“Employee engagement is an investment we make for the privilege of staying in business.”  ~Ian Hutchinson

The goal of every leader should be to create a product or service that enhances humanity, never breaks down, and ensures repeat business and customer loyalty.

Pretty simple, right?

C’mon, snap out of it, who are we kidding? When has that ever happened? Especially the “never breaks down” part. It is a great goal, though.

But because sometimes things go wrong, or customers have questions and need answers, having a great customer support team is vital to a company’s reputation and long-term success. And as we’ve discussed in previous posts, every member of a company is part of the customer support team. If you are not directly working with customers, you are supporting someone who does.

This is why it is so important to make sure that all employees feel they are part of the solution. Uninterested, unmotivated employees can kill a company’s profitability faster than Usain Bolt can run the 100-meter dash.

How do great leaders get everyone involved? The first step to strategic leadership is to make sure everyone is onboard, starting at the very top of the company. Without their buy-in and support, it’s difficult to convince others to do the hard work. It then filters down to middle management, where strategies are translated into business and regional goals. And then finally to front-line employees, who are the ones who will make or break those strategies.

Leaders know the key to motivating employees is to make sure they know what’s at stake. Every employee needs to understand how his or her performance affects the customer and the business.

“People should see the link between what they do and the longer-term results,” says W. Earl Sasser Jr., Baker Foundation Professor at Harvard Business School and coauthor of The Value Profit Chain: Treat Employees Like Customers and Customers Like Employees (Free Press, 2003).

Employees may think it’s okay to let one disgruntled customer walk out the door because the company couldn’t or wouldn’t fix or correct a problem, but when the employee sees what that customer has already spent, and the potential for future revenue, the employee can see how it affects the bottom line, which can directly affect their employment.

Take for instance an electronic store where consumers can buy their computers and smartphones. The potential for sales per customer can be thousands of dollars.

One unhappy customer who tells their family and friends about their less than satisfactory encounter can affect the bottom line in many ways that the employee just cannot see or comprehend unless it is pointed out to them in facts and figures. Employees need to see the cost of how their actions or lack of action on seemingly insignificant events can snowball and affect many areas of the business.

Leaders also need to empower their employees to handle the most common types of problems quickly and efficiently. One of the most common complaints of consumers who have walked away from businesses is that they had to explain their problem to multiple people because the first or second person did not have the authority to get the job done. As we all have experienced, this can be quite frustrating.

When employees feel they are part of the solution, and that management will listen and hear their ideas and suggestions, morale and engagement soar. Giving employees, especially customer service representatives the tools to do their jobs right should be a major focus of leadership. They should be encouraged to try new approaches to old problems, and to make sure the customer walks away with a good feeling they will be willing to share with others.

It’s also important that supervisors and managers reward customer-focused behavior immediately. This can be accomplished in many ways, such as a thank you note, public praise, a gift card, time off or a spotlight article in the company’s online magazine. The possibilities are endless.

By keeping your employees engaged and involved with the direction of the company, they (along with your customers) will become raving brand ambassadors.

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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