New research this week from the Institute for Customer Service reinforces what has now become the received wisdom around customer service.
In the battle for customers, it is the behaviour of your people on the front line who have the biggest say on whether they come back for more or do business with someone else. While few will be surprised at this headline, one figure published in the research did surprise me. That was the sheer volume of complaints - nearly two-thirds (62%) - are a result of staff attitude and competence.
As the work of Engage for Success gets underway in earnest, this provides a timely reminder that having engaged employees willing to serve your customers and go the extra mile can be a difference between success and failure – an area where HR must play a pivotal role in 2013. This starts with being vociferous advocates of the importance of engagement in business performance. Confronted with the attitude and competence problem flagged up in the ICS survey, HR should be first in line explaining that when people shrug their shoulders and decide they don’t want to make the effort to really help a customer, it isn’t the customer they are ambivalent about, it is your business. Then there is the issue of management. If attitude is a problem, then there is clearly work to be done with our managers. HR needs to ensure managers understand how to bring alive, model and encourage the right behaviours which support the vision and values of their organisations. This all won’t work without reward and recognition. This doesn’t just mean recognising good performance but being rigorous in challenging bad performance: it is the job of HR to give organisations the tools our managers need in order to reward and incentivise the behaviours which support our goals. Last of all is training. In my experience competence has a direct relationship with the level of investment in skills and knowledge which employees get. Fail to give people the tools they need and they will always come up short.
The ICS study may only look at customer-facing roles but no organisation can afford to ignore the reminder it gives us that engagement, support and recognition are vital to ensure that people help their organisations fulfil their potential rather than undermine it.
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