When a business is in its nascent stage, everyone feels like an owner. Each employee—from the leadership to the frontline—has a personal stake and interest in building success through differentiated offerings and positive customer experiences.
Yet, as companies grow, the founders, owners, and executive leadership become less connected to the day-to-day operations, and in turn, their customers. In essence, they’re handing over the reigns of the company’s vision, mission, values, and culture to the frontline staff—who don’t necessarily harness the same passion and fervor for the company’s success. Plus, with growth comes the increased potential for customer service issues that must be rectified to deliver an experience in line with the company’s values.
So how can companies encourage frontline staff to “act like owners” in their interactions with customers? And when issues arise, how can brands reinforce the positive resolution of customer complaints?
The best way to resolve customer complaints? Avoid them in the first place. Empower your employees to make management-level decisions without manager approval. When it makes sense, allow your staff to go outside of policies that frustrate customers—or better yet, remove/change those policies completely. When you empower frontline staff to act above their pay grade, you’ll get performance above their pay grade.
You need to have clear resolution practices in place that address specific complaints. Ensure your frontline responders know how to resolve common complaints, not only in process, but from an interpersonal point of view (e.g., how to deescalate frustrated customers). Again, allow for some flexibility for resolution as each case and customer is unique.
Everyone enjoys being acknowledged. Make customer verbatims and specific staff mentions in customer feedback visible in high-traffic areas and create a standardized program for recognizing top performers.
Management must fully support frontline staff in resolving customer complaints by listening, giving advice, and creating a culture where it is evident they have the employees’ best interest in mind. And when necessarily, be prepared to step in.
Especially in lower-paying positions, employees are driven by opportunities to increase their paychecks. Give employees an incentive to perform well—bonuses or even promotions for exceptional resolution rates and engagement with customers.
It’s simply not possible to be a part of every day-to-day customer interaction happening in your business. But when your employees are trained, encouraged, and empowered to act like owners, you know your brand’s reputation is in good hands.