business reputation

How front-line employees make or break your business

Drive-thru:

  • Front-line employees hold a company’s reputation in their hands. It’s up to you how they shape that reputation.
  • Customers determine whether your company is worthwhile based on the customer experience your front-line employees provide (and how much effort the customer perceives is being made).
  • Value your employees and give them the tools to provide customer satisfaction—and your reputation will reap the benefits.

Your front-line employees are the face of your business. They represent you when engaging with customers, on social media, and when meeting or talking to people outside of work. Your reputation is in their hands. How do they make or break your future business and your reputation—and what can you do to prevent them from breaking it?

Customer Experience

Customer experience, sometimes termed CX, rests on the emotional responses of your customers and the amount of effort they feel your employees expend meeting their needs and expectations. Customers’ emotional reaction is entwined in their perception of the company. If the customer deems the amount of effort made to meet requirements or make amends insufficient, that customer will forever carry a negative perception of the company.

Negative CX is more powerful than positive. As the old saw goes: A satisfied customer tells only a few friends while a dissatisfied one announces it to the world. A single negative experience can undo months of positive emotion and influence, instantly turning an advocate into an antagonist. That negative experience is nearly always at the hands of a front-line employee.

Create pathways for employees to provide a positive experience and tangible evidence of effort. For example, allow them to send follow-up communications after a request for a resolution. Spotlight employees who successfully create or maintain a positive customer experience. Each of these paths can demonstrate the effort and care your company takes in creating a long-lasting relationship.

Employee Satisfaction

Just as a dissatisfied customer can disrupt your positive messaging, dissatisfied employees can cast a pall over your reputation. Remember, the employee is the face of your company. Make sure that face feels like smiling more than frowning. But how?

Hire employees who genuinely like working with people. What is the point of having someone work with your customers if they are genuinely uncomfortable with others? That person is in charge of your reputation and future business prospects. Stack your deck with people who can have a positive impact and put forth the effort to correct any negative issues appropriately.

Employees are more willing to go the extra mile when they feel they are valuable members of the team and have sufficient autonomy to do their best work.

  • When they make a mistake, train instead of remediate. Treat the mistake for what it is, not as a reason to punish or demean.
  • Pay them what they are worth. Feeling underpaid may lead to resentment and poor performance.
  • Define their roles. Nothing is harder than trying to succeed when you don’t know the goal. Role definitions empower them to be top-performing team members certain of their contributions.
  • Do not use a transactional model to monitor their performance. Requiring increased sales or numbers of calls answered in an hour does not encourage relationship building or problem-solving. Over time, the customer experience will suffer and employees will feel like rats on a treadmill rather than valuable team members.

Treat your employees like people. They are not human resources, pegs, or drones. Make customer service a career goal instead of a short-term stepping stone or dead-end job.

Responsiveness

Invest in a knowledge management system so your employees can keep their attention on your customers. When customer service spends more time looking for data than resolving a customer’s problem, your company reputation suffers.

Customers waiting on hold, waiting for a call-back, or waiting in line count each unproductive moment as a waste of time. Help your front-line employees reduce wait times by placing the information they need at their fingertips. Don’t make them dig through paper files or make the customer wait in line to speak to another representative. Give your customer-facing staff the tools to find the answers on the spot. If you make them look like miracle workers, they will feel (and act) like rock stars.

Your business is not an automaton: it is a living, breathing organism with a personality. How customers perceive your company is a direct result of customer experience and employee satisfaction. A positive experience with valued employees will make your future business. A negative experience with undervalued employees will break it.

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