QC #3: Invest in Front Line Staff
The front line staff are closest to the problems your customers are facing. These are the people who experience the customers’ frustrations and have an opportunity to fix the problem within minutes. Having a great staff is a combination of finding the right people, giving them the right tools, empowering them the right way, and creating the right environment. It’s as easy as taking a STEP.
Think of a great staff like you would a dinner recipe. A great meal starts with great ingredients and your employees are your ingredients. Select employees that fit the needs of
- Your company: Does your company need someone who specializes in a specific skills or should you find someone who can innovate solutions? Maybe you need both. Know how to target the people you need to hire. Your Help Wanted post should define the type of person you are looking for. “Someone who can leverage multiple social media platforms” tells me you are looking for someone who knows many social media platforms but, more importantly, can learn emergent social media platforms as they become available. “Seeking a mediterranean sous chef” tells me you need someone with a specific skill set who can hit the ground running.
- Your customers: What do your customers expect of your staff? Should they be chatty or conduct themselves in a very business-like manner? I am a very analytical person so I would be a horrible choice if your customers expected ‘chatty’. Don’t hire someone if it is evident they will have a tough time meeting the needs of your customer.
- Existing staff: Is your staff self-motivating or do they need a little micro-managing to get the job done? Is your staff predominately Big Personalities? Consider your current staff and any gaps in your staff’s skill sets and personalities. I can attest from first-hand experience that a self-motivated individual will cause a lot of trouble if she is stuck with a staff that needs to be micro-managed. Keep in mind that I was the “trouble” because I didn’t go along with the rest of the team. However, I flourished once I was able to find a whole team of self-motivated personnel.
Your employees will probably need a combination of industry-unique training and transferrable skill training (aka soft skills). It doesn’t matter if you employ mechanics or CEOs. You will always need a combination of training.
Employees perform at a higher level if they know the technical side of the work. They need quality depth and breadth. These are the industry-unique training courses that most companies give to their staff during the first few weeks of employment. However, technical training should be an on-going event.
Transferrable skills like leadership, project management, motivating the work force, and effectively communicating via email are just as important. This type of training might focus on teaching people how to be empathetic when working with an irate customer or the most effective questions to ask to trouble-shoot a problem.
Employees should be empowered to try to resolve problems at their level before calling a supervisor or asking permission from leadership. Customers walk away with the impression that they matter to everyone in the store instead of just the supervisor and that is key to creating a loyal customer. It also means the staff should feel comfortable sending out a new product, part, or piece to fix the problem while they are still on the phone with the customer.
Empower your employees to connect with customers and share their experiences with the rest of the staff at the next meeting.The more you know about your customers, the better able you are to meet their expectations.
When we talk about protecting, we mean protecting our employees (1) from violent or irrational customers and (2) from the threat of losing their jobs. It is difficult for someone to be 100% engaged at work if they are worried about their physical safety or job security. Invest in safety mechanism to protect your staff. A small investment can pay huge dividends down the road.
Job security is a bigger monster to tame. One area that small businesses overlook is the threat of too little or poor social media presence. Empower one of your staff to work the social media side of things or hire someone who specializes in social media marketing. Your social media team will read and respond to Amazon comments, Tweets, Facebook messages, Reddit, etc. You have to protect and manage your social media presence with the same fervor as you protect our brand. Check out this infograph to see the potential impact of social media on your business.
How important do you think your front line staff are to the health of your business?