Wednesday, December 23, 2015

How Managers Impact The Holiday Service Their Employees Deliver

While customer service is an area we need to be on top of year round, there is no denying that the holiday season adds an extra dose of urgency to provide a stellar customer experience.

As a manager, customer service operations should be on your brain all the time. But as people are gearing up for the holidays, you REALLY need to shine. The holidays are chock full of stress when it comes to shopping. And customers have even higher expectations for the service they receive. They want easy. They want seamless. They want helpful.

And as a manager, you can certainly deliver. Do a search online and you will receive a bevy of tips and tricks on how to deliver top-notch customer service during the holidays. Salesforce wrote a great article discussing it, as did Consumer Affairs. There is some overlap in these arsenals of advice and some varying opinions as well.

But one thing rings true amidst all of the best practices. Everyone is looking to their manager for cues. Everything trickles down. They’re watching you and depending on you to lead them through customer calls and inquiries galore. (You’re kind of Santa-ish, driving that sleigh around making sure the reindeer are all in sync from house to house as you spread holiday cheer!)

So what are some of the tactical things you can do as a manager to deliver stellar holiday service? Here are 5 surefire ways to help your teams win during the holiday rush.

1)   Devise a plan. There are times to “wing it”, but this isn’t it! If you have a strategy in place, everyone will start on the same page and have a guide to follow throughout their interactions.
2)   Empower your employees. You know when a football coach gets a team all fired up during half-time and they bust out of that locker room with a renewed spirit and purpose? You can totally do that too! Give your people the support they need to succeed. Good energy is contagious.
3)   Arm them with resources. Think about what you can provide your employees that will help them accomplish their jobs better during the holidays. Are there tools that will help them execute on holiday-specific interactions? Training exercises that will put an extra pep in their step? Whatever it is, give them what you can to make their jobs easier.
4)   Speed it up. Resolution times are always top of mind for customers. They want to be in and out with an answer in hand. And their expectations are even higher during the holidays. Work with your employees to help them decrease resolution times as much as possible and keep everything moving like a well-oiled machine.
5)   Mind Your Manners. It is ALWAYS important to put your best foot forward in all customer interactions. Make sure your employees feel that holiday spirit and that it’s emanating through their calls. Nobody wants to deal with a Grinch!

With the holiday season already underway, never stop reflecting on what you can do as a manager to help your teams nail it this season. The customers will appreciate, as will your team for helping them get through the holidays with poise and confidence. It’s a win win for all parties.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Don’t Just Engage Employees, Strategically Engage Them!

Employee engagement is often a term thrown around organizations (sometimes much too loosely) with very little behind it. True engagement isn’t just a box you check on some random human resources form. It’s something that has to become part of your corporate culture and MUST be based on strategy.

You can’t just pull an I Dream of Genie, blink your eyes, and have all of your employees magically engaged. It doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen. And that hinges on a sound strategy.

Because your employees are all individuals with different personalities and styles, there’s not a silver bullet, generic strategy to engage them. And as a great manager, it is crucial to connect the strategy to your team and each person on it. Your people need to understand how they each play a part in the big picture and why their roles are important. Why? Because how can someone be engaged if they don’t understand their specific role in achieving the collective success?

I did a little digging to see what industry folks were saying about strategic employee engagement. What I love most about this small sampling is that you get a different perspective depending on the person discussing it. While that can be frustrating in some experiences, I think it speaks to the magnitude of possibilities that exist when considering strategic engagement.

Check out these 5 tips and think about what you can pull into your own strategy for engagement!

Company leaders should never assume they have all the answers. The best employee engagement strategy is one where the organization surveys the employees at least annually, the results are shared with every manager, and in turn, each manager creates an action plan with her team members.  Kevin Kruse in Forbes

The telltale sign of low engagement at work is when most people are watching the clock, counting down the minutes until they can go home. In order to curb clock-watching and increase engagement, it is imperative to connect what you do with a higher purpose. This is important for any organization, regardless of your business's industry or service. You must know your core values, talk about them and hire by them. – Sean Kelly in Inc.

Leaders and managers should collaborate with employees to identify engagement barriers, rather than leave it solely to the top executives to figure out. After all, it is the employees who are the real experts on the company's processes and their team’s dynamic. They will have the best ideas to maximize performance, innovation and better workplace experiences.Kristin Kelley in Biz Journals

An organization’s culture plays a pivotal role in driving motivation and the relationships between employees, managers and their colleagues therefore need to be founded on trust, support and collaboration. A multi channel, planned and opportunistic, communication strategy that promotes openness and transparency will help make this possible.Fiona Reed in HCareers

In the end, employee engagement is dependent upon the company providing each employee with what they need to do their job and fulfill their true potential, while creating an environment that they want to return to each and every day.  Deb Broderson in Loyalty360

If you take away anything from this post, it should be that regardless of the components, the most important aspect to successful employee engagement is to have a strategy in place to drive it. Good luck and happy engaging!

PS – add your tip to this list on Facebook @GaryMagenta use #howiengage.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Want Your Employees On Board? You Better Onboard!

Every company has its own procedures and processes for new hires. From compensation and benefits forms, to training, to shadowing others – there are a lots of ways to bring new hires under the tent and make sure they become part of your organization and most importantly a contributor to the corporate strategy and culture.

While we agree there’s not necessarily one silver bullet that accomplishes all of this, at Root, we feel very strongly about one thing – onboarding, believe it or not, is an essential key to the success of your strategy.

It can be just plain scary be the newbie at any company. You’re not only walking into an established working environments and tightly knit social circles, but you literally have no idea what the corporate culture is really like and to make matters worse it can take a while to find the closest bathroom! Sure you can piece some of the puzzle together  from your interviews and other touch points in the hiring process, but until you are there, in person, it’s all pretty murky and even then...

There are two big components to the new hire dynamic. 1) The new employee is expected to come ready to bring the best of themselves to the job.  And must have willingness to absorb the strategic direction and the culture like a thirsty sponge, all while looking like they fit in.. 2) The company has a responsibility to provide the newbie with the information that helps them understand the company culture, the company strategy and how their job contributes to both.

Given all of that, you can imagine how fired up I was to read this recent article in Yahoo’s Finance Section, about a Microsoft Employee who quit after only four months of employment. The employee started his job, assuming he would be given information and materials to get him situated in his new role. Not a far-fetched assumption, right?

What he received, however, was "Some Microsoft SWAG, a few cheesy ice-breakers, a lengthy presentation about health insurance, a prerecorded message from Satya Nadella, some completely useless information about transportation, and then that was it.” Swag is nice, but a prepared employee it does not make. That’s not good for the employee or quite frankly for the company.

The lackluster orientation to Microsoft, coupled with a difficult boss, led the employee to jump ship before he even got a chance to become a fixture. Even more surprisingly, when he did quit, “it took two days for anybody to notice and the paperwork to get filed.”

This scenario isn’t just happening at the Microsoft’s of the world, this is a chronic issue across all size businesses, countries and industries. This case made headlines because the Microsoft name is a pretty big deal, but make no mistake about it, they are just one of a sea of companies out there with no official onboarding program or one that is ineffective.

Part of the problem may lie in the confusion between orientation and onboarding. In one of our recent white papers, Onboarding is Not Orientation, we highlighted this important distinction “While orientation encompasses signing up for benefits, understanding payroll, and getting a corporate identification badge, onboarding has a business impact and a results-oriented perspective. It includes everything a new hire needs to reach the minimum expected productivity level and become a valued contributor to the business.”

Employees are savvier than ever and don’t want those logoed koozies when they show up on their first day. They want and need to understand their role, how they fit into the big picture and most importantly, have a chance to give and receive feedback from day one. Communication is an essential part of the onboarding process. We need to use more common sense, any strong strategically sound onboarding process is built on communication. You are adopting a new family member and he or she needs communication to get settled, feel comfortable and truly become a part of the family. Great leaders know the strategic impact of onboarding vs. orientation and invest in it.
Onboarding isn’t just the topic de jour, it’s something we are personally vigilant about at Root, because we see the benefits of it regularly in our own company and with our clients (and the pitfalls from not doing it correctly).

Employee engagement scores, overall, have not risen in decades. Retention and the ability to harness discretionary effort is an ongoing challenge.  We believe you can stop investing in the All Company donut party to boost engagement and retention if you start investing in people and their contribution to the strategy and culture on day one.

Are you truly onboarding newbies or merely providing them with an orientation? Well? If you would like to talk more about onboarding, contact Root…we live for this stuff!