It’s as simple as that!
There are many well-known clichés about your people being your greatest asset and your customers being your greatest asset. Rather than think ‘here we go again’, I urge you to think about this.
Your organisation, regardless of size, location and sector, depends on your people to deliver your products and services to your customers on time, professionally, without any issues and generally ‘with a smile’! You also depend on them to deal with numerous queries and complaints and to act as your gatekeeper either face-to-face, in writing or via a call center or online forum. In short, you depend on them to keep your customers happy and satisfied and to ultimately keep them loyal to your organisation.
So why is it so many of today’s leaders and managers consider the ‘people stuff’ as ‘the remit of HR’ and something that can be solved by investing in some ‘soft skills’ training?
I have looked back over my work with my clients over the last few years in particular and I have found that the bulk of the complaints they receive are related to ‘people issues’ – not products, processes or indeed technology, but with their people.
In working through the various issues with my clients I hear about the policies, processes and procedures which are in place and the surprise that these have not automatically resulted in reduced customer complaints. The big lesson is that where there is human interaction between your organisation and your customers, you must care about how your employees engage and interact with your customers. You absolutely must treat your people as your greatest asset and that is a significant change in mindset to apply in any organisation. This can’t be lip-service, it must be felt tangibly throughout your organisation by both your people and your customers.
Some of the simple, yet effective means of achieving this which have proven successful with my clients are:
- Review your corporate values and assess if they are being embodied by your leadership and management teams. You achieve your results through your people, and at executive level, you depend on your line managers to role-model your corporate values through their behaviours – in how they treat their people. Their behaviours, determine the behaviours of your front line staff and this is ultimately how your customers are treated – both good and bad!
- Know your employees. Depending on the size of your organisation, this may need to cascade down the levels. But every line manager and supervisor must know their staff on a professional and a personal level. Not intimately, but you need to know if there are any personal or professional issues in your people’s lives which may be impacting on their own health, causing them anxiety or to lose time in the working day – all of which impact on your service delivery. And if there are any skills and competencies they engage naturally outside work, which are not being recognised or utilised in work.
- Review your communications. This constantly arises as a critical contributor to misunderstandings and lack of knowledge and/or know-how in all sectors, at all levels and in all countries worldwide! And it has nothing to do with technology. It is about:
- listening to reply, not to understand!
- telling rather than discussing and agreeing;
- assuming that the key message is fully understood by those who are tasked with sharing it down the line (Chinese whispers comes to mind!)
- directing from on high, rather than being directed from below, from those who deal directly with your customers and who have great insights and suggestions, but who have no means of communicating back up to the decision makers;
- speaking and writing from your perspective, rather than from the perspective of the person to whom you are speaking or writing;
- assuming there are clear, unbiased communication channels operating within your organisation;
- assuming your people work as teams within the greater organisational team – but in fact, you may only be leading a group of people who work together – and the difference is significant!
The local and global economy is far from stable with the future not being entirely bright for all organisations. To survive and thrive, remember, focus on your primary asset – your people!
The link between employee engagement and satisfaction, customer engagement and satisfaction and your ultimate business results cannot be underestimated. To strengthen this link, strengthen the link between your corporate values, their embodiment in your organisation, your communications and the ultimate treatment of your people.
Treat your people well, with respect, dignity and trust, they will be more engaged and productive and they will provide a genuinely superb service to your customers.
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