Getting your Employees to say ‘Yes’


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A New 4-layer Model for Empowerment in Customer-facing Employees

Today, most employees in most organisations are not fully empowered to help customers. Whilst there is a focus on customer service and experience, and high investment in training, soft-skills and similar, the reality is employees still generally apply black and white rules in responding to customer requests and queries. Decisions and responses to customers are heavily based on company processes, products features and compliance factors.

The employee therefore aims to resolve the customer query fairly quickly and politely, but isn’t always that concerned whether the answer is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. Yet we know that saying ‘yes’ to customers correlates strongly with higher satisfaction, loyalty and purchasing.

infographic customer facing employees

The good news? There are plenty of examples of good practice out there:

Virgin Atlantic:

  • Give employees the freedom to make decisions within a “judgment playing field”. E.g. You can change food presentation but nothing that can impact food safety.
  • Reward and praise teams for great service, for innovation and collaboration. In Branson’s own words: “lavish praise on people and they will flourish.”
  • Have a mission that guides and over-rides. Understand the company purpose and promise, and staff will fill in the details and resolve new problems the right way. Instil the CVP and its meaning, not just the processes and rules.


  • Give $2000 at employee discretion to solve a customer problem. Rarely used in full, but for example allows some flowers to be purchased, or a dessert provided for free.
  • Enormous focus on service training and behaviours. Ritz-Carlton have a company Credo, a Motto, the ‘3 Steps of Service’, ‘12 Service Values’, ‘20 Service basics’, and so on. Employees continuously think for the customers.
  • Always on the lookout for “Mr BIV”. (Mistakes, reworks, breakdowns, inefficiencies, variances.) So empowerment is not just for individual customer issues, but to find and fix root causes.

So why is it so hard? Interestingly, there are only very limited conceptual models out there to help managers break down the problem and develop empowerment at scale. Concepts such as ‘skill and will’ are well known, but are incomplete.

Hence, I’ve developed this new model to define empowerment and help companies and managers free themselves and their employees to say ‘yes’.

The WAAR model of empowerment

waar model expressionUse this model to break down your empowerment challenges, and to structure programs and change to get where you want to be.

You should shortly see the ‘yesses’ roll in.

Do I WANT to say yes?
(My attitude and mindset)
This is focus of staff culture change.

  • Do employees understand what is expected and align to the core purpose?
  • Do they believe it, want it, and are constantly attuned to it?
Am I ABLE to say yes?
(My skills, tools and information)
This is focus of training and technology.

  • Can employees actually do what is needed?
  • Are they trained?
  • Are they provided with the right data and tools?
Am I ALLOWED to say yes?
(The hard limits of my power)
This is focus of process and finance.

  • Are employees allowed to make decisions?
  • To what level or cost?
Am I RECOGNISED for saying yes?
(My rewards and measures)
This is the focus of management culture change

  • Do measures align to the desired behaviours?
  • Do managers send the right messages, coach the right skills, and reinforce it constantly?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Chris Severn
Co Founder and Director of The Customer Experience Company. Expert in Customer strategy, and delivery of customer improvements in service, sales and marketing, and across online, call centres and retail channels.


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