By Jo Ellen Grzyb, psychotherapist and co-director of training consultancy Impact Factory
It’s an oft repeated phrase but your business really is only as good as its people. Rather than a product or service it is the human face of the business that people buy into, and those people can make or break the brand reputation. People want to feel good and cared for — particularly when times are busy or difficult.
During the London 2012 Olympics it is vital that businesses are not only delivering good service to customers and clients, but also treating their staff (and this will include many temporary workers) with the care and value needed to foster a good work ethic.
Badly treated workers will have no concern for the business’s brand perception, whereas those who are will. Businesses’ resources will be stretched over the Olympic period as many increase staffing budgets, but that doesn’t mean that the right rewards can’t be given to workers. Recognition doesn’t only take the form of financial reward, it can be a simple accolade like an ‘employee of the week’ badge, or even some form of team treat like a lunch or group activity, - which also allows teams to bond — following good performance.
Leaders and managers need to instill the importance of taking time with customers and not dismissing those spending less as being somehow of less value and treating them as such. Polite efficient service will create a much better impression than brisk, impatient service. Instill in all workers, from the most senior through to the most junior, the importance of representing the brand positively, and ensuring consistency of service to each and every customer. After all, a customer who has only made a tiny purchase may turn out to be the CEO of a multinational business that is so impressed he comes back with a huge contract.
The Olympics will bring so many different cultures together in London and other UK cities that there is a strong chance many of them won’t be familiar with chip and pin, self service systems and countless other processes we take for granted daily. Patience will come into play here, and leaders should foster a culture of patience within the staff, as well as considering employing short term staff with international language skills, who can help with confusion. Taking the time to slow down to communicate effectively with both customers and staff can help to ensure that messages are received loud and clear and eliminate confusion.
When stressful or conflict situations arise, as they are guaranteed to during busy periods like the Olympics, effective communication is vital. So much communication is non verbal, or ‘invisible body language’ and as such it is essential that brewing problems are picked up before they boil over. Underlying resentments and issues within a team can explode and result in surly customer service or impatience.
Staff who have experienced a negative situation with one customer will often let their negative emotions spill over into the next customer interaction. It is key in order to prevent this that leaders should instill skills for stopping these conflict situations from arising or escalating. This can mean that angry customers won’t upset staff and vice versa. Too often staff will go through the motions of adhering to their usual processes without reading the signs of frustration being given off by a customer. Regardless of how petty a customer’s frustration may seem, encourage staff to show empathy and take time and care to help resolve it. Even if the situation can’t be resolved, if the customer feels that someone cares and is trying to help, this can diffuse negative feelings about the company and the brand.
Mistakes happen, that’s a fact of life, as people aren’t machines. It’s what is done after these mistakes happen to rectify the situation that matters. When staff are placed under increased pressure within a busy environment this can result in mistakes, but leaders should communicate what the mistake is effectively to the person who has made it, without demoralising them. Too many organisations fail to nip customer service and staffing issues in the bud, and communicate problems to those making mistakes quickly. Waiting until someone has made several mistakes and then giving them a real dressing down (especially in full view of customers and other staff) helps no one and in fact damages the business.
Above all, remember that regardless of nationality, social standing or age, people are people and a smile and some simple consideration can go a long way. This applies not only to customers, but all importantly to staff too. Teamwork and moral support can provide the winning combination to ensure that British business really goes for gold during London 2012.
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