Empowering your employees helps you achieve your company’s growth goals faster. Imagine the return on investment if your employees are motivated to do great work instead of doing good work. Running a business requires good money, but a large part of running a successful business involves its people – whether they’re employees or customers.
If employees are happy, it will rub off on customers too. And what more could a business need than happy customers?
benefits of employee empowerment
If you try to micromanage employees it can consume a lot of your time. Micromanaging is neither a sustainable practice nor a desirable practice – especially when your team is responding to back-to-customer inquiries. If on the other hand they are empowered they can take control, own the process, and feel good about it, it will lead to higher job and customer satisfaction.
Marketing automation, helpdesks, and knowledge base software can automate a lot of customer service but none of them can replace actual humans.
Imagine you’re a customer with a problem. Do you want to wait 15 minutes on your call and then get bounced around to nine different agents? Empowered agents can take care of the issues on their own without asking anyone for help. The quicker an issue is resolved, the happier the customer is. And a skilled service representative can turn an angry customer into a happy one in minutes.
How to Make Employees Feel Empowered
Great customer service goes by another name – it’s called good problem-solving. You should start by hiring people who are great at helping others and those who like solving problems.
To train your employees in solving problems in a fun and engaging way, introduce puzzles and other similar mind-flexing exercises and games that they can do on their own or as part of a group activity. Games like Wordle or I’m a Puzzle, for example, are good problem solving games to play, and a great way to gauge how an individual or team can problem solve.
Zappos has a policy where they hire only the top 1% of those who apply taking into account attributes such as helpfulness, a team-playing mentality, and such like. Zappos hiring is based on cultural fit and skills giving 50 percent weightage to each factor. Also, new hires should match the company’s ten core values related to service, embracing change, building team spirit, and staying humble. In 2021, Zappos sent out responses to all 31,000 people who applied. Only 1.5 percent of applicants were hired.
So when hiring, look for people who can communicate well, listen well, and manage their time well. They must demonstrate attitudes of empathy, patience, and attentiveness. They should also be interested to learn more about your service or product.
Once you start hiring with these skills on top of your mind, you will naturally improve customer experience ratings.
Hiring problem solvers isn’t enough if you don’t empower them to solve problems.
All companies follow a set of rules. But, the rules need not translate into a rigid, unmoving structure that gives little freedom to your employees.
Give your agents, and employees a certain degree of autonomy, authority, and creativity to solve problems as and when they arise. Don’t try to micromanage everything.
If your company delivers the wrong item, make sure your employees have the power to offer a one-time discount to make up for the wrong order value, or better still allow them the freedom to offer customers a bigger discount on their next order. This can keep customers happy without weighing heavily on your budget.
If an employee is afraid of spending company money to impress customers with a better service and experience, you will forever be just another good company, and won’t be able to aspire to becoming a great company.
reinforce active listening
We all hear, but only a few of us can actually listen. Listening is hugely underrated as a skill.
Listening is perhaps the #1 skill you can ingrain into your employees to deliver a better customer experience. Teach employees the practice of listening well and listening fully before responding. This makes customers feel that you genuinely care about their product problem(s) and can help them. All customers want is to be listened to.
Have employees repeat what they heard from the customer. This clarifies things and ensures that nothing is miscommunicated.
Listening is hard work. This is even harder when you’re talking to grumpy customers. But, when you start listening, there are several benefits, the most important one being happier customers.
Active listening can turn bad situations into positive reinforcing examples for future training too.
Invest in training
New employees without exception need the training to help them understand the different aspects of their job. For seasoned employees on the other hand, this can be an opportunity to work with the new joiners and train them/ bring them up-to-speed from their own experiences.
The importance of getting trained on best practices from handling a customer call or query, to dealing with difficult people, and other call-related aspects cannot be undermined. If there’s no budget for an external trainer there are several free online training resources you can use. Make sure check them out and customise the free training to what’s needed for your company.
Another strategy is to go through the wealth of online articles on the topic and share them with employees. Make it a point to discuss this in your next staff meeting. Ask your staff to bring with them the biggest challenge they faced this week or this month with a customer. Then discuss these challenges and look for ways to solve these issues quickly, or effectively.
Taking the concept further you can pair new employees with existing employees and let them work together. The newbie can ask questions and learn from how the senior employee does his work. This is a great example of shared learning and increases the knowledge of all parties on how to help customers better.
Talk to your employees
Managers often don’t realise they need to spend time talking to employees because they feel that the employees know they are always there for them. Being available doesn’t always translate to being accessible.
And being available is unfortunately not always enough. The employees need to have a relationship with you for them to be comfortable bringing around problems, making suggestions, or engaging in other collaborative things. Relationships require an open conversation. It doesn’t have to be a daily talk but has to be frequent enough in building a meaningful rapport.
- Schedule 15-minute weekly meetings (or on Zoom if remote) with individual members
- Set up hour-long weekly group meetings
- Daily check-ins that lead with “how are things going” question.
This can be time-consuming, but it can ensure you’re delivering a great customer experience during the interaction. 80 percent of customer churn is because of poor customer service. The time, resources, and money you spend on training your employees to be customer-ready is all worth it.
to sum up…
Talking to employees, training them on engaging with customers, and empowering them to go the extra mile are all great ways for you to make them feel empowered and better engaged when solving problem and making the right decisions for better customer experiences.
Author: Binu Jacob – EFS Content Lead and Comms Strategist