And How To Deal With The Apathetic Employee
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Customer service is at the center of every business, whether it is B2B or B2C, brick and mortar or e-commerce. So why are so many companies neglecting customer care and failing to provide their customers with positive experiences?
The truth is, there’s no easy answer – which would explain why this topic required four posts to scratch the surface of the issue.
Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve discussed so far:
The goal of my first post was to relay the important role customer service and experience plays in businesses across industries. Lapses in customer service and compromised customer experiences are reason for major concern as these gaps directly threaten companies’ bottom lines. This is why it is crucial for business leaders to take action to improve customer interactions sooner than later.
When looking at the reasons your company is not meeting customer expectations, it is easy to place the blame on your employees. Don’t, that mentality is anti-growth. Instead, I challenge business leaders to reflect on the systems in place which are holding employees back from giving their all in terms of customer service, and ask, how can these systems be improved?
My second post dives into one such system: Employee Information Distribution. In other words, do your employees possess the knowledge and tools they need to succeed? Positive customer service begins with knowledgeable employees, making this system crucial for giving your customers the experience they need. Making improvements to your training program and taking measures to promote knowledge sharing within your company are two great ways of strengthening this system.
My third post focuses on employees’ ability to act upon their knowledge and experience. This boils down to the amount of power you are giving your employees. Business leaders should consider decentralizing their company structure in order to give knowledgeable employees more decision-making power. The result will be more motivated employees and efficient customer transactions.
Now the question is: What do you do when you have effective resource and decision-making systems in place, but your employees remain apathetic and unmotivated?
Problem: The apathetic employee
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Sometimes, employees are unable to efficiently meet customer expectations, not because they lack answers or authority, but because they don’t want to take responsibility for those decisions, or worse, they simply can’t be bothered.
This is a huge pet peeve (Seriously… Just writing about apathetic employees is enough to make my blood boil). Trust me when I say, I know how easy it is to point the finger at the “lazy employee”. But before you do, I implore you to keep with the spirit of this series and first ask yourself, what your company is/isn’t doing to perpetuate this behavior?
Are employees working in a pleasant environment? Are they happy with your company culture? Are you providing adequate motivation? You should be asking yourself (and your employees) these questions on a regular basis. Remember, happy employees leads to happy customers.
Solution: Motivate your employees
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Even that superstar employee will begin to fade from lack of motivation. Yes, compensation matters, but employee motivation goes much deeper than that. Some great ways to spark motivation in employees are:
-opportunities for growth
-recognition for positive performance
-financial incentives like paid vacation or bonuses
The list goes on. (I will add that I am NOT a fan of superficial motivators, but that’s a post for another day.)
One company I see doing employee motivation right is the San Francisco giant Salesforce. It was winner of Fortune’s 100 best companies to work for 2018 and for good reason: They offer:
- Competitive wages
- Opportunities to grow within the company
- Amazing benefits including almost a month PTO, health insurance for part-time employees, and tuition reimbursement
- A company culture focused on social responsibility
People feel good- no great- about working at Salesforce, which would explain why it is able to recruit and retain some of the world’s top talent to deliver great customer service.
Obviously, Salesforce is a hugely successful company and thereby are able to offer employees many perks that the smaller companies can not: Don’t let that get you down. The lesson here is that you need to show in some way that you hear and care about your employees wants and needs. They need to know that if they work hard, it will pay off in some way, shape, or form. Do this for your employees and trust me, it will pay off.
*Disclaimer* While on the topic of the “apathetic employee”, it is important to note that sometimes, it is absolutely not your fault. It’s a sad but true fact of life that some people simply lack the qualities needed to shape into a stellar employee. Reasons aside, it is more beneficial to focus efforts on employees willing and able to grow rather than wasting time on a lost cause. In this case, don’t be afraid to let this person go, your team and customers will thank you.
Solution: Improve Your Hiring Processes
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One way to avoid the apathetic employee all together is to strengthen your hiring process. This is a crucial part of building any strong business. It is much easier to start by eliminating any potentially bad employees during hiring than to invest time and energy into them when hired.
First and foremost, you need to make sure your recruiters and hiring managers know exactly what you are looking for in an employee. Then you need to make sure that any interview questions or tests address these values.
In a survey from LeadershipIQ, 82% of managers reported that problematic employees showed subtle warning signs during interviews but managers were either “too focused on other issues, too pressed for time, or lacked confidence in their interviewing abilities” to notice. To me, that is a huge failure. Combat this by holding regular meetings with your hiring team to gain insights on what they are looking for and make sure your expectations are aligned.
I can not stress the importance of working with your hiring team to strengthen their interview process. They are the gate-keepers of your company, you can not afford for them to not pay attention. Definitely do some more research on how you can improve this in your company, here is a good starting point.
Improving customer service and experience is really an endless topic, but the ideas discussed in this series should give you a good foundation to start making the basic improvements you need to satisfy your customers.
My next few posts will be centered around employee motivation. Please feel free to comment below with any points you would add or would like to see me expand on in future posts.