You're at a business lunch and you ask the waiter if he can substitute another dessert for the one that came with your meal. With embarrassment on his face, the waiter says he must first check with his manager for any menu changes.
You bring an item to return 31 days after purchase, although the policy says 30 days. The clerk says she would like to process the return, but she can't because it is past the deadline and she's not allowed to make exceptions.
The Service-Profit Chain
A 2016 study reaffirmed that collaborative encounters between employees and patrons positively impact customer satisfaction. Decades of research into this effect have led us to the service-profit chain model.
This emphasizes the importance of designing a work environment that leads to high employee engagement (satisfaction). When you engage your employees, they stay longer and deliver more, which creates a higher quality experience for the customer. The service-profit chain establishes the relationship between superior customer service and higher customer satisfaction, leading to increased customer loyalty and ultimately resulting in greater profit.
When an engaged employee demonstrates their enthusiasm to a customer, the customer is delighted, which is palpable to the employee. The positive reinforcement from the customer initiates a cycle that has a positive effect on both parties.
Creating an Environment of High Employee Engagement
Engaged employees provide superior customer service. They're enthused. They care about the customer's experience. They want the customer to walk away feeling delighted. And if there's a glitch, these employees want to resolve the issue.
So guess what? As employers, we're getting in the way of our employees by not allowing them to deliver the service they desire to provide! Our policies, procedures and systems are limiting. Our employees are trained to react in a specific way to each customer concern. But an algorithm was built to respond to all possible customer issues, forgetting that customers are human. Case in point: How often do you call a customer service center and none of the prompts match your issue, leaving you to struggle to get a "live person" on the line
Encouraging Your Team to Enter Their Own Flow
Intrinsic motivation emerges when we engage in activities that both interest us and leave us feeling positive. Have you ever had that feeling where you pause what you're doing (at work, with family, with a hobby) only to realize you've been at it for hours and the time flew by? When you're in this state of flow, you're meeting an intrinsic need for autonomy and competence, driving you to continue in this activity, do your best, and look for ways to improve. You simply don't want to stop.
When an employee is bound by rules and policies that rigidly define how they interact with customers, they won't have the opportunity to create novel solutions, respond in the moment to address a customer's needs or concerns, or feel competent and autonomous in their roles. They'll never "enter the flow." When we loosen the reins, give employees guardrails for guidance, and provide them with feedback about their approaches to resolving customer issues, we set our employees up for success. We encourage them to collaborate with our customers in a mutually fulfilling manner that leaves both with a feeling of empowerment and satisfaction -- dare I say, glee.
If empowering your workforce to make autonomous decisions sounds risky, try introducing the following approach.
Most of all, don't forget to measure employee engagement, as you now know that employee engagement ultimately drives profits.
What steps have you taken to improve employee engagement? Did you get the results you were expecting? I'd love to hear about your experience.
This post was originally published by Lisa in Forbes' Coaches Council CommunityVoice -- an invitation-only division of Forbes Magazine -- where Lisa is a member and contributing author.
Photo credits: Gerd Altmann, Peggy and Marco Lachmann-Anke, and Vesa Minkkinen, all on Pixabay
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