Empowered Employees Provide Best Value

Seth Godin published a valuable story on the 9th of July about an Air Canada Gate attendant. The $50,000 an hour gate agent.

He makes a point we often forget. The people who meet the public are the face of the organization. Entrepreneurs know those people provide the service.

Not everyone sees that

Others sometimes think providing service means there should be rules and regulations that those people follow. The elite know best, right? Consistent best service would be their rationale, but it never works. Rules are meant to be templates for familiar and common situations. They are never sufficient for everything possible.

That’s where judgement comes in.

Judgement is seldom delegated.

A huge mistake.

The people who deal directly with customers should notice two things. There are rules, or at least guidelines, to address familiar situations. That is as it should be. Familiar situations can be rule based and it is efficient.

But, what about those one-off situations like Seth talked about? What should happen then?

Two approaches to unusual conditions

The first possible approach should be to have the front line person refer the decision to someone with more experience. Like an accounting system does not deal with every transaction the same way, frontline workers should process routine events routinely and non-routine events, not at all. Two-level customer service will satisfy almost all the problems.

Almost, but not all. Eventually there will be a judgement call put to the others.

The second approach is harder to implement and for command and control manager types, impossible to implement. The method gives up control to the people facing the customer. They will have the guidelines, but also the authority to just make it work. Managers will simply collect experience and provide better guidelines. Like the way the FBI catalogues unusual investigation discoveries. Essentially a “Who knew this could happen?” index. Plus a here’s what it means.

Empowered employees provide the best service to the customers and with support models from management do it with much lower costs. The trick of course is to have a corporate culture supporting them.

They will make mistakes and everyone can learn from that.

It’s possible.

The gold standard for empowered employees is Nordstrom’s. The department store. They have a very simple customer service manual.

Nordstrom Rules:
Rule #1: Use your good judgment in all situations.

There will be no additional rules. Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.

You can see more here. The Nordstrom Way

Empowered employees

Controlling managers are unlikely to survive the changes in retail. Amazon and others make the highly organized shopping process remote. Stores with people in them must emphasize the customer experience and only empowered and skilled employees can do that. Entrepreneurs must recognize that when they create operating management.

Controlling managers fear empowerment because they don’t trust the employees. Simple rule, if you don’t trust them, you shouldn’t have hired them. Mistrust from above breeds mistrust throughout the organization. That’s harmful.

Have you noticed good customer service? Do you know why you notice it? Because it is uncommon and therefore surprising. What a condemnation of management methods aimed at standardizing what cannot be standardized.

The future

We can assess the future as containing two customer service agents. Androids and empowered employees. Rule based human systems provide mediocre service and are too expensive to survive. So they won’t.

Learn to trust. Learn to be trusted. It will be difficult at first becasue our whole society is fast becoming one where trust is absent. Entrepreneurs should move towards a better way. Entrepreneurial skill applied to business sytems is a worthy step.

Build a culture of mutual trust.

I help business owners, and professionals understand and manage risk and other financial issues. To help them achieve their goals, I use tax efficiencies and design advantages to acquire more efficient income and larger, more liquid estates.

Please be in touch if I can help you. don@moneyfyi.com 705-927-4770

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