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Three Ways to Empower Your Employees and Delight Your Guests

Have you ever visited a business and needed something that was just off the beaten path?

Did it seem as though it required an act of Congress to get a resolution?

It doesn’t have to be that way!

One of the reasons why Guests often have such a hard time getting a decision – particularly when there is a service hiccup – is that those on the front lines have not been given the latitude or authority to make decisions.

Most organizations and HR professionals call this “empowering employees.” I call it common sense good business.

When you ask an organization how they will drive better Customer service, they often jump to empowering employees as a way to do so. The sad part is that this has become corporate gobbledygook that everyone pretends to understand, but no one knows how to inspire (or really even where to begin).

I can hear Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride in the back of my head: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The first step to any problem is to admit that there is one – so let’s all say it together “I say that I am empowering my employees, but I’m really not.” Now let’s explore the reality of this situation together and come up with some solutions to drive actionable change in your business. There are three basic steps to cultivating an empowered employee base. They may be simple to explain, but they take work to make a reality. If you own these steps one at a time, you will absolutely see your team grow. Although it is not an overnight proposition, with diligence and patience you can make this a reality for your organization.

TRULY GIVE YOUR TEAM THE POWER. Too often the word empowerment is used for the sake of using the word. If you don’t truly give your team the power they need to sort things out then you are sunk. They need to know exactly what they are allowed to do and when they may need to get their supervisor involved. That’s right, empowerment doesn’t mean carte blanche to give away the store, but rather it sets up guard rails that can guide the process. This means that your team is allowed to give away a free soda if one is dropped but they can’t give away a week’s free hotel stay because housekeeping forgot the soap. They can offer frequent flyer miles for a minor inconvenience, but they can’t comp the entire flight. Your team must understand what they can do and when to ask for assistance – and you can’t make them feel inferior for asking for help. That is one of the hardest things for human beings to do, and you should reward them for doing so. You also need to embrace the fact that they are going to make mistakes here. Their good intentions will get the better of them, and they will overdo it every now and again. Be kind when you discuss the miss and coach them through how to handle the situation next time. Then allow them to help coach the team (if they are comfortable doing so) on the process for that particular proposition.

TRAIN YOUR TEAM TO WIN. Your team needs to be trained both how to perform their duties competently and how to handle situations as they arise. Good old fashioned role playing and lists are your friends here. Certainly there are a lot of variables in any business, but if you analyze your past Guest interactions you can see where you might have the most opportunity – train around those eventualities and also correct the processes that lead to these recurring breakdowns. Think through as many what-ifs as you can and be creative. The more you can plan and come up with solutions, the better prepared you team will be. This is where taking the time to train can be key – first of all, well trained employees not only give better service, but they give more confident service. They are poised and assured, which leads to better decision making. Its psychology 101: team members make terrible decision under pressure and duress. You can alleviate stress by making sure your team is well trained on a base level to perform their job functions well.

INVOLVE THE TEAM AT EVERY STEP. There are so many variables involved in anticipating Guest needs (and taking action to delight) that you can’t possibly put together a program all on your own. Make sure you have the whole team involved in the empowerment process and keep the lines of communication open. As situations present themselves, are handled, and the experiences analyzed, keep the whole team involved. Share the information for the good of the organization and be ready to scale quickly so all can benefit from the learning. Also be sure that your team is given ample opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns. As you continue to allow your front lines to handle issues directly with Customers, there can be some trepidation. Many will take to it with gusto, others will follow the heard, and others will resist – you have to listen to everyone so no one feels left behind.

You are embarking on a big process change – one that can pay amazing dividends. When the front line team can own the Guest experience that allows your organization to be particularly agile. There is no doubt that this will definitely set your business apart. While others are shouting about empowerment and accomplishing absolutely nothing, your planning will deliver the sort of engaged Front Line Associates that will be the envy of organizations large and small.

And as always, the true winners are your delighted Customers.

Until next time, listen to your Guests and equip your Front Line Teams so that all can feel as valued as your most cherished friends.


Tony Johnson Customer Service Expert | Author | Trainer | Speaker

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