Managers and owners often underestimate the daily struggles of front-line employees.
I began my career after three intense interviews and reporting to the basement back room cleaning area to disinfect respiratory and mobility equipment. I started with the proverbial blank slate, and during the past 14 years have absorbed vast knowledge and experience. Over the years, I slowly climbed my way up to where I truly stood out as a customer service representative (CSR).
Peter Drucker once said, “The business enterprise has two—and only two—basic functions: marketing and innovation.” I wholeheartedly agree, but would simplify it down to one: customer service. Let’s face it, a great customer service experience can fulfill both functions and is paramount in our modern online consumer society. If you want to succeed, you must focus on empowering your front-line staff. Hire smartly, educate wisely, lead better and support your CSRs far beyond what you do now, and the results will pay off in dividends.
First, focus on hiring the right high-energy, emotionally advanced personality for your company, and you can create the cornerstone CSR that business success is based upon. If you listen to any motivational speaker, it becomes apparent that energy is a key indicator of success and personal development.
Take time to look beyond the standard interview questions and investigate more into the candidate’s emotional energy levels. Is he or she excited to be in the interview? Does the candidate appreciate a challenging job? Does he or she need an alarm to wake up every morning? How many books has he or she read this year? What is his or her favorite type of exercise? All these are creative ways to feel out the candidate’s energy level, and most often body language is telling.
The interview doesn’t end at finding that high-energy applicant—you need a managerial plan to keep your candidate positive and constantly moving forward. Take care, take time, and invest in making your CSRs the foundation of your company.
Focus on Employee Engagement
You’ve hired a high-energy candidate with a great attitude; but how do you keep them engaged and interested in becoming more? First and foremost, you must invest in their success. Educate them beyond product knowledge and processes—make them focus on interpersonal skills and listening. One of the most important skills we can learn is the ability to listen without interrupting. How often do you find yourself feeling the need to interrupt before someone has finished speaking? Interrupting affects the route of the conversation and is read into by the speaker via nonverbal communication.
If you want to create a great customer experience, listen more and let the other person hear their favorite voice; let them tell their story; let them talk about their situation; you will quickly realize that they are introducing you to their favorite person, themselves.
Great leaders know the importance of listening before speaking, so empower your CSRs with the secret and skill of listening. Teach them that body language speaks volumes beyond our words.
Make no mistake, partnering with your vendors, having educational luncheons, leading teaching huddles and role-playing scenarios go far in creating a well-rounded cornerstone CSR. Go that extra mile to help your CSRs be more conscious and self-aware, giving your business the competitive foundation it needs to thrive.
The front-line employee experiences and sees far more than most in your organization. This person occupies one of the most important roles in your business, and care must be taken to ensure they are given the assistance they need.
We often add more complexities to their role instead of investing in actions to lessen the burden. I understand the importance of doing the job correctly the first time, but we must continuously look for ways to improve and streamline the job process. I read recently about a gentleman who held the same position at two different companies simultaneously. When asked, he said he was ecstatic at one and miserable at the other. How could the exact same job provoke such opposite reactions? Simply put, it was support. One company would ask him what he needed to succeed, and the other would only look for flaws in his performance. Leaders need to recognize all the necessary elements for success, and make sure to utilize them.
I’ve said for years that being a medical supply customer service representative requires more knowledge, compassion, skill and understanding than most are willing to give. On top of that, there are virtually no higher education courses designed to educate and prepare one for this industry. I truly believe this is the most difficult and challenging job in an organization, and it requires the most support. It is difficult to stay connected with the day-to-day struggles of the CSR, especially in an industry in constant flux.
Most often, we jump from issue to issue and forget the importance of the CSR’s role in the business. Remember, good service does not create return customers, great service does. Hiring smartly, educating wisely, leading better and supporting your CSRs far beyond what you do now will greatly improve your ability to create the cornerstone CSR of your company.