect how they feel about the organisation, as well as its products and services. Everyone who works for the organisation is part of the cycle of service excellence.

A couple years ago I made a visit to British American Tobacco (BAT) in London. I was waiting rather a long time for the HR director, so I started chatting with a porter who was standing nearby. I asked him if he enjoyed working for BAT, and he said that did he feel part of the team. I was pleasantly surprised to hear how happy and content he was with his work and that nearly everyone in the organisation knew his name and often asked after his family. He could not have been happier, it appeared, and so, in turn, he looked after me well. He went to the trouble to find out how long I was likely to be kept waiting and even brought me a coffee. He was supposed to go off duty but remained with me until I was eventually picked up by my host. I was so impressed that everyone had made him feel important, and, in turn, he was going to look after me, the customer. The incident also reminded me of a visit to the Ritz-Carlton, where everyone made me feel special, from the doorman to the senior manager, the chambermaid to the chef.

Of course many organisations do train their staff properly, especially in customer service, showing them the importance of putting the customer first, and how, practically, to do that. These employees did their jobs expertly; they were well-motivated and they appeared to work closely with their colleagues as a team. Everyone there knew that the customer was king! In the B2B world, we are often so product-orientated that we forget how important service delivery is and how it impacts our customers. I am so pleased that organisations like Unilever, BAT, and others are investing in service delivery training.

Now I will get to the stark message: we are in a recession, money is tight, and we may have to cut back on staff, so how do we ensure that our standard of service does not drop? We should not cut back on training and developing our staff. We need to maximise their potential, give them the tools to do a great job, make them faster and more efficient, increase productivity, and retain customers, simply by investing in their development.

My fear—and it does seem to happen a lot in the UK—is that the first measure organisations take when the going gets tough is to cut training budgets. If you up-skill your staff when they realise times are tough, the results can be amazing. Your staff become motivated when you invest in them. They really do appreciate it. Employees become more loyal and work harder and smarter, and profits can increase as a result. The power of learning and development cannot be overstated, and organisations should continue to invest in their people during 2012.

The best organisations are continually investing in new technology to offer organisations cost-effective online training solutions. It does not have to be the traditional, expensive face-to-face classroom-based courses. Short learning modules that employees can complete at their own pace, and perhaps in their own time, can be a fantastic way of learning. This effective learning method can be fun as well as informative. These bite-sized online programmes need to be easy to assimilate to keep the participant's attention. This method of learning can give organisations greater flexibility and at lower costs. It can also reduce the carbon footprint. So, if it is coming to the end of your financial year and you have money left over to commit to training and developing your staff, why not spend some on investing in your people?