It is a truism in business that improving customer service will help sales and improve customer relations. Unfortunately, companies too often look to measurables and deliverables to concretely move these markers, when what is actually needed is soft skills and additional training.
While making sure customers aren’t on hold for too long, that computer systems are in place to make sure all of their data is accessible, and having enough bodies physically answer the phone are all important, what’s most important is employees who are competent, accessible, and helpful.
These are just a few ways that employee behavior influences customer behavior.
Customers all too often start from a place of conflict. They might have a product that isn’t working the way they anticipated, or they might have a question or frustration about a bill that needs to be resolved. No matter the specific problem, an employee’s ability to manage conflict resolution will dramatically affect the customer’s satisfaction, not just with this interaction, but with all company interactions moving forward.
Some people can naturally resolve conflicts in a smooth and peaceful way, but many more need to be specifically trained on this skill. In some ways, resolving a conflict goes against American societal instincts. Conflict resolution often involves compromise, and great employees need to be able to create a sense of compromise without giving away more than the company can afford.
Solving All Problems At Once
In many sales and service-based settings, employees are taught to ask “What else can I help you with today?” or another variant. Unfortunately, too many employees ask this question with the intention of closing out the conversation. Its real purpose is to try and solve as many problems as the customer might have in one interaction.
There are many reasons to make this a goal for employees. First, customers don’t want to be required to call the company back or come back to the store multiple times to solve multiple problems. If they are required to do so, all too often they will just not bother coming back. This can lose sales or cause a company’s reputation to take a hit.
Second, customer attitudes will warm towards someone who is able to solve several different problems for them, whether those are sales based or service based. Knowing that one employee can handle multiple interactions creates trust and appreciation between customers and employees, which can lead to additional sales down the road.
Similar to “What else can I help you with,” sellers in particular are often trained to suggest add-ons to their customer’s purchases. If someone is choosing a book by one author, for example, the seller should mention the rest of the author’s backlist, or point out that something similar is on the bestseller lists for example. While this often comes under the category of solving all of a customer’s problem, too many sellers treat this as rote, just another part of their “spiel.”
When sellers treat upselling as solving the problem the customer doesn’t even know they have yet, the process of upselling becomes more engaging for the customer. Now the seller isn’t just recommending something random. They are recommending shoe polish because leather shoes get wet, another book by the same author because they’re on sale, or an upgrade to a service because in the long run it will be less expensive than what the customer has now.
This changes the entire tone of the interaction, and customers are more likely to make the choice to purchase.
It is incredibly important that employees are healthy, happy, and excited to be at their jobs. When customers enter an environment where all of the employees are coughing and clearly ill, exhausted, or just unhappy to be there, customers will pick up on the mood of your employees. They’re less likely to stay at the store or office for a long time. This reduces the ability of your employees to upsell, solve problems, and can even hurt your brand reputation.
The best way to make sure your employees stay home when they’re sick and come to work when they’re well is to have leave policies that support healthy individuals and families. The ability to telework, flexible work times, and being forgiving about someone who is on salary but is occasionally late can go a long ways towards solving “attitude” problems, improving your overall staffing. Having happy employees improves the way your customers interact with the business, and in the long run, is just better for the business.
When you relate company policies to how they influence employee behavior, and how employee behavior influences customer behavior, you are more likely to get employee buy-in. Help employees implement changes by showing them how and why they matter.