Posts Tagged ‘Employee Management’


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How (and Why) to Improve Your Internal Customer Service

6-16 internal customer service smallYou’re all about customer service—but how well does your company handle internal customer service? Internal customers are the employees at your business, all of whom depend on—that is, are “customers” of—other employees to get their jobs done.

Internal customer service is important because if it isn’t up to par, your business will function less efficiently and professionally, and your external customer service will suffer. Here are 4 steps to improving your internal customer service.  

  1. Make sure employees understand the relationships among their roles. As your business grows, employees may become less familiar with what each person does and how their jobs support each other. You can introduce the concept of internal customer service by using an organizational chart and explaining what each department does and how its functions support other departments. For example, your marketing team generates leads that your salespeople pursue to make sales, while your fulfillment department ships the orders. If marketing doesn’t do its job, the salespeople can’t sell. If fulfillment messes up the orders, salespeople’s efforts are in vain.
  2. Cross train employees. Cross training employees to handle each other’s jobs gives them a real sense of how important each job is to internal customer service. It can also open their eyes to the challenges of other jobs, and ways they could be making their teammates’ jobs easier or more difficult.
  3. Improve your systems and processes. Work with your employee to identify sticking points in your existing systems and processes that are preventing good internal customer service. For instance, if salespeople aren't inputting orders in a timely fashion, this slows fulfillment and overloads customer service with angry calls.
  4. Build team spirit. Poor internal customer service often comes from personal rifts or misunderstandings between employees. When employees see each other as comrades and even friends, however, providing great internal customer service comes naturally. Encourage employee bonding by hosting regular events like Friday potluck or pizza lunches, company picnics and other outings. Model the behavior you want to see by being friendly, upbeat and getting to know your employees.

Encouraging employees to see each one another as customers will spark better behavior and greater professionalism. That means a happier team…and happier customers. 


How to Lower Your Work Stress in Five Minutes or Less

Feeling anxious or stressed? Many times I feel both.

This is very common among small business owners. Roger Cohen in the New York Times says “there’s a lot of status anxiety going about these days. People live suspended between the anxiety of being deluged in communication and the agony of receiving none. They have always wanted to be liked, but now they must also be “liked”…They are either on top of things, a momentary illusion, or overwhelmed, a permanent state intermittently denied. They look around wondering how it is possible to keep up. They have access to everything and certainty about nothing. They zigzag between indulgence and denial, frenetic states and cleansing cures, their busy selves and their better selves…They amass to-do lists that cannot get done.”

Diet, exercise and sleep are three of the best ways to battle this permanent state of stress. But what about right now during a very hectic day? Here are seven strategies to lower your stress in five minutes or less.

1. Create “happy” passwords

Pick passwords that make you smile or feel inspired each time you type them. Try including a name of someone you love, a few words from your favorite quote, or a word that sparks a favorite memory. For example, Be@chH0u$e could represent fond family memories at the beach.

2. Let go of those thoughts

Write down on paper the thoughts that keep repeating in your head. Start writing a list, a rant, or whatever is most troubling. You will be surprised how much less stressful things appear on paper than they do in your head.

3. Practice controlled breathing

Sit in your chair with your back straight. Breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and exhale for a count of eight. Repeat for five minutes. This technique, “4-7-8 breathing, is a version of meditation that will help you get centered.

4. Play brain games

Brain games are easy mental activities that help channel thinking away from stressful thoughts. Brain games include counting backwards by three starting at 100, reciting the lyrics of an entire song without the music or creating a sentence where every word must begin with the same letter.

5. Grab some food

6-5 stressed and anxious smallFoods affect our emotional and mental well-being. Foods high in omega-3s, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins B, A, K can help beat stress. They include eggs, dark, leafy greens like kale, pumpkin seeds, salmon or canned tuna, flaxseed, and dark chocolate. If you’re not hungry, grab a green apple to alleviate a headache!

6. Give yourself an ear massage

An ear massage releases calming endorphins in the brain. Start by using your thumbs to massage the ears from lobes to temples, then follow these four steps to ease the tension of a stressful moment.

7. Smile!

Even when you don’t feel like it, smile. It’s difficult to have stressful thoughts when you are smiling. A facial smile will make you search for happier thoughts. Sit at your desk with your eyes closed and smile for two to three minutes, or walk around and smile at others. You can’t help but feel better.

Which strategy will you use to lower your stress at work? 


Stop Treating Your Customers as an Interruption

Barbeque: Customer Unhappy with FoodI want to encourage you to look at the ways that you, your business, and your employees may be making your customers feel like they’re interrupting your business, rather than that they are the point of your business.  If you make them feel like an interruption, they’ll get a pretty clear message that their patronage as a customer doesn’t mean that much to you. A feeling that they’ll ultimately reciprocate, by not forming much of an attachment to your business, either. 

Here are specific behaviors, some general and some specific to particular types of workplaces, that are guaranteed to make a customer feel like an interruption, rather than central to your company’s existence.

• Foodservice workers: Remember to yield at any potential collision point within your restaurant. In fact, not only should you be yielding if a collision is otherwise imminent, you should be using your senses to allow you to yield before the guest even realizes that there is a potential collision point.

• Physicians, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners: Stop standing in the exam room while talking with (seated) patients. And please, please get your hand off the doorknob (making it seem like you wish that you were already out the door).

All customer-facing employees: Never talk with your co-workers—never—without situating yourself in a way that allows you to use your direct or peripheral senses to allow you to stop when a customer approaches, before the customer is made to feel that they’re taking you away from how you’d rather be spending your time.   (To put this bluntly: Your customer probably won’t appreciate coming in contact with your backside before your face.) When you do talk with co-workers, never—even for a minute–make a customer or potential customer wait for you to finish your conversation, even if your conversation is work-related. Drop that conversation mid-sentence, assist the customer, and then come back to it after.

*****

To summarize what these points have in common: You make your customers feel like an interruption when you fail to serve them with speed and enthusiasm.  In many business situations, of course the customer will, eventually, be served; there’s no way to definitively ignore them.  If a customer’s standing at a counter awaiting service, they’re not going to be flat-out turned down. But will they get served after the nearest employee puts down her cell phone with a tiny accompanying grimace? After she finishes the note she is writing? After she finishes the sentence or paragraph she is sharing with her co-worker? Or right away, and with a smile?  The difference here is a matter of seconds, or even just milliseconds. But that brief time span, and the attitude it evokes, makes all the difference in how the customer feels about your company.


The Importance Of New-Employee Orientation – And How To Do It Right

3-6 employee orientation smallDo you know—for certain—what the first day of work is like for your employees? Is there a chance you’re frittering away orientation–a key part of building your corporate culture–on inconsequential details? (‘‘This is the break room. We clean the employee fridge out each Friday.’’)

Each day, all around the world, careless orientations like this one are creating lasting negative expectations among employees. And executives and managers typically have no idea it’s happening. Be sure your precious first moments with an employee aren’t squandered (or worse). Institute a careful, effective orientation process.

Use Orientation to Instill New Values, Attitudes, and Beliefs

Employees are especially impressionable during their first days—and especially their very first day—on the job. This is because beginning any new job is disorienting, and psychologists have shown that during periods of disorientation, people are particularly susceptible to adopting new roles, goals, and values. Those new values and beliefs might turn out to be destructive ones, or constructive ones like you want to seed. It depends largely on your orientation program.

With this in mind, I recommend that you focus your orientation process not on instilling practical know-how, but rather on instilling the most useful attitudes, beliefs, and goals possible. Keep the focus on what is most crucial for your business: core customer service principles, your company values, and why and how your employee is an essential part of the company’s overall mission.

Involve the highest leadership level possible, ideally the CEO, to personally provide the orientation on values, beliefs, and purpose. Sound impractical, even impossible? Consider this: The CEO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company conducts, personally, every single Day One event at every hotel and resort Ritz-Carlton opens, no matter where it is in the world.

So, figure out a way. You only get one Day One.


Improve Your Customer Service–By Letting Us See Your Tats!

2-20 tattoos at work smallResponding to tens of thousands of employee requests, Starbucks recently announced sweeping changes to its tattoo policy, now allowing customer-facing employees to exhibit them everywhere except on the employee’s face. (Previously, employees had to hide tattoos under long clothing, which as you can imagine made things uncomfortable in a long day working over hot steam.) Dress codes, too, have been loosened to allow more expression in accoutrements, scarves, and the like, and piercings have been significantly deregulated.

Are these sensible, bottom-line minded moves Starbucks is making, and that you should consider for yourself as a leader and businessperson? I would argue that the answer to both questions is yes.

Customers are searching for the genuine, the authentic

Today’s customers have a well-developed sense of the genuine, and "genuine" is something that they look for from a brand.  I find as a customer service consultant that my clients who allow their employees self-expression on the job–in language, clothing, and, yes, tattoos–are better able to deliver a genuine customer experience that connects with the customer.

Letting employees express their personal style, tats and all

In other words: letting employees revel in their own style is a way to project how genuine you are as a brand to employees and to the customers they support. Your customers—including the important millennial generation that will soon be the dominant breed of consumer in the marketplace—project their own style through their clothing choices, tattoos, and hairstyles, and by and large they're fine with your employees doing the same. As fellow customer service designer Tim Miller expressed it to me recently, in a customer-facing business you should strive for a visible symbiosis between the people working at your establishment because it fits their lifestyle, and the customers doing business with you because it fits their lifestyle.

Choosing the best employees, not just the ones without tattoos and piercing

The second reason is even more important: Employees with the potential to be great all share certain key personality traits (Warmth, Empathy, Teamwork, Conscientiousness, Optimism [WETCO] is my list),  but what they don’t share is a particular look. And as an employer, what you’re looking for, praying for, dreaming of, are great employees. Not necessarily Darien-bred or Oxbridge-accented employees (in fact, sometimes these are exactly the kinds of employees you want to avoid in the service industry, if they come with an attitude to match), but employees with the potential to be great in all the empathetic and creative ways that a customer-facing employee needs to be great.

This principle is epitomized by a front-of-house service professional in Bermuda named Nick DeRosa, about whom I've written before.  Mr. DeRosa is head doorman at the Fairmont Southampton and one of the greatest front-of-house employees you’ll ever meet.

DeRosa has a tattoo on his neck, all capital letters that says “NICK” so large and visibly that his much-smaller name tag serves pretty much as decoration rather than identification.

Based on an appearance checklist, Nick would hardly be the likeliest candidate to be chosen as the first person guests encounter at this grand luxury hotel, yet they selected him anyway, based on his personality and smile, and it’s clear it’s one of the best personnel decisions the hotel has ever made. Not only is his own performance stellar but he is an inspiration to the employees who work for and with him to up their own game. So I hold the example of DeRosa out to you and ask you this: Why lose a potentially great service person who made a questionable (to you) stylistic choice earlier in their lives—or even made one last night?

Get over your hiring inhibitions

You may get some pushback from whoever your pushbackers are, saying that some studies do show that, all things being equal, an untattooed, unpierced employee is viewed more favorably by mainstream customers than one who is decorated in the modern fashion. But all things are never equal. All employees are not equal. And I would argue that you want the tattooed employee if the tattooed employee is otherwise a future star for you.

Revise your HR guidelines

So: Are you reluctant to (and/or do your hiring guidelines prohibit you to) employ otherwise-qualified candidates who sport tattoos, weird hair, cheek piercings, and the like?

Well, if so, I do understand. I really do. But I want to challenge you to consider that, perhaps, your thinking is out of date. Anachronistic. Please evolve as quickly as you can, for the sake of your employees, your customers, and your bottom line.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Things to Look for When Hiring Customer Service Reps

Waiting Room: Receptionist Takes Insurance CardWhen hiring customer service reps, you need to do more than assess the job candidate’s experience and dot the i’s and cross the t’s on a job application. Here are five factors that are just as important as experience, and how to assess them during the interview process.

  1. Friendliness. Natural curiosity about others, openness and willingness to engage and ask questions are key characteristics of a good customer service employee. Small talk during the interview is a good way to explore how friendly a job candidate is. (Just be sure you talk steer the conversation to topics interviewers are forbidden to ask about, such as whether a candidate is married, has children or how old they are.)
  2. Ability to handle negativity. Good customer service representatives deal with negative emotions (their own and other people’s) in a mature way and, ideally, turn negative situations around. In addition to asking employees about a negative person at their prior job and how they dealt with him or her, try putting them to the test by incorporating stressful situations into the interview, such as telling them the interview is delayed and having the receptionist observe how they behave while waiting, having other employees continually interrupt the interview, or having your receptionist purposely be rude to them so you can see how they react.
  3. Multitasking ability. Customer service requires being able to multitask. A representative might be on the phone with one customer while dealing with a queue of other customers on hold. He might be assisting an indecisive customer at the point-of-sale in a store while the line of impatient customers is growing by the minute. Try setting tasks that incorporate multitasking or distractions, such as taking a written test in a room where the candidate has also been told to answer the phone, or interrupting the test to have the candidate complete a form or sign a document.
  4. Pleasant demeanor. A calming presence and soothing speaking voice can go a long way toward making ruffled customers feel better. If the employee will be dealing with customers on the phone, try conducting a pre-interview by phone to see how he or she comes across. You might be able to eliminate candidates who don’t present themselves well by phone and save yourself some interview time.
  5. Emotional awareness. Often called “emotional intelligence” or EQ (like IQ), emotional intelligence incorporates many facets, but basically it’s the ability to sense and respond appropriately to others’ emotions. A customer service rep with high EQ will know when a complaining customer just wants to be heard more than he or she wants an actual solution, when customers are in a rush and need to get off the phone quickly, or when customers need to be escalated to the next level of service before the situation deteriorates.

When interviewing customer service candidates, be sure to trust your gut. If a job candidate doesn’t put you at ease and you don’t enjoy interacting with the person, your customers probably won’t, either.


Build A Customer-Focused Corporate Culture–By Making A (Very Tough) Decision

1-29 Building blocks smallIf your aim is to build a truly customer-focused culture in your organization, here are two difficult steps to take that will make it happen. These two steps that will change your world–if you really want it changed.

1. Decide.  For example:  “We provide only the highest level of service to our customers, our associates, and our vendors.”  That’s a cultural decision.

2. Get to work figuring out what your decision will mean organizationally and behaviorally.  Because it is going to affect everything. Everything. Including:

  • The way you hire–select– your customer-facing employees. You'll need to stop hiring on a hunch, or just for technical skills, or haphazardly.  Instead you'll need to get scientific about finding the right employees to do the right kind of job for your customers: that "highest level of service" that you've just committed to.
  • Support: You'll need to give those employees great support: in terms of onboarding, training, inspiration, reinforcement, coaching, and setting appropriate standards for service functions.
  • Empowerment: You’ll need to empower those employees to make their own decisions to help your customers (including, sometimes, the decision to deviate from the standards you set down in my previous bullet point!
  • Personnel policies and employee treatment: You’re going to have to revise any inhumane and punitive personnel policies that currently serve to demoralize these important people.
  • Building and maintaining the workers' toolbox: You’ll need to  provide your employees with a proper, and properly maintained toolbox – literally (if they’re carpenters, machinists, or janitors) or figuratively (if they’re not) – that they need to do their best work
  • Broadening your benchmarks: You’ll need to look beyond your own industry for service quality benchmarks.  Your decision to provide the “highest level of service” should mean the highest level anywhere, not just the highest among tire manufacturers or whatever your specific niche. Benchmark those high standards, and strive to reach them.
  • You’ll need to–and you'll need to involve every one of your employees in–looking at your processes, systems, and behaviors as if from a customer viewpoint (this is not easy at all, and once you do it, I promise you you will need to change even more.  And it’ll be worth it.

How Bosses Can Deal with Smartphone-Addicted Employees

Group of friends all using smart phonesSmartphones have become more than communication tools. As phones have evolved to include email, internet browsing, and social media connectivity, consumers have begun increasing their screen time each day. These devices have gone beyond being a way to make phone calls to becoming a lifeline for most people.

As The Washington Post pointed out, the modern smartphone is a way for people to protect themselves, allowing people something to do. But mobile devices too often take priority over the people in the room with someone, which is problem enough when it happens in social settings. In business meetings, it can be disruptive and insubordinate. In a world that seems to be increasingly tech-addicted, how do bosses handle employees who can’t seem to go five seconds without texting, tweeting, or checking email? Here are some things leaders can do to deal with distracted workers in the office.

Set Policies

As restrictive as it can be, employers need to set boundaries when it comes to tech use in the workplace. An across-the-board ban against personal cell phone use in the workplace isn’t reasonable in today’s environment. But it’s perfectly reasonable to ask phones to be turned off in meetings, especially if they’re with clients.

The problem comes in when employees are checking work email in meetings. Important work emails could be missed during a no-phones-allowed staff meeting, yet it’s often impossible to differentiate between company-related interactions and personal.

Address the Problem

As with any personal technology use in the workplace, it’s often easier to address the real problem than the symptoms of that problem. In other words, if someone wastes an untold amount of time texting throughout the day, he’s likely not getting his work done. If he is, it might be time to determine whether he has enough to do. A co-worker may be overloaded with work that could be shifted over to a smartphone-addicted colleague, solving two issues at once.

If an employee’s work performance is suffering as a result of his device use, begin documenting missed deadlines or failure to meet standards. Use this documentation to discuss these standards with the employee and state what he needs to do to improve. In some cases once an employee realizes his job is at stake, he’ll spend less time on the phone and more time working.

Offer Help

While it may sound extreme, technology addiction is such a problem there is now a name for it: nomophobia. Instead of taking your employees’ vices away, consider offering help. You don’t have to send them off to rehab or enter them in a 12-step program. Instead, bring in an expert to speak to employees about how they can break their smartphone addictions and get more done in a day.

If a workshop isn’t helpful and disciplining employees for poor performance isn’t successful, it’s likely time to directly address the problem. As long as your discipline is consistent, without showing favoritism, you may reduce workers’ disruptive smartphone use and have a more productive, collaborative workplace.


4 Tips for Handling a Disgruntled Employee

12-26 disgruntled employee smallManaging employees is a necessary part of running a business, whether a company has only a few employees or a few thousand. Ideally, a company will hire the perfect worker the first time, then retain that employee for decades without a single issue. That rarely happens, however, especially as a business’s team grows.

Occasionally, a manager may be tasked with handling an unhappy employee who isn’t afraid to let others know about it. Mitigating the situation may be tricky, especially if other employees are aware of the worker’s negative attitude. Here are some things you can do if an employee is miserable and looking for company.

Separate the Employee

As soon as you notice an employee’s behavior is problematic, it’s time to take action. Never make a scene in front of other employees. Instead, pull the employee aside and have a private discussion about the matter, possibly with someone from human resources present. Let the employee air all grievances and promise to address those that are legitimate. If the issues can’t be repaired, explain this to the employee and make it understood that these bad habits can’t continue.

Listen

In many cases, a disgruntled employee simply wants someone to hear his complaints. By letting a disgruntled worker know that he can come to you whenever he has an issue, you may be able to confine the drama to your office, rather than taking the risk of it spreading throughout the organization. Most importantly, listen closely to what the employee is saying and consider whether there could be a grain of truth in what he’s saying. In some cases, an employee’s complaints could highlight a problem that needs to be addressed.

Limit Access

Once an employee has made his unhappiness public, it’s important to consider the many ways the employee can damage your company. The FBI recently cautioned businesses about the rise in data theft from disgruntled employees. Conduct an inventory of all of the systems the employee accesses and consider limiting his access to information like customer credit card and social security numbers. If dismissal becomes necessary, make sure access to your systems is cut off instantly.

Begin Discipline

If efforts to manage the situation prove unsuccessful, you’ll likely have no choice but to dismiss the employee. For that reason, you should maintain careful documentation of each incident and note all discussions you hold with the employee. Offering the employee an opportunity to resign rather than be terminated can be beneficial, especially if the worker is angry and might possibly file a lawsuit. Since the employee is already making his displeasure known, you may also find it worth your while to offer a severance package in exchange for signing a confidentiality agreement. This will keep negative postings off of social media and sites like Glassdoor.

A disgruntled employee can cause great harm to an organization, lowering morale and distracting team members from their daily tasks. By addressing the issue professionally as discreetly as possible, a manager can maintain peace and keep the organization moving forward.




 
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