With companies struggling to survive and people having a difficult time finding work, there's one simple strategy that can drive revenues to great heights and make you a customer service superstar. The problem: it's often overlooked or even non-existent. It is empowerment, or simply allowing employees to make a decision on the spot in favor of the customer.
Empowerment is Key
Why isn't every employee empowered? Why don't we all utilize our creativity, knowledge, and expertise to reinvent ourselves and innovate on the job? It seems like a no-brainer.
Most employees reject empowerment out of fear. They have been told for the balance of their working lives that they should toe the line, avert their eyes, and keep their ideas to themselves. They rely on that 9 to 5 schedule and the monotonous routine that keeps them safely cocooned in a banal and unfulfilled working existence. They need their jobs and they feel that the best way to keep them is to stay out of the way and let the steamroller of business pass them by. These employees feel that empowered decisions lead to one thing: the unemployment line.
Here are some strategies on how employees at any company, big or small, can start using empowerment:
- Most employees want to be empowered, but fear being fired. Management at ALL levels needs to support its employees, making it clear they won't lose their jobs for keeping the customer satisfied.
- Set a dollar amount that your employees can spend on empowered decisions. Maybe it's $50, $100 or $200. The Ritz Carlton, for example, has a $2,000 ceiling that an employee can spend on the spot. Getting an employee to make a $25-$50 decision in favor of the customer should be a no brainer.
- Phenomenal marketing cannot make up for lackluster service. Companies spend millions of dollar on marketing campaigns that are hard to track and produce little results. Set aside an empowerment budget so when a customer is in front of you with an issue, you can use empowerment to market to the customer. This leads to word-of-mouth advertising that is priceless.
- Nothing will kill empowerment more quickly than micromanagement. This destroys the ability for even the most basic creative thinking and problem solving. Let your employees know what you need from them, and then get out of the way and let them do what you asked them to do.
- Speed and empowerment go hand in hand. Think of speed as the jelly to empowerment's peanut butter. They form a perfect combination. Act fast!
Companies spend millions on the land, building the store, and stocking it full of product, all for one thing: the customer. But when the customer actually appears, they fall down on the job. All that time, thought, and money is wasted if the customer walks out, never to return again.
No one appears to have been trained on customer service, customer experience or empowerment. The entire focus has been on advertising. Seldom do firms understand the power of a service strategy and how it fuels the most influential, least expensive form of advertising – word of mouth.
Customers have choices these days. Most companies don't realize that first and foremost they are in the service business. Most employees aren't born customer service superstars and don't become them overnight. Train your staff to make empowered decisions in favor of the customer, and your customers will turn into repeat ones and your employees will become more loyal and become long-term employees.
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