Many businesses in the service industry thrive to improve the quality of customer service by offering multi-channel communication and proactive interaction to the customers. An important aspect of customer service is customers’ interactions with frontline staff. No matter how well-trained the frontline customer service representatives are, until and unless they are empowered to make decisions, it will not really help the customers.
In order for the frontline staff members to provide high quality customer experience, it is essential for them to improvise and provide out of the box solutions for customers. Ideally, businesses should devolve power to lower levels in the organization, as it would enable and empower the staff to come up with innovative solutions for customers, which will lead to higher satisfaction levels.
Frontline staff members cannot be handed down power and responsibility without equipping them with necessary training and expertise. Companies could organize seminars or training sessions to educate employees about various management concepts, along with various management tools to improve operational activities. Frontline staff should have a firm grip on product knowledge and its operations, so that important decisions are made considering all the factors and constraints.
As frontline staff is given responsibility, it would also make them accountable for the mistakes. It must be ensured that employees are not reprimanded too harshly for their mistakes, since it would discourage independent decision making.
Additionally, familiarizing them about the company’s vision and core revenue generating activities would give them the much needed perspective to make the right decision that doesn’t cost the business, but creates value for the customers. Alternatively, on-the-job training and mentorship can also be used where higher level management is able to develop new talent by working alongside them.
Once the decision making power is devolved to the frontline staff, it can’t be expected of them to instantly improve service experience. There is a learning curve, which every employee must go through to learn and adapt. It is important that all the responsibility isn’t thrown on the representative all at once, but in small planned and systematic ways.
Employees should also be given some incentive to ensure customer satisfaction. Performance-based pay bonuses could be introduced, which will encourage employees to accommodate customers and provide out of the box solutions. At the same time, employees must feel trusted, so that they can use their best judgment to make decisions that create value for the customers and generate profits for the business.
Employees should be allowed to try new things and come up with innovative solutions for the clients. Companies could offer employees special incentives in form of higher salary or perks for positive customer feedback. Many companies have been able to improve customer service standards by offering performance based salaries. This involved measuring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) relevant to customer service, such as wait time, processing time and customer feedback.
When frontline staff is given the responsibility and power to make decisions, they can’t be left completely on their own. They need help from the higher level management, so they are guided well. The presence of effective and fast communication is integral to the process of decision making and making the frontline staff members autonomous. Employees should feel free to contact the higher level management if they experience a road block. Also, it is essential that managers are kept in the loop so that monitoring can be facilitated. It will also enable the mangers to provide constructive criticism in the form of feedback reports which will help the employees improve their performance and avoid making mistakes.
Conventional businesses follow strict protocols when it comes to decision making and due to communication barriers the communication is hampered. In order to empower the frontline, it is essential that traditional organizational hierarchies are broken down and all constrains are removed.
The vision and long-term strategy of the business must be aligned with ensuring high quality customer service, even if it comes at the cost of devolution of power. The recruitment process should take into account candidates’ ability to think independently and hold their nerves under pressure. Moreover, organizational hierarchies need to be revamped to promote greater independence. In order to make frontline staff autonomous, it is essential that they are made to feel important and an integral part of the organization.
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