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Excellent Customer Service Starts With Excellent Employee Service

Andrew Cox

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Nothing sets the standard for excellent customer service more than excellent employee service.

I was reminded of that just the other day. The manager of a fast food restaurant was really giving an employee hell - and in view of customers. The person who waited on me was sullen, slow and seemed little interested in making my transaction a good one. As I sat and ate my cheeseburger and fries I watched the overall behavior of the staff. It wasn't good. Lots of slow walking, no smiles, no attempt at engaging the customers, no thank you's. It's one of my favorite chains, but I won't be going back to that particular store again.

Have you ever noticed the dramatic change in customer service from one store to another? I submit it starts with leadership at the individual store level. Forget all the stuff pumped out by headquarters. If the local store leadership is not providing excellent employee service, then the customer service level will not be excellent. And excellent pay and benefits will not overcome a lack of excellent employee service.

Here are six elements of excellent employee service - at all levels in an organization.

1 - Excellent employee service starts with good selection. It's hiring the right person for the right job. Have you ever encountered a person in a public contact job that just didn't get it? We all have. If you've got a job that requires people skills and optimism, hire an optimistic people person. You cannot train a pessimistic person to be optimistic - it just won't happen. When you're tempted to hire that good looking person with the personality of a stone for a customer contact position, instead of the less attractive person with the ready smile and a good word, go for the smile and the good word.

2 - Excellent employee service creates expectations of performance through leading by example. When that store manager greets everyone who comes into his/her store with a smile and a “How can I help you?" the model for customer service behavior is set. The manager who is too busy to acknowledge their customers cannot expect a high level of customer service - his people will, just like the boss, be too busy to give exceptional service.

3 - Excellent employee service starts with the conviction that every single person is a contributing member of the team - and everyone is held to a high standard of service. Successful leaders know employee service is inclusive - they put their arms around everybody and include them on the team.

4 - Excellent employee service means setting and communicating high standards, training to meet them, and being demanding. High standards bring out the best - they also flush out the worst. They let people know they are in a special place - a place that won't tolerate substandard behavior. People take pride in being part of that kind of organization.

5 - Excellent employee service recognizes accomplishment- in its many forms. I just had an ultra sound. The technician who did the test has been with her employer for 17 years. Two day before my test she had her appendix removed! She was as nice and helpful as anyone could be - she gave me excellent customer service. She also is extremely proud of her attendance record. Is that outstanding? I think so. I suspect she has stayed at the same place for 17 years because she's been recognized in the past - and she's looking for more - and she will get it.

6 - Excellent employee service provides feedback to all. Regular “how are we doing" meetings, passing on customer feedback, providing tips on how to help customers, cross training in different jobs - all lead to better qualified and informed employees who will provide a higher level of excellent customer service.

It's critical to measure the level of customer service. It's also critical to measure the level of employee service. There is a direct correlation between the two. Take the six elements of excellent employee service and see where your organization stands. If you want better customer service, start with better employee service.

Andy Cox is President of Cox Consulting Group LLC. The focus of his work is on helping organizations and their people increase their success in the hiring, developing and enhancing the performance of leaders and emerging leaders. Cox Consulting Group LLC was started in 1995, and has worked with a wide range of organizations, managers and leaders - helping them define success, achieve success and make the ability to change a competitive advantage. He can be reached at .


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