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It’s All About People

As a HR consultancy, a large aspect of our job involves helping clients to deal with the people management of their organisations. We quite often tackle issues relating to poor performance and competence, but often it’s the attitude of employees, both in dealing with customers and other co-workers, that’s the most common problem.

In businesses that revolve around providing a service to the public directly, an employee’s attitude towards customers is extremely important and can be the difference between a successful organisation and a failing one - or at least one with grumpy customers who are looking round for alternatives (that comment came straight from the heart!). Currently I’m in full grump mode with the Co-Op Bank. Their slogan is “Good with Money”. But they’re not – not in my case anyway. Frankly, what’s happened is idiotic. I want to close an account and withdraw the money. We can put men on the moon, but it seems that the Co-Op can’t get this right. First they sent me a cheque made out to the closed account, so it couldn’t be paid in. I phoned to draw this to their attention and got passed around from pillar to post. They promised to phone me back. Just as well I didn’t pledge not to eat or sleep until the matter was resolved. I’d be starving and very, very tired. It was over a week ago … and I’m still waiting for that call-back. I even wrote to the bank’s MD, Barry Tootell. But no reply (and I used a first class stamp!).

What on earth is wrong with the so-called service industries in this country? Last year, O2 were so bad I began to wonder if they had a deliberate policy of giving the wrong information and seriously annoying its customers. Eventually, they got it sorted out, but only after I’d sent a fairly major Hogwarts style Howler to the CEO.

There’s been many a time when I’ve walked into a shop and been glared at by a worker for no reason other than I had the temerity to expect some sort of service. Granted we all have good days and bad days, but if you walk into a shop and the first thing you see is a scowling face and hear mumbled half sentences, it doesn’t give a very good impression.

A recent survey by the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) found that the proportion of customers making complaints has risen, with the majority of problems (64%) arising from ‘people related issues’. By comparison, quality and reliability of goods and services accounted for only 34% of complaints.

When asked to rate the ‘most annoying or frustrating’ issues, customers rated staff attitude and competence as 8.5 out of 10 respectively. Quite a harrowing statistic given that it can often be quite difficult to see when your employees are acting in such a way. Many of your most devious workers will smile and look positively joyous when they see you coming round the corner, and then revert back to their gloomy-selves when you’ve gone past.

Are your staff losing you money? First impressions count, and with the current state of our economy nobody can afford to keep losing custom. Research indicates that people are far more likely to tell others about a bad experience they’ve had, rather than a good one, probably because it takes so long to sort out a bad experience that you can’t really not notice it and the iron enters the soul.

Prevent complaints occurring in the first place, and when they do, deal with them as quickly and efficiently as possible.

How can you encourage your employees to have a positive attitude towards your customers?

  • Communicate your standards in clear and measureable terms. Give examples of successful outcomes, so staff know what’s expected.
  • Hold regular staff meetings and encourage your workers to air any workplace concerns they have with you.
  • Train, coach and encourage staff to meet your standards. Move to discipline if they can’t or won’t do so. You can’t afford to carry passengers.
  • Show your appreciation by rewarding your employees and offering motivational incentives for good customer service.
  • Hold occasional team-building activities to encourage co-operation as a team.
  • Lead by example and give recognition and positive reinforcement for good service.
  • Smile!

Business productivity and success are determined by how well the entire workforce performs. A poor performance from just one individual can affect the whole team, so it’s important to knock it on the head as soon as possible.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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