Many business owners who set out to create long-lasting ventures choose to delve into service-based businesses. These can run the gamut from restaurants to personal assistant services, retail, transportation like charter buses, delivery, moving, and taxis, to places like spas and salons, and to self-storage.
The common thread that runs throughout all these businesses is a focus on customer service. The customer is a significant part of any service-based business, and these businesses would not exist without them. A focus on keeping those important customers happy is integral to a venture’s ultimate success. After all, happy customers beget more happy customers.
The secret sauce to a successful business with a happy customer base lies within the employees. When employees have a good experience within their workplace – feeling valued and heard – those positive vibes are likely to spread to the customer through great customer service.
The need for exceptional employee experience is particularly important for when employees interact with customers on the phone or online as part of their jobs, or if they work in an office or small contact center.
Why? Because the first points of contact for many customers with businesses is when they call or text or are called or texted. And first impressions – including how employees feel as expressed in their tones – count. They will help a customer decide whether to visit or return to a business.
The Employee/Customer Connection
There is a deep connection between customer and employee in service-based businesses. Those frontline employees represent your brand and your company culture, and customers will base their feelings about your business on their interactions with your employees.
Customers and employees have a lot in common when it comes to interactions with the business. According to statistics, feeling unappreciated is the number one reason why a customer would go elsewhere for their products or services.
Feelings of unappreciation may also be why employees would leave their jobs for greener pastures. Paying heed to the needs of your employees and customers can ensure a better relationship with both, and a better retention rate of your valued employees.
There is a deep connection between customer and employee in service-based businesses.
Service-based businesses can run the risk of high turnover. In fact, the average turnover rate in the service industry is a whopping 47%; the voluntary turnover rate for customer service and contact center operations is up to 9.5%.
The ongoing Great Resignation is also contributing to higher rates of people leaving jobs for those they deem better. All the more reason to concentrate efforts on employee engagement.
Enhancing the Employee Experience
There are many ways to enhance the experience of one’s employees. Approaches may vary depending on the type of business, the customer base, and the culture of the business that has already been established.
Experience can also mean something different to each individual employee. One person’s amazing experience can be another person’s reason to consider other options.
It’s important to listen to one’s employees and tap into what makes them thrive, what experience they seek, and how they see the workplace from their perspective.
The positive employee experience begins with open communication. Conversation platforms such as Slack have greatly improved communication between employees and managers, even between CEOs and lower-level employees.
However, employees need to have face time as well. Placing an emphasis on strong communication within the organization is a good place to start.
Many employers may say they have an “open door policy,” but how well is that policy put into play? Do employees feel comfortable coming to the owner or their manager with suggestions, concerns, or even complaints? If there is an issue with a customer, do employees feel their take on a situation is being heard?
Gather employee feedback on a regular basis and listen to what they have to say. While you may not always choose to implement everything employees suggest, employees who feel their feelings and concerns are considered are more likely to report a higher level of satisfaction with their roles.
Making the Right Hire
Enhancing the employee experience starts with the hiring and onboarding process. Knowing the type of employee you want and need from the get-go will help guide good hiring practices. A thorough onboarding process will help new employees ease into their positions and get a good impression of their new jobs from the outset.
Take the time to get to know the people who wish to become a part of your team.
Although more and more businesses are using artificial intelligence (AI) tools in the hiring process, the interviews should still be more personalized.
Take the time to get to know the people who wish to become a part of your team. Owners know their businesses and should seek out those who would best fit the environment and culture they hope to build. Knowing exactly who your ideal candidate is from the outset will help guide hiring decisions.
To set the stage for an encouraging and engaging work environment, business owners need to be clear about expectations and scope of work within their job descriptions and during the hiring and onboarding process. Employees should have access to and knowledge of the organizational chart for the business and know who to go to if questions or issues arise.
Empower Your Employees
Many people who work in a customer service-based industry may feel a lack of autonomy within their jobs. This is especially true if they work for a large chain company with strict standards for processes. These employees may not feel as if they can make their own creative choices or give suggestions for how to improve things.
But by giving employees in service-based businesses the opportunity to have agency within their positions, you’re empowering them to take ownership of their jobs. They will be more likely to have pride in their work and pass that sense of ownership and pride on to the customer through excellent customer service.
Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
Just as you want all customers to feel welcome within your business, you want employees to feel welcome as well. While 80% of employers in a recent survey said that DEI initiatives were a core part of their businesses, many may have a way to go on the path towards robust DEI platforms.
Customers want to see diversity, and employees do as well. Promoting a healthy DEI approach within your workplace is good not only for employee satisfaction, but also for the company’s bottom line. A Gartner study showed that 75% of businesses with inclusive decision-making teams exceeded financial targets.
Recognize a Job Well Done
Most, if not all employees want some recognition for the good work they do. Managers and business owners can develop different ways to recognize employees, incentivize them, and reward their work. Great incentives may include bonuses, time off, and gift cards. Make sure to ask employees what they would like to see as incentives and listen to their feedback.
One area of customer service-based businesses that is wildly important is customer reviews. Holding an incentive program based around good reviews is a great way to encourage employees to dazzle customers, all the while earning recognition for themselves and their customer service skills.
There will always be debate about exactly the right level of work/life balance. The concept likely looks different to each individual person. What leaders need to do to elevate the workplace experience is to encourage a healthy work/life balance for each employee.
Cultivate a culture that encourages rest, breaks, and a healthy approach to work. It lets your employees know you care about their mental and physical wellbeing. If they are experiencing any level of burnout, they will be more likely to approach you as a trusted advocate if you make rest and self-care part of your company culture all around.
Employers that value rest and the wellbeing of their employees offer good benefits packages, PTO, and perhaps other perks becoming popular, such as mental health apps like Calm.
Offer Growth Opportunities
Within every deep dive of the reasons behind the Great Resignation, one nugget of wisdom was clear: people want to know that they can grow within their careers. The people who were finding their careers to be stagnant were the ones most likely to jump ship. According to BetterUp, lack of advancement opportunities was the second most common reason people left their positions.
Providing employees with opportunities to sharpen their skills, gain more training and education, and grow within their industry can greatly enhance their overall work experience. It is also more likely to keep them within your organization, as they feel supported and nurtured.
The customer may be an important part of any service-based business’ growth, but the employees are the lifeblood of any organization. Their work and investment of time into your business directly impacts your customers.
While businesses spend a lot of time and money on figuring out what their customers want, they would be well-advised to shift some of that attention to structuring a welcoming and supportive work environment for their employees. Happy employees make for happy customers and, in turn, happier business owners.