What if businesses operated as if everything were post-threat? What do I mean by this? Empowerment. Have you every had an issue with a large corporation or business? A service was not rendered as promised, or a product was not delivered as expected? When you pick up the phone to call your point of contact, or customer service to voice your complaint, what happens? Does the person that picks up the phone ever resolve the issue? Nowadays, it seems like almost never.
What happens is, the poor sap that is on the front line of defense takes your wrath and what they hope is the majority of your enthusiasm, and then they politely tell you that they are unable to help you solve your issue. They do this because for 50% of the population, the issue ends there. They hang up the phone, disgruntled and frustrated with another company that has broken their promise.
As a roofing contractor, I have ample opportunities to work with a wide variety of businesses. Marketing companies, lead generation companies, crm companies, manufacturers, accounting, software, the list goes on and on and on. Having ample industries to work with, I also have ample opportunities for them to fail at what they promise. Having this experience creates an opportunity for me to become quite proficient at being stubborn and getting them to do what they said they would do. The single biggest takeaway from all of these uncomfortable conversations is this: If you are in the right, and you refuse to give up, eventually you will make your way up to an empowered employee. Once you encounter an empowered employee, the entire experience changes immediately. An empowered employee is not forced to feed you the company line, or the postage stamped rebuttals. An empowered employee will listen, realize they have dropped the ball, and they will fix the problem...With remarkable speed.
It is satisfactory to get justice but this typically takes a solid hour of stubbornness and at least one well thought-out threat (chargeback, bad review, bbb complaint) in order to reach such an employee. However, every once in a while, you will come across a company that empowers their front line employees. This is where you get the "industry shattering customer service." You call, if you have a valid complaint, the issue is resolved within minuets. It's mind blowing when it actually happens.
I worked at Dominos pizza for the majority of my high school and college years. Say what you want about the pizza, but Dominos made it very clear that every employee is empowered to make the customer experience phenomenal. This was 20 years ago and I don't know what the policy is now, but back then, even if the pizza delivery technician (pizza boy) encountered an angry customer at the door, not only did he have the power to give the pizza away for free, he could give them the next one on the house as well. Customer satisfaction was paramount and you did not need a manager to get it. You did not need to threaten to never do business with them again or to leave a bad review, the lowest person on the totem pole could make the situation right immediately. It was post-threat customer service before the threat even needed to happen.
Conversely, I've also worked at a company that took the opposite approach. Front line employees had zero authority to make a situation right. As a front line worker I was given weekly training on how to "handle" these conversations with "gotcah" verbiage that would psychologically paint the customer into a corner. Just as above, this would work for 50% of the customers, but not really. Once the customer was no longer forced to do business with us any longer via their 10 page contract, they would leave, many exceedingly disgruntled. The real shame about this approach was that being on the front line, I often (not always) agreed with the customers complaint. The vast majority of them could have been easily solved with a "Dominos pizza" approach to business. This was extremely demoralizing for the work force. There are few things worse as an employee than to have a solution to a problem but no ability to execute it. This is why people grow distains for large corporations and government offices.
In my business, the job is not done right until the customer believes it has been done right. Here is a perfect example. Not too long ago, after we had completed a new roof, one of our clients called in and said that we had accidentally ripped their grill cover. Without hesitation, we told them we would have a new one to them within the day. After we had personally delivered the new cover, I went back to our pre-roofing inspection photos, just to check. Sure enough, the grill cover was ripped prior to us arriving. We had done our job correctly, but if our customer did not believe it, than we had not. I could have shown them the photo and gotten into a back in forth about the timeline of the grill cover rip, had it gotten larger after we had left, or a million other points, but I did not. We simply replaced it, apologized and provided exceptional customer service. A week later, the clients neighbor called and inquired about a new roof telling us how our client could not stop raving about how great our company was.
When the front line is not empowered, businesses are stepping over $100 bills to pick up quarters. Empower your employees, they will do the right thing the vast majority of the time.
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