As a manager there are often times when people make mistakes and while it can be very frustrating, it is important for team members not to feel that frustration and to think that these mistakes are acceptable. The same goes with customers. In step four of Bringing Out the Best in People McGinnis says that it is critical to allow those who work with you to make mistakes without making them feel like what they have done is a fatal error and causing them to either shut down or to quit trying entirely. Some would say that making mistakes now will lead to fewer mistakes in the future. Take a look at this video that goes into a little explanation about this particular topic.
Many times people are afraid to make mistakes because they don’t want to upset their boss, or they don’t want to make a negative impression on someone. This is a misconceived notion because there is no way to learn without making mistakes and taking a different route the next time. When we are listening to our customers and our employees we will hear them do or say things that aren’t what we want them to do and this is where strong leadership is critical.
As a leader, it is important that you allow for people to make errors and realize that they are not going to be terminated, punished, or make to feel less important because they made those mistakes. A very easy way to do this is to just ask them what their understanding was of the goal or task at hand. When allowing them to explain what their thought process behind it was, you will soon find that during their explanation they will explain where they went wrong without even knowing, and you then have the chance to really step in and correct their misstep.
This approach works well both with employees and with customers to help fix misunderstandings and help to resolve them for future occurences as well. Remember, its not failure to make a mistake, it’s learning.
Another important part of Bringing Out the Best in People is establishing high standards for excellence. When we set the standards that we want for our team to accomplish, it’s very important to not just set the standard at where we think that people can accomplish it, but put it at least one step above that level. Each year my managers and I set goals for our team for the year, and not only do we set it to accomplish the level we did the before, but one step above that level. Goal setting is critical to business because when there isn’t a goal, people will often do just the minimum and not try to really give you more.
So what is important to remember when setting goals?
First off, be sure to set a goal that is not unattainable but is still something to work towards. When a goal is set and it’s not something that anyone is going to be able to accomplish, the opposite effect will happen and that is the last thing you want. Goals are meant to help a team work toward improving, but when they aren’t attainable, people feel defeated and the morale will go down causing people to not want to work toward the goal.
Another thing to remember is to keep the goals front of mind. Over time people can forget things, and by reminding them what the goal is they are going to continue to work toward it. One way I have accomplished this is by sending out an e-mail each month to my staff letting them know where we are in attaining the goal each month. This has helped immensely with keeping people excited about the goals.
Third, have an incentive for achieving the goal. When working toward a goal it is nice to have something at the end of that rainbow. We give away gift cards, we offer up team dinners or outings, or we come up with ways to incent people who work for them. These incentives go a long way in making people feel like they are appreciated for working toward the goals.
Finally, let each person know how they individually are responsible and helping to attain the goals. This is where the high standards come in. When someone on your team is not meeting the expectation, or working to do their part to reach the goal, it is critical to explain to them what the standards are, explain to them how they are performing for those standards and ensure that these are met. By letting each person know that they are important to reaching the goals that were set and how they contribute to this is huge in making sure that the goals are ultimately met or exceeded.
Photo courtesy of learntoberich.com
When leading people to produce exceptional service, it is critical to ensure that you take time to really pay attention to what the other person needs. Sometimes we get so focused on our goal at hand that we get in our own way and don’t take the time to really assess the needs of those providing the service that we are asking them to, and we don’t always give them tools necessary to make the changes and provide the things we want from them.
There are a few steps that I have used to really get this message across with my managers and help them to better develop their teams through finding their needs. By following these steps, you will build better employees which will lead to better customer service and in turn, better profits.
One of the easiest things to do to help assess the needs of someone you are trying to develop is simply listen. When we take time to really pay attention to what the people around us are saying, we are easily able to see what their needs are. When it comes to customer service, we want to listen to the employee interact with the customers and see where they are struggling with providing what we expect for exceptional.
The next step would be to take the observations that you have when you spend time listening to and turning them into a goal for the employee. When we take time to sit down with them, explain to them what the expectation and where they are missing it, then give them the chance to explain where they are not getting a clear picture of what is expected, and turn that into a goal that they can work toward and improve their service and grow within their position.
Finally, once that goal has been set, continue to follow-up with them about the goals that they have set and how they are doing with these. By listening to how they are doing and continuing to give feedback, the person will feel good about your interactions with them because you care about their performance, and they will feel appreciated because you are taking the time to get to what is important to them.
When dealing with employees who will be on the front line and in turn dealing with your customers, it is important to believe that they will do their best to help people. By simply expecting the best from them, not only will they feel trusted but they will know that the bar is set high and that they have to meet the challenge. When you expect people to do well, they will because they know that is the expectation and most people want to at least meet the expectations, if not even exceed them.
Looking at the illustration above we can see that having high expectations leads to improved behavior, which leads to successful performance, positive self-image and then to a positive attitude. This ongoing cycle can really make a big difference in your company’s customer service level.
So why is this important in customer service? It is important because when people feel like they are expected to do well, they will and customers reap those benefits. When we tell employees that the expectations are to go into the transactions exceeding what the customer would have expected when they came in, employees will work to meet those expectations.
One example of this is if we make an expectation that each customer name is used. When we set this standard it is typically easily done, but lets say that the standard isn’t just to use the name, but to find a way to make it sincere and to personalize the transaction with the name use. By setting the higher goal the team members aim to meet it and the customer is more appreciative of the service that they are receiving.
When you go into each day with the expectations that the people you lead are going to do their best, you will receive that from them. If the standard is set low, people will aim low. It is critical to let people know what you expect, follow-up on those expectations and maintain them overtime. You will be happy with the results that come from setting this higher standard and really expecting it to happen.
So, while most my blogs are about customer service directly, this post is about a book on leadership that can really help you develop team members who will in turn really develop the skills to provide whatever you are asking them to, be that good customer service, sales, etc. Many times the service that we provide is directly related to the way that an employee feels about their job. In this book I was really inspired to help build my team and to make them realize that not only do they have a job where they can have fun, but their talents and opinions were really appreciated and valued.
Bringing Out the Best in People by Alan McGinnis takes us through 12 steps to help improve the way that the team members who work for you are performing. When I read this book, I was really inspired to take the service that myself and my managers were providing to our teams to the next level.
There are 12 steps throughout the book to keep in mind, and I will touch on some of them in my upcoming posts. But how does this apply to customer service you ask? Think back to the last bad experience you had at a fast food restaurant. While there is not typically a high customer service expectation in these companies, if as a company we took time to really develop the team members, and make them feel valued, they would in turn pass that along to their customers. When you feel like you are someone who is wanted on a team you are more likely to turn around and give the same in return.
In future posts I will discuss some of the key points made in this book to help you more easily come up with ways to bring people into this forum and help them to really feel valued. Remember, your internal customers directly affect your external ones, so happy internal customers (your employees) will lead to happy external customers.
Sometimes our customers will ask for something that is out of the ordinary, is something that we aren’t accustomed to doing in a typical transaction, or for something that really seems out of the ordinary, but to me this is the perfect time to really give customers what they are asking for. So why “Give Them the Pickle?” I heard a story once about a customer who went into a restaurant every week for years. One week when he went in there was someone new who didn’t know the customer. If he had known the customer he would have known that every week when he comes in he is given some extra pickles. When the customer asked the employee to grant this request that day, he was told no.
When the customer was told no, he didn’t complain, he simply just didn’t come back. So, were some pickles really worth losing a customer who had been coming in every week, giving you business? These types of experiences can really make a difference to a customer and in the grand scheme of things they aren’t really all that difficult.
So, when someone asks for something that can be done, but is a bit out of the ordinary for what you usually do, take the time to “give them the pickle” and exceed their expectations. You will be happy you did it in the long run because you will keep that long-term customer and potentially gain even more.
At my company we recently rolled out a new product. I posed a challenge to all of my stores that the store to first conduct one of the new transactions would be incented. All the stores say they are excited, show interest in the proposed contest, and go about their own ways of getting that business. After less than one week with the new product on the market, my first store conducted that transaction today and it was such a small change that they made to let people know about it. All they did was include the new product in the greeting they offered on the phone, and they were successful.
When looking at this, it is amazing to me just how much one simple, small change can make such a difference. Not only did this location conduct the first of these transactions, they have had the most interest as well. They have had more inquiries than my other locations combined. Getting team members on board with this simple change really paid off and the manager of that location couldn’t be happier.
So, when making changes to what you do to bring in new business and enhance customer service remember that it doesn’t have to be a big project or a complete overhaul, it can be something as simple as changing the way you say something. Communication is key, and by making this small change the customer can really be pleased with what is offered to them, even when they didn’t even know that they wanted it to be.