Managers, do they act as Obstacles or Obstacle removers?
“Manager’s job in terms of management, is to remove the obstacles that stop their people giving good service,” said Jim Nordstrom, Chairman of retailing giant, Nordstrom.
Managers, in some companies you’d think were there to get in the way…they just seem to do everything possible to stop staff doing the things that make customers feel like coming back.
At Nordstrom (the fastest growing retailer in the U.S.A), sales staff especially managers are encouraged to be entrepreneurs – storekeepers of their departments. The rule book is 8 mins long…
“Use your good judgement in all situations. There will be no additional rules. Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager or division general manager any question at any time.”
As Jim Nordstrom said, “We threw out the rules. We give them examples of good judgement. Our people make mistakes but, as management and as managers, the best thing we can do is back them.”
Time for Manager’s Flexibility
As we move into the 90’s, customers want people who can help them get what they want, and quickly. Not someone who has to ask for the supervisor, who then has to ask for the manager, who then has to ring Head Office, who then have a Board meeting about a $2 refund…
In top performing companies the front line staff are highly trained to satisfy the customer who faces them day in, day out. Today, many supermarkets train part-time check out personnel for up to 20 hours (paid time) before they allow them to even speak to a customer.
Other supermarkets do no training and offer no standards of service other than “add up the bill, take the money then go to the next one in the queue…”
Quality of service is a funny thing. It’s an intangible. It’s how you feel when you walk out of a store. It’s about people smiling, being proactive, showing that they care about you…It’s about little things that hardly even matter…except that they do matter…
Building Good Service – Ten Foundation Stones
“Quality service begins with quality people.” Three critical areas will determine the quality of service (and the return on investment) you get from your staff especially managers:
- How you go about selecting the best people for the job.
- How you induct them into your operation.
- How you train them to do the job.
Do you have a series of steps you want your staff to go through when a customer rings up or walks into the store? Or do you just leave it to chance? Are there steps in how you want customers greeted or sold to? Are there systems for how you offer to wrap or package the goods? Just go to McDonald’s if you want to see effective service systems in place.
And if you’re anti-McDonald’s, just remember they do more (less) than their next two competitors combined.
Lead by Example
Most of the time, managers can’t expect staff to be committed to customer service if they do everything in their power to avoid dealing with customers. Don’t become a manager who has a big CUSTOMERS COME FIRST sign on the office wall but who never gets out to meet customers is constantly heard badmouthing them.
Get out there at least one day a week and deal with those people who are paying your wages.
New ideas to improve service are the lifeblood of a continually growing business. Suffocating these ideas is the beginning of the end. “Don’t rock the boat…we’ve done it like this for years…just do it and don’t ask questions.”
Teach people how to be innovative.
Management by Balance Sheet
Ruled by the fear of the budget, managers can really make life difficult for staff at the front line. In constantly cutting back on service costs, the customer gets the message, “they don’t really care about me”, and so they go elsewhere.
Start with the customer in mind, then look at the budget. Remember who comes first.
Reinforcement and Encouragement
Some managers see smiling or asking a customer about their baby as a waste of time. Others realize this is one of those ‘little things’ that keeps people coming back. Systems of ‘catching people doing things right’, and rewarding them for it, are very important.
Feedback To Improve
If you don’t ask your customers how you can improve, you never find out. How many times have you been asked by the proprietor or manager how they could improve things for you? If you’re like me…not very many.
This kind of feedback is invaluable, even though sometimes it might be a bit hard to swallow.
Is it fun to be at your workplace or is it a drab dungeon?
Fun at work means energy, which means creativity and a good place to visit and shop. Just walk into your business and imagine you are a customer. Is it a fun place to be?
Attitude to Service
Some people see service as something a slave or servant gives. Others see service as something a professional gives. Are your people shelf-stackers or food consultants? Are they bowzer attendants or car maintenance consultants?
The difference makes all the difference, particularly to your sales figures and profitability at the end of the month.
Old Outdated Rules
Do your best to put rules onto as small a piece of paper as possible. Have a ceremonial burning of the old rule book to show you’re turning a new leaf.
Train your people in what you expect rather than hope they’ll live by a 400-page, dust-covered encyclopedia of mumbo jumbo…
Free Up The Shackles
Constantly check these 10 points. In this fast changing environment make sure the shackles that restrict your staff are broken and thrown away. It’s easy for restrictions and impediments to just creep up on you. Do your front line staff a favour and free them up to do what they know the customers want…good service.
By Leigh Farnell, author of ‘Living Wellthy’, a handbook of 47 principles for business and personal success. Leigh is a management consultant and trainer.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]