Is it just me, or has customer service become more complicated in the past few years? Customers and employees are expecting much more from businesses. And it only makes sense. Consumers are frustrated from higher prices, longer wait times, supply shortages, and the “over-it” mentality around COVID. Employee pain points include lingering pandemic protocols, wanting more pay and flexibility, and being overworked due to staffing issues. We’re all getting impatient. We are living in an immediate culture with a low tolerance for anything less than perfection. Unfortunately, in today’s market, that’s going to be hard to deliver.
So how do you keep your customers and employees happy? The key is to have a great product, employees who stand by it, and solutions ready for when things need to be fixed. And remember, just because you have customers now doesn’t mean you’ll have those customers forever. The same is true for your employees. Therefore, be sure to continually ask questions like, “Is this working for you?” and “What else can we be doing?” Loyalty comes from a mutual trust, so listen to each other, be prepared for change, and prioritize a healthy balance.
Listen To Each Other We all want to be heard. At the end of the day, the success of your company depends upon how your employees listen and engage with your customers. Despite all the different avenues for communication, being heard doesn’t feel easy. Be sure your company is easy to contact. It’s imperative to always pick up the phone, answer the email, and pop in to say “Hello.” Like in any relationship, these touch points really matter to your customers. This is especially true today, as the pandemic took away many of our face-to-face interactions. Thus, building a culture of listening to and caring for customers can help you gain a competitive edge.
Never assume that customers or employees will stay with you. Once you are in business together, you must work to keep these relationships strong. Something that is good one day may soon need improvements. Or, as we have seen, unpredictable world events have lasting effects on the economy, supply chain, and labor. It’s important to stay in tune and check in with the understanding that things evolve. Build relationships over time and learn to predict each other’s changing needs. Go over what you are doing together and discuss what can be better. Innovation in business happens when we’re open to change.
Be Prepared Once you find the right mix of people for your team, prioritize training them. Team members at every level in your organization should be well equipped to represent your brand, mission, and values. Educate your team on how things work, so they will know what to do if they aren’t working. Have warranties in place and stand by your product, no matter what. And remember that feedback is crucial. If the needs of your customers or employees are not being met, your business cannot survive. So, ask, ask, ask! Then, always be available to step in to figure out a way.
When an employee interfaces with customers, they need to be friendly and have good product knowledge. That’s obvious. But it’s also very important to be able to work through issues. When dealing with angry or dissatisfied customers, for example, employees should be able to correct the course and work to resolve things. If there’s a problem with the delivery, figure it out. If there’s an issue with your product, find an amicable solution. If a process or product changes, be sure that everyone knows about it. When your employees are informed and available, customers can feel it.
Prioritize A Balance Your ability to prevent your customers from going to a competitor has a lot to do with your company culture and attitude. To build a happy, healthy workforce that’s motivated to deliver for your customers, it’s essential to support each other. How is everyone feeling about their jobs? Be sure to learn your employees’ talents and use them. If you can, offer flexibility in their schedules, job titles, and office spaces. Make the work meaningful to your team. It’s not so much about the amount of work done; rather, it’s the intention of doing a job well within a team that cares about the work.
Great customer service is fully dependent on employee satisfaction. When your employees are happy at their job and their lives outside of work, they’re more likely to work towards your company’s goals. This contentment will translate to employees who take pride in providing quality experiences for customers. On the other hand, unmotivated and burned-out employees won’t be able to deliver your customers what they want or expect. With a negative mentality, employees quit, and low morale can trickle into the productivity of your business. In essence, building a happy team will cultivate happy customers.
In this post-COVID culture, businesses have surely taken a hit. And the storage industry is not immune. With no one to blame, these ebbs and flows will always be a part of business. To get back to positive experiences for both customers and employees, we need to stay calm and keep things simple. It’s OK to raise expectations and standards. Businesses should take these opportunities to make improvements. But we all need to remember the bumper sticker slogan “Be nice to people” a little more often.
Rod Bolls is the founder of Boxwell, a Boulder, Co.-based manufacturer of innovative storage solutions for businesses around the world.