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Tagged: manager

Managers Should Encourage Employee Feedback

August 31, 2017

Managers and directors do a lot of talking, and rightly so. Their career experience puts them in positions where they provide instruction to their staff, lead employee evaluations and create strategic visions for the future of their companies. Despite their need to lead through direction, great managers listen carefully to their employees. They utilize feedback from staff to drive progress, and trust the judgment of their staff to make smart decisions.

coaching

To leverage the knowledge junior staff hold, managers must create an environment

where two-way communication is encouraged. Most office environments try to create a culture of open communication, but the difficulties of any business (personality clashes, revenue struggles, etc.) can damage those lines of communication. When employees feel their career progress may be at risk, due to a stubborn superior or concerns about layoffs, they put their heads down and work hard, rather than offering constructive criticism of the company. They want to appear as team players, and keep ideas to themselves out of

fear of appearing dissident or negative. This breakdown in communication misses an abundance of opportunity and ideas, which would otherwise make the company more efficient and profitable:

Blind Spots

Often, managers can’t be as detail-oriented in their work as junior staff members. Individuals with highly-specified roles know certain business processes inside and out. In turn, if there is an inefficiency or problem with those processes, junior staff tend to know about it (and usually complain about it to each other) first. Managers need to make sure those complaints are brought to their attention, and ensure that opportunities to improve reach their desks. Otherwise, those issues go unchanged and leave junior staff frustrated.

Office Morale

Companies that communicate poorly often see a “communication divide” arise between staff and management. Typically, management is happy with the company direction and sees a positive financial outlook, while the rest of the staff feel overworked and negated from the profitability their hard work achieves. This animosity creates a toxic culture, divided between staff and management, and management can sometimes be oblivious to those issues if staff only vocalize their dissatisfaction to each other. Mangers need to make sure their staff feels safe in expressing grievances when they arise.

Innovation

The biggest folly of arrogance managers can make is assuming that good ideas must come from the top. Some of the most successful companies designate time for employees to pursue long-term, innovative projects that will create new revenue channels or huge efficiencies for the company. A good starting point for managers to create a culture of innovation is to regularly remind employees that new ideas are encouraged and welcomed. The sheer number of junior staff members (compared to managers), combined with the specificity of their work (detail-oriented) creates a major opportunity for innovation managers can’t afford to forego.

Occupation-Specific Trials and Tribulations

Depending on their roles within the company, different employees experience different perks and hardships. A call center representative may struggle with difficult customers, while a data analyst may long for more social interaction. Each job role is different, and managers need to understand the intricacies of the different job roles. When they understand the pros and cons of working within a specific department/role, they understand how to communicate with the department and comprehend what’s top-of-mind for those employees when they think about progress and goals.

Individualized Coaching

Above all else, employee feedback is the greatest coaching tool a manager can have. Understanding an individual’s perspective helps the manager tailor their coaching, address the employee’s concerns and create a better sense of camaraderie. If an employee doesn’t voice their opinions, training and coaching may feel irrelevant and the manager’s goals won’t gain the same respect as goals that are mutually created between employee and manager. Individuals are complex, and good managers appreciate that an employee is also a whole person with unique needs. In a sense, two-way communication can be a self-serving endeavor for the savvy manager: taking the veil away from what their employees are thinking streamlines a manager’s work and helps them address the root of their employees’ needs in the most efficient way possible.

Unhappy employees put your customers at risk

July 18, 2017

Employee engagement is an important part of any business, but its importance extends beyond feel-good factors. Sometimes, the business world speaks about employee satisfaction as a non-essential element of business. There is an impression that employers should strive for good employee satisfaction, but if employees aren’t entirely happy, the bottom line still must be met and everyone will go home satisfied enough with their paychecks.

bad customer service

However, employee satisfaction has bottom-line revenue effects. Satisfied employees feel invested in their companies, have a sense of mutual destiny with the companies they work for and approach their job roles with creativity and drive to improve. Conversely, dissatisfied employees run the risk of not only feeling unhappy, but channeling that unhappiness into behaviors that worsen customers’ experience and satisfaction.

No matter the strength of a business plan, most companies rely on a multitude of employees to execute those plans. Troubled employees jeopardize the health of their businesses in the following ways:

Lack of attention to detail

Unhappy employees tend to be highly focused on their status and personal underachievement in their job role. They worry about their own performance, and sometimes feel like a scapegoat when things go wrong. Managers should be concerned about this mindset because it distracts from the wants and needs of clients. The self-focused employee always struggles to go above-and-beyond for clients, and tends to miss specific detail-oriented tasks, which are often distinguishing factors between a business and its competitors.

Missed opportunity for development 

Any good company tries to improve its employees through training, but the employee’s own commitment to improvement is equally, if not more, important for results. A continuous cycle of improvement and promotion is important for so many reasons: It improves longevity of employees within a business, incentivizes other staff members through example and creates a culture where employees are striving to excel in their roles, rather than simply treading water. Unmotivated employees, and their employers, miss out on this development cycle and hurt the culture of achievement within the workplace.

Apathy to customer success

Praise and positive feedback are important for employees to receive not only from their managers, but from their clients. Without positive feedback from clients, employees can slip into a state of feeling that their work isn’t valuable. When they don’t see the value of their work, they feel less inclined to overachieve in the future, unsure of the impact of their hard work. Clients suffer as a result, and may turn to competitors or reduce their business with the company.

Lack of connection to company bottom line

Perhaps the most profound effect of employee dissatisfaction is the feeling of separation an excluded employee feels toward the company’s financial standing. Connected employees feel personally responsible for improving the profitability of a company because they assume their efforts will be rewarded. If an employee isn’t incentivized or doesn’t feel included, the employee assumes that any success the company experiences will pass them by. They don’t anticipate company success to reward them, personally. Employees must feel connected to their companies and understand that their own career success is synonymous with the success of the business.

While it’s sometimes tempting as managers to become frustrated with employee complaints, it’s important to understand the reasons behind those complaints. It’s even more important to be able to identify unspoken dissatisfaction in the workplace and approach dissatisfaction with a solution-oriented mindset. Individuals are responsible for their own happiness, but managers can impact the culture of the workplace, and must do so to protect their clients, revenues and long term trajectories of their businesses.

Self-Awareness: The Often-Overlooked Key Quality of Leadership

September 2, 2015

Think about the traits you most closely associate with an effective manager. They might include decisiveness, charisma, commitment, strategic thinking, and the ability to engage employees. These qualities all share a common root that is often invisible at first glance: self-awareness.

Self-awareness refers to a person’s perception of him/herself and how accurately it reflects the perceptions of his/her peers. It means knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, your expertise and your blind spots, your good and bad habits, and viewing those attributes through an honest and objective lens.2015sept_awareness

Leadership searches give short shrift to “self-awareness,” which should actually be a top criterion. Interestingly, a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success. – 2010 study by Green Peak Partners

Like many other so-called “soft skills,” self-awareness is most apparent when it is absent. A manager with low self-awareness might think of himself competent and motivating, while his employees think he is a micro-manager who doesn’t really know what he is doing. He misses opportunities to learn from his mistakes by not taking responsibility for them. He models poor behavior for his employees, and then criticizes them when they follow his lead. He feels threatened when others on his team have good ideas.

By contrast, a manager with high self-awareness accepts that he is not universally skilled at everything, and consciously builds his team with people who are strong in areas where he is not. He welcomes new ideas and feedback, and encourages his employees to take initiative rather than wait for his command. He owns up to his mistakes and uses them as teaching opportunities. He knows what resources, materials, and practices support him in being the best leader he can be and uses that knowledge to his advantage.

Which one would you rather work for? Which one do you want to be?

Achieving Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is better described as a practice than a permanent state. It is not something you just “unlock” or decide to become spontaneously. However, there are distinct steps or actions you can take to get to know yourself better. Follow these guidelines, and watch the results ripple out to the rest of your team:

Be mindful.

Mindfulness is the opposite of auto-pilot. It means being present to whatever it is you are doing – paying attention, observing, learning – and not letting yourself become distracted or so numbed by routine that you fail to notice what is happening. Importantly, mindfulness requires you to slow down rather than rush ahead to the next thing on your calendar or jump to conclusions. By doing this, you invite awareness and tune in with your intuition.

You can cultivate mindfulness through a number of different practices, including keeping a journal, exercising, meditating, engaging in a creative hobby, and practicing active listening during a conversation or presentation.

Establish boundaries.

Self-awareness means knowing where your abilities and capacities end and begin, or in other words, where your boundaries are. Often, people are not aware of their boundaries until those boundaries get crossed. You know when someone has stepped on your toes, when you feel overstretched or overworked, when you run into a task that’s beyond your reach, or when you’re not feeling challenged enough to stay motivated. To be self-aware means to know your limits and to guard them fiercely.

In practice, you might start with establishing boundaries around your time. Resist the urge to overschedule yourself or to commit to too many people or projects, and prioritize your need for rest and recuperation. If you notice yourself feeling burned out or put-upon, that’s a red flag that you are not honoring your boundaries.

Teach yourself about yourself.

Self-awareness is knowledge, which means you must be open to learning more about yourself – and accepting that there are things about yourself that you may be blind to. Put aside your ego and approach your own mind and personality with a sense of curiosity. No matter how well you think you know yourself, there is always more to learn.

There are a number of self-assessment tools, tests, and methodologies out there in the leadership education world, including the Myers-Briggs test, the enneagram, the John Maxwell Leadership Assessment, the DiSC profile, and many more. Each has its merits and its holes, but each is also an opportunity for some insightful introspection.

Ask for feedback.

Remember, self-awareness is not just about how well you know yourself, but how well that self-perception measures up to others’ perceptions of you, especially when you’re in charge of managing or coaching other employees. Just because you don’t think of yourself as a micro-manager doesn’t mean your employees don’t feel micro-managed. When you can see yourself through their eyes, and when that vision aligns with what you see in the mirror, your self-awareness comes into focus.

Give your team the opportunity to provide honest feedback about your managerial style, your effectiveness, and what you are like to work with. Employees will generally feel more comfortable providing this feedback anonymously, without fear of reprisal or negative attention if they have something less-than-flattering to say. But if they see you taking criticism in stride along with praise, they will trust you enough to be honest and forthcoming with any issues that may arise.


Related reading on our blog: 15 Qualities of a Good Coach in the Workplace

More articles about effective leadership and coaching techniques can be found in our STARS library, available to current CSP clients as part of our full-service delivery. Contact us to find out how we support effective coaching and training in pursuit of the optimal customer experience. 

Position Your CEO as a Customer Experience Champion

May 30, 2015

At many businesses, the only time a customer sees or hears from the CEO might be a statement issued to the press, a column in the quarterly newsletter, or in the worst cases, a public scandal for which the company leadership is held accountable.

Otherwise, CEOs, at least from the customer’s perspective, are mythical creatures that operate behind closed doors, where they make the Big Decisions that directly affect their customers.

Customer experience and service have been growing priorities for businesses across many industries in the last decade. Technology – specifically, customer data, social media, and the move towards mobile – has dramatically changed the way businesses and customers interact. This gave rise to the “omnichannel” point-of-view, and that’s the level where most CEOs (and other C-level executives) operate: overseers, analysts, evaluators, strategizers.

But what about champions?

champion of the customerSure, CEOs have a lot to say about the organizational effects and benefits of customer experience management.

  • 97% of executives surveyed in a global study by Oracle say that delivering great customer experiences is essential to their success.
  • In the same study, 81% of executives surveyed say they realize the importance of active social-media processes and culture, although only 65% had actually gone as far as implementing social service and sales.
  • 52% of retail senior executives surveyed by Timetrade stated that the best way to combat showrooming (visiting a store to view an item, but purchasing it later online) is by improving the in-store customer experience.
  • In a 2013 Deloitte survey, 62% of organizations view customer experience provided through contact centers as a competitive differentiator.

But awareness is not advocacy. Simply knowing where the problems and opportunities are, and what could and should be done to improve the experience, does not a champion make.

CEOs must actively argue for, defend, and clear the path for improvements to the customer experience. In the words of Oracle CEO Mark V. Hurd, they must become “customer experience evangelists.”

This means taking internal actions to prioritize the customer experience, such as allocating enough of the budget to invest in voice of the customer strategies, and rallying employees, from the C-Suite down to the individual customer service representatives, around the cause. It also means maintaining a visible public-facing position of customer advocacy – and not just when crisis strikes.

4 CEOs Who Act As Champions

 Jeff Bezos CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon
So great is Bezos’ customer championship that you practically can’t talk about customer service or experience without his name coming up. As Amazon grew into the retail giant it is today, so did its influence on customer experience across the entire retail landscape, with Bezos himself on the vanguard. He keeps his email address publicly known and available, and is known for not just reading but forwarding customer complaint emails directly to the members of his team responsible for making a fix (which he expects to happen fast).
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

Photo by Valery Marchive

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
Apple wouldn’t be what it is today without its excruciating attention to detail and quality, and Cook has carried that through to his personal involvement in customer service. A perfect example: after a customer e-mailed Cook complaining about the quality of Apple’s music on hold, within 24 hours she got a call from an Apple employee saying Cook had forwarded the email to her and reassuring the customer that the matter would be dealt with. “”I get hundreds, and some days thousands of emails from customers,” Cook has said in prior interviews. “This is a privilege, because they talk to you as if you’re sitting at their kitchen table.”
 John Legere CEO of T-Mobile John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile
By eliminating contract plans and lifting many of the other customer-unfriendly policies common across wireless carriers (like complicated data fee structures and keeping phones ‘locked’ and un-transferrable), Legere made the statement in 2013 that his company was looking out for the customers’ best interests, instead of just protecting tech companies’ grip on the industry. In designing the plans, Legere said he listened to T-Mobile customer service calls every night and had customer complaint emails forwarded to him, as well as making his email address public. “We are going to change the rules,” Legere said. “Not for us … this is about what consumers want and need.”
 Sir Richard Branson Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin
OK, so he’s not a CEO anymore, but Branson might still be one of the world’s most accessible billionaires. Despite his fantastically high profile and net worth, he shakes the unfavorable image of the 1% by remaining in close contact with customers (not just of Virgin, but everywhere). He commands a massive social media following – 2 million on Facebook, 5.6 million on Twitter, nearly 8 million on LinkedIn – and is a regular blogger who frequently advocates for the quality of customer service and relations, and is generous with advice.

 

You might also be interested in these previous posts:

Get Your Decision-Makers to Listen to the Voice of the Customer

May 12, 2015

A satisfying customer experience is organizational, not just transactional. The most direct way to affect your customer experience is to start with your own staff. Everyone must be on board, especially managers and executives.

It’s critical that the top decision-makers at your business believe in the customer experience and stay tuned in to the voice of the customer, even if they never interact directly. Without this investment of attitude and effort, they risk developing blind spots or working off of assumptions that are not aligned with the customer’s reality.

Reasons to Believe in Customer Experience Management

executives

If there is reluctance or uncertainty among senior staff about the value of being involved with the customer experience, they might just need a nudge in the right direction.

Objection: I’ve been in this business for (x) years. I know my customer.
Reality: Your customer today is almost certainly not the same one you were serving (x) years ago. Customer expectations of their experience have changed rapidly in the last several years, and customers are forever looking towards the future. What satisfied them yesterday is old news today and will have them yawning tomorrow. Meanwhile, agile, innovative start-ups and tech-savvy companies have changed the face of customer service and set the bar higher for the rest of the marketplace, not just their own competitors. So you may think you know your customer, but would your customer agree?
Objection: There’s just too much data to make sense of.
Reality: That’s precisely why it’s important to make sense of it. With the explosion of data in the digital age, there is so much to learn about customers to enhance what we already know. As more organizations adopt an omnichannel approach to customer service and marketing, it’s essential to dive into the data and see how all of the parts are functioning. Only this 360-degree view can tell you how well your business is performing as a whole.
Objection: Should we really be budgeting for this?
Reality: What is more costly to a business in the long run – a system for measuring customer satisfaction, or dissatisfied customers? If you’re investing in customer service at all, it’s better to work from a foundation of current and thorough information about the key drivers of satisfaction among your customers, than to go by your assumptions of which areas are performing well and which ones need more attention.
Objection: There’s plenty of market research already out there we can use.
Reality: You can take your chances by basing your decisions off of large, sweeping studies and reports, drawn from a sample size that might not even include any of your own customers. Or you can ask them directly and know that the information you’re getting is immediately relevant to your business and your market. While the large-scale market research is helpful for noting trends and patterns, no one can speak for your customers as well as they can themselves.
Objection: I’m an executive, why does this involve me at all?
Reality: When the customer experience is hurting, other parts of the business – including some of the parts the C-Suite cares about, like sales and workplace performance – will suffer, too. Even if your role never has you interacting with customers directly, you still have an indirect effect on their experience by modeling the right attitude to your team. If those working on the front lines don’t feel like their higher-ups value the customer, they’re not likely to go the extra mile themselves.

Consider, too, that in today’s social media age, businesses aren’t as opaque to the customer as they once were. Customers who have any reason to be upset are not shy about publicly calling out Owners, Presidents, Board Members and CEOs. When there’s a communication breakdown or a scandal between a business and its customers, the public looks to the leaders for explanations and accountability. They can tell the difference between canned PR apologies and genuine concern – which can only come from genuine engagement.

The Takeaway

Superior customer service starts from within and moves outwards, but it can only do so if the internal influencers within your organization are giving it the proper momentum. Managers and executives might sign the paychecks, but the customer is really the boss.