“People will sit up and take notice of you if you will sit up and take notice of what makes them sit up and take notice.”  ~Harry Gordon Selfridge

Which is more important: Customer Engagement or Employee Engagement?

Do you spend the majority of your time as a Supervisor, Manager, Executive or Owner making sure the customer experience is seamless from beginning to end, or do you spend the majority of your time making sure your employees are fully engaged in your company from the moment they are hired, and therefore engaged with your customers?

Some people might think the answer is 50-50, spend equal amounts of time on both. It might depend on the size of the company. But in the world of Hospitality and Travel where I have been involved for over 30 years, the answer is quite clear.

Happy employees make for happy guests.

There really should be no debate. If employees have the right attitude and are trained properly, if they are exposed to continuing education and made to feel they are part of the company culture, they will be your best advocates to make sure your customers are raving brand ambassadors and your best source for new and repeat business.

But if you don’t have the proper recruitment, training, and engagement of your employees, they have the potential to make your business a rousing failure.

Let’s pay particular attention to those employees who deal in Customer Service. And let’s be honest, everyone within a company is involved somehow, someway in customer service. If you are not dealing directly with customers, than you are supporting someone who deals with customers.

Great leaders are great communicators, and people in customer service need to know how they are empowered to help the customers. Great communicators need to be clear and concise. They cannot afford to be vague or deal in clichés, which sometimes causes more confusion for employees. Leaders need to:

  • Inspire the organization and take responsibility for creating a better future for their employees and customers.
  • Take the time to explain what the expectations are, both explicitly by defining visions, goals, and intentions, and implicitly by their behavior.
  • Offer continuous feedback, not through annual reviews, but by monthly or quarterly conversations.
  • Listen to front-line employees who deal with customers on a daily basis. They can be your best source of customer problems and frustrations. Find out what’s right and working, and what’s not.
  • Instill compassion and empathy. When we truly can feel and know what the other person is going through, we can begin to help them solve a problem.
  • Know what their customers are saying about them on social media, and respond to both positive and negative feedback.
  • Empower their employees to handle the majority of concerns and complaints from their customers. One of the biggest complaints from customers is when their time is wasted and they have to explain their situation repeatedly to various managers and supervisors.
  • Recognize their employees. Celebrate successes along the way and document best practices for others to follow.
  • Know the preferred way to communicate with their customers. In most situations, a 60-year-old female wants to deal with a situation differently than a 25-year-old male. It’s up to the company to find out the best method for each customer.
  • Look for ways to improve the level of customer service. This is a never-ending battle and companies need to be remembered for the positive feelings and solutions they create, not the negative ones.

Companies can no longer compete on price alone, as a lower price is always right around the corner or just a click away. Great companies know that in order to increase repeat business and customer loyalty, they must compete on understanding human relationships and emotions, as that is what drives most business decisions.

How you treat your customers (and employees), especially when there is a problem, will go a long way to determine if you ever see a customer (or employee) again. Always strive to have your employees create an exceptional experience that exceeds expectations. If you can accomplish that, your customers will be your biggest source of advertising and promotion. Isn’t that what every business wants and needs?

Paul Rutter is a customer loyalty, repeat business and customer service expert, a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and business author. He has had the unique opportunity to live with his customers and co-workers for months at a time traveling the world, and shares his experiences with land based businesses. For more information on More Than Perfect® Service, contact Paul at Paul@PaulRutterSpeaks.com, follow him on Twitter on @RealPaulRutter or visit him on Facebook/PaulRutterSpeaks.

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