Vol IX: Empowerment

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In my article “Setting the Stage”, I asked whether employees feel empowered to help customers and whether they have the tools to do so. Empowerment manifests itself many different ways, in this article I’ll focus on empowering employees to successfully navigate service recovery.

When I was charged with the responsibility of a hotel front desk, there was an existing empowerment policy where agents could compensate a guest up to a certain dollar amount without a manager’s approval. There was nothing wrong with the guideline per se, but front desk agents were quick to compensate their allotted amount and avoided what the customer was really seeking: an apology, empathy, and compassion. Ultimately, while the customers got compensated, they weren’t satisfied, and while the agents stayed within the budget, they weren’t truly helping the company build customer loyalty.

I’ve always found that genuinely listening, apologizing regardless of fault, coming up with personalized solutions, and following up with a customer is the recipe for great service recovery.

Ensuring your staff feels empowered to help a customer is about more than money and tools, it’s about how much your employees feel like they can take responsibility for fixing mistakes and righting a wrong.

Here are some questions to think about when you consider if your team feels empowered:

  1. Does your team do a good job of listening to customers when they are dissatisfied? Are they able to act empathetically and compassionately to customer concerns?

Employees that are quick to jump to conclusions instead of truly listening may miss important details about what is important to that particular customer.  Service recovery is best when a customer feels like someone personally connected to them, if employees are rushed or made to feel like it’s not okay to spend time listening, they will likely not address the customer’s true concerns.

  1. If a mistake is made, do your employees take responsibility on behalf of the entire company even if they or their department did not make the mistake?

From a customer’s perspective, internal divisions within your company are irrelevant, and pointing fingers doesn’t help the customer.

  1. Do you have a policy that clarifies for your staff what compensation they are able to provide for given situations?

Letting employees know what they can and can’t do gives them the freedom to act without looking over their shoulders or worrying about being second guessed. Having too many layers of approvals necessary for an employee to provide compensation or other solutions to a customer may keep short term expenses down, but could ultimately wind up hurting long term revenue opportunities.

  1. When an employee goes above and beyond to help a customer, what is the response from leadership?

An empowered employee, if they are within the guidelines of your policy, should be thanked for helping the customer. If the employee made a decision that seems out of line with policy, treat it as a coaching opportunity, not an inquisition.

Empowered employees develop a sense of ownership and pride from doing their job, representing your company culture, and ensuring that your customers are satisfied.

Please join the conversation….

 

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