Over at Service Untitled, Doug makes the point that managers should be given autonomy within their organizations to meet customers’ needs. If he is talking about empowering your frontline managers, I’m in total agreement. That’s something I’ve been advocating for the nearly three years I’ve been blogging on customer service issues.
I once watched a desk clerk at a Four Seasons Hotel comp a guest’s bill because the guest’s spouse complained of a less than clean room. She specifically mentioned cobwebs in their room as well as several other faults. The clerk didn’t blink; he didn’t flinch, he didn’t look for his supervisor. He immediately comped the room. Now that’s giving your staff autonomy, or as I call it, empowerment.
I enjoy reading history and over the last few months I’ve read Michael Korda’s Ike, and David Halberstam’s, The Coldest Winter. In both books the authors point out that an important strength of the American military was the willingness of company, platoon, and squad leaders to improvise when the situation demanded it. The Germans, Japanese, Chinese and North Koreans were unable to do that with disastrous (for them) results. The Marines call this “adapt and improvise.”
Business owners and leaders should encourage this same competency in their own frontline managers and staff. As long as the employees know what their limits are, they should be empowered to bend the rules in order to keep a customer.
“But Glenn,” you say, “What if they give away the store?” That’s not a problem in the military. They have their “marching orders,” but they also know they can adapt and improvise. It’s up to you, the senior managers/owners, to give your employees clear parameters beyond which they can’t go.
Some of the advantages of empowerment are:
- Employees enjoy being empowered which is reflected in increased productivity and reduced turnover
- Complaints are often stopped dead in their tracks “wowing” the customer and turning the customer into an advocate for that business.
- Employees don’t have to pass the complaint up the chain freeing supervisors for other duties
An the real benefit to you is more experienced employees whose increased productivity increases your bottom line.
Empower your employees, but as Doug says, hold them responsible for their actions. That includes rewarding and recognizing them for their successes.
“An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success.”