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Empowering the team

The next challenge is how do we empower staff, especially those on the front line, to resolve customer issues on their first call? This quickly moves to training, which is where we are focused at the moment.

Many companies prefer to command and control staff, but I feel that providing a trust and track environment is far more powerful in the long run.

In my experience, employees tend to take one of two positions: “I am not sure what to do in this scenario” or “I am fearful of consequences if I make a mistake, so it is safer to avoid the responsibility and delegate the issue to my superior.”

Both require training.

First of all, we need to share our experiences so everyone can benefit from solutions that have been discovered in the past and then people can apply them going forward.

Regarding the issue of consequences and avoidance, many people are being too protective of the company and as a result provide lower service levels. Additionally the mid-level or senior managers are feeling saddled with issues that could be resolved with some basic training and the confidence to back our front-line staff.

See more from the Capitalizing on Culture series:

My first step toward the development of this training is to establish an employee council. To do this I selected eight individuals across the organization to meet on a monthly basis. Ultimately, we would like to have 10 on the council but I want the eight to have a say in the selection of the next two.

Our first meeting will review our existing core values. I’m afraid the values may have lost clarity, as there have been new additions to the team since we worked on them. But they’re the starting point and possibly the key to our training program.

We need employees to know that the decisions they make and perceived risks they take need to be within the scope and scale of the problem and that we, as managers and trainers, will support them during the learning process as we track their results.

I've had sales reps ask me, ‘Does that mean I can provide a discount to an order if certain things apply?’ The answer is yes. This is the easiest thing to track. Did sales go up with that client as a result? For what percentage of orders does this rep do that, and what is his or her territory’s growth rate?

If the sales force is reluctant to take this on, then we have training to do. Does this impact the culture? Most definitely, not to mention the customer’s experience.