For most utilities, product knowledge and experience are important to both the company and the customer. And while knowledge and experience are valuable, equally so is your employee’s ability to listen to your customer’s needs and to help them find a solution. Your customers want to feel that you care about them! That is a basic human need.
So, are the right people taking care of your customers?
Many believe that with an established base of knowledge and experience an employee will know how to do the job, thereby saving time and money otherwise needed for training. Right? Wrong!
It’s important that your staff cares about helping other people. Look, for instance, at Southwest Airlines. They don’t seek people with previous airline experience. They’ve created an interview process that specifically addresses this very attitude – they want people who care about other people. Once they have identified this trait, they’re confident they can train new employees to do the technical aspects of the job.
It’s vitally important that you define for your staff your service expectations. This is one area you need to be very clear. Employees need to understand what is acceptable and what is not. Don’t be afraid to clearly communicate the attitude you expect them to present to your customers. And then, don’t be afraid to hold them accountable. Telling someone what you expect and coaching them to deliver your expectations are two very different things.
Your service expectations need to be part of your culture and modeled at every level of management. How you treat your employees is a clear indication of how you treat your customers.
Given our slumping economy, it’s increasingly important for you to solidify and enhance relationships with your customers and employees.
One of the best ways to know how employees relate to customers is to observe their interactions, discreetly of course. Just because you’ve hired and trained an employee doesn’t mean they will remember the facts, much less use the skills, that you have taught them.
Pay attention to how they handle customers. Do they greet them in a friendly and warm manner? Do they ask probing questions to determine their needs? Do they make recommendations to meet their needs? Do they explain the benefits of your products and/or services? Do they use non-technical terms so that your customer understands? Do they sincerely thank your customer for their business?
If employees aren’t demonstrating these skills with every customer contact, they are costing you lost revenues! Your management team needs to be their coach. Talk to them about what went well and how they can improve. There is room for improvement in all of us. So don’t forget to walk your own talk.
Most of us love to hear that we did a great job. If you take the time to express your appreciation for your employees’ efforts, it will be reflected in their attitude toward your most valuable asset – your customers.