When it comes to really caring about customers, are your employees putting on a thinly disguised act?
Or is all that they say and do genuinely coming from the heart?
A new study published in the Journal of Service Research suggests that feigning care and concern is a symptom of stress factors such as fears over job security, and not having enough staff to deal with the number of customers walking through the door.
The opposite of this was found to be true where staff feel there is a positive culture of valuing employee’s opinions and sense of job satisfaction, along with providing support in achieving assigned tasks.
It also seems that customers themselves have a role to play in how genuinely staff relate to them. Those who are able to clearly articulate details about what they want will elicit a more helpful response than those with only a very vague idea.
The researchers spoke to over 500 workers employed in the financial services industry in South Korea. They took into account that individuals have different attitudes towards customers to begin with, even before taking their working environment into account. Some were naturally more positive while others were less so.
However, no matter how cheerful a person is the study found that “demands seem to promote negative outcomes, even in the face of a positive employee attitude toward customers”.
Suggestions for Managers
So based on these findings, what can you do to promote a greater level of genuine customer care amongst your staff?
Three main recommendations were given for managers to consider:
- Develop a positive working environment where staff feel listened to and well supported.
Ways in which this can be done are using employee surveys, and focus groups to gauge how workers feel about the culture and their surroundings. Then using this information to create the kind of place they want to work in.
Implement flexible work arrangements as a way to improve employee attitudes towards customers. The reasoning behind this is if staff are able to have a better work-life balance, then they will be much happier when they are at work.
- Minimise feelings of staff overwhelm.
Adjust staffing levels to make sure there are enough people around to cope during busy periods. This means that customers can be effectively helped without being overly rushed.
Staff overwhelm can also be diminished by working to lessen fears over job insecurity. This can often be the result of a ‘trickle down’ of pressure on branch managers from senior management level. Alongside this, managers are also trying to balance the needs of their team members with the necessity of keeping customers satisfied.
- Encourage staff to view customers positively.
Address negative employee attitudes towards customers, such as viewing them as an interruption to the work they have to do, instead of seeing them as the very reason they turn up to work each day.
Educate staff on the importance of customer participation in sales and service interactions as something to be welcomed.
Anthony Assih is a Business Consultant at Finer Future who helps small and medium sized companies to improve their customer service strategies.