Leaders must empower frontline workers and outlaw silos. Frontline workers create value for businesses. Silos destroy value and encourage individual department’s performance, often at the expense of the organization’s overall goals. Still, many firms create organizational structures and design compensation and benefits systems that encourage silos. Besides, they create departmental goals, and reward executives with stock options and other measures that focus narrowly on short term individual performances. To be sure, rewarding individual performance is crucial; however, it must not be to the detriment of the overall firm’s performance.
Businesses need teams to function well and cohesively to be successful. That’s why it is crucial that management ensure they remove silos and choose broad, shared goals. Each employee should know she works directly for the firm to delight customers; her department’s goals are secondary to delighting the customer. Employees in a firm, for-profit or nonprofit should heed Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 12:16: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”
Have you been fed up when you call a firm’s (Cogeco, Bell Canada, Manulife) customer service and the employee passes you to different sections for a simple matter? These firms do not hire, train, and reward the right frontline workers and give them adequate, responsible authority to do their jobs effectively. These employees operate in silos!
Empower Frontline Workers
Leaders must empower frontline workers by giving them enough authority to carry out day-to-day activities and implement the firm’s mission. Thus, if I call Cogeco’s customer service for a routine matter about my bill, press the correct number on the keypad, wait 20 or more minutes, the person answering shouldn’t transfer me to another section where I must wait a further 20 minutes for a routine matter. The firm should train the first person properly, and she should be part of a shared reward system with others who deal with customers.
Though frontline workers might appear to be at the lowest level in the company, they deal with vital matters affecting the business’ future. They speak to the customer, and as the late Peter Drucker said, “… Business is a customer.” Frontline workers will cause customers to stop supporting the firm or be loyal to the firm by their dealings. Many firms realize this and ask the customer to take a survey after speaking with customer service.
Several tools (Just-in-Time, Lean) exist to optimize productivity and quality to create value for stakeholders. Leaders should train frontline workers with those relevant to them. These measures have different nuances, but each deals with three main issues. First, they delight customers; second, they create value for stakeholders; third, they improve quality and reduce costs. Even so, frontline workers should know the firm’s value creation platform, and supply chain.
Frontline Workers Key To Customer Satisfaction
Frontline workers must know they have to get products out on time, and deal promptly with customers’ complaints. Although temptations abound to cut corners to ship products quickly and answer questions without proper research, workers must know it is never acceptable to cut corners. They must do what’s right, never what’s easy.
It’s vital leaders avoid these dumb decisions that later harm the firm’s brand and destroy customer and stakeholders’ value:
- Ignore people issues: Listen, hear, and understand people’s concerns, complaints, suggestions. You can’t be “too busy” to deal with any people issue, such as compensation, vacation, product quality, delivery, time-off requests.
- Try to control costs: You can’t control costs; learn to control cost drivers. Sometimes leaders look at final costs and complain about rapidly rising costs, instead of looking at their causes—their drivers.
- Send out inferior product: The majority of unhappy customers do not complain, they go elsewhere. Take time to fix issues. Don’t ship sub standard products or try to persuade customers to accept them.
- Cut corners to “save” money: What are savings? You don’t “save” when you cut corners. This attitude could be a large expense in lost sales and damaged reputation.
- Assume the future will resemble the past: Don’t live in the past and assume customers will accept what you did yesterday. Learn how to satisfy customers today—keep learning.
- Ignore opportunity costs of decisions: Decisions have an opportunity cost—the alternative you can’t do because of the today’s commitment. Be conscious of options you choose to ignore when you decide.
© 2019 Michel A. Bell