Friday, May 13, 2016

How Can Employee Motivation Turn Into A Competitive Advantage?

By Nina Bjørlo
Head of Customer Service
DHL Express, Norway

We have all experienced good and bad customer service, and we know what effect this has on us as consumers. We all remember past experiences when we need to contact a company repeatedly. If the service was really bad, we will most likely try the competitor. Working with customer service, this is something we are very much aware of and we are therefore working every day trying to ensure that the customer is happy and satisfied. But how do we do this? How do we make our customer service so outstanding that the customer never wants to use anyone but us?

We always have to start with our people; our employees. The people that serve our customers, handle our products, sell our products, care for our customers’ needs and represent the company. To ensure that they deliver the best service quality possible, we as managers need to focus on our employees and their motivation. We need to nurture the diversity in our workforce, give recognition and good training and lay the ground work for further development and learning. We need to be available, approachable and present for our team.

Training is essential whether you work in customer service or any other department. A good initial training is vital, but continuous coaching and learning is a key factor for employees to thrive.  The goal of the manager should be to increase the competence and confidence of the work force. And it is not enough to say the right words. We need to mean it, and live it. And it starts at the top. Managers need to lead by example, be open to suggestions and feedback from everybody, every day. The feedback needs to be precise and with examples of the impact; on you, the customer or anyone else affected. We need to show that we care, not only in words, but also in actions.

When employees feel that they are heard, taken seriously, trusted and respected, they will also go a further step in performing their own tasks. They will take more ownership and personal interest in delivering top results and great quality. They will feel sick to the stomach if something goes wrong, and do all in their power to fix the problem. If the agents are also empowered to fix problems for the customers instead of always needing to get approvals from their managers, they feel motivated, trusted and valued. When they are involved in decisions, trusted to represent management and themselves in meetings and other forums, they will take their service to the next level.  The customers will notice this and feel valued and respected by the employees. Seeing that the service and communication is top notch, the customer might leave the interaction feeling more like a business partner rather than a customer. This means they will not even consider using the competitors; it will make your company the only natural option and first choice.

For the company, it is all about creating the customer experience. How does the customer see you as their partner with no other options? The quality, the service and the human interaction is the key to everything. Training is essential; everything needs to start with a great induction. The platform should not only consist of the actual task the employee needs to know, but should include cross-functional knowledge, cultural understanding of the business, and historical knowledge of the company - they need to feel the company under their skin. Why? Because they need to know in order to understand the company from top to toe. This will benefit the customers every time they are in contact with your company. Let the employees know that the initial training is only the beginning, it will continue. The employees need to know that they are important to the company and that they really have an impact on the customer’s lives. The workforce should both know and feel that they are the currency of the company and that the company’s best interest is for them to grow, learn and improve. For the customer, this means that their experience will be filled with knowledgeable, polite and helpful agents, wanting to give the best service every time, every day. 

By coaching and developing your employees through feedback, interactive meetings, and on-the-floor presence from management, you will increase their knowledge and reduce the errors made and unlock the employees’ potential. You will build confidence and uncover areas that need improvement faster. And by setting goals and celebrating successes and achievements, you will engage the employees to help pull for those great results and that great service. Always be open with your employees about your strategies and what you want to achieve, make them involved and understand how you want to work. Listen to and ask for their ideas, and make sure you as management stick to the strategy and road map at any given time. 

If you as a customer are in contact with a company where the employees take pride in their work, have fun at their job and have a personal interest in making you as a customer successful – you will never want to be a customer anywhere else. You might even end up being proud of choosing a top notch and high quality product for your business. And if we manage to make the customer proud of picking our company – we have an upper hand on our competitors that they will have a hard time fighting. And, we all want to have a competitive advantage, don’t we?

Nina Bjorlo has built her career on a genuine interest in customer experience, employee engagement and motivation. Nina focuses on her skills in change management, coaching, learning and development. She enforces a balanced respect and result driven leadership, with a focus and combination of both. She has a strong belief that if you empower and respect your employees, you will get the results you need.


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