More and more companies are waking up to the fact that giving employees more power and responsibility can bring huge benefits for both the company and its workers.

Employee empowerment may be the most underutilized tool in all of customer service.

Give employees the authority to take action.  No one should have to go “higher up” to get permission to help a customer.  Empower everyone to break the rules thus allowing employees to have input and control over their work.

President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read “The Buck Stops Here”.  Actually that should be the line that appears under every single person’s name on their nametag or on their business cards. Customers want responsible action handled with speed and courtesy preferably from the first person they speak with.

You must reduce the fear your employees have toward making empowered decisions.

Empowered decisions by front-line employees are much more powerful than if it comes from a manager, supervisor or the CEO. It creates more word of mouth advertising and more Twitter or Facebook comments. Employees who feel they have control over decisions made in the workplace tend to work harder and longer to achieve the company’s strategic goals.  It allows employees to take ownership of issues and find solutions.

There are 3 reasons employees are not willing to use empowerment, regardless of how much the CEO wants them to.  They are all based on FEAR.

  1. All employees assume they will be immediately fired if they make an empowered decision.
  2. They will be forced to pay for what they give away free.
  3. Employees do not want to be yelled at or put down.

What do Google, Ritz Carlton, Apple and Amazon all have in common?

Yes, they’re all hugely successful companies – but it’s more about how they became so successful. They all go to great lengths to empower their employees.

Google places its employees at the heart of its business strategy, and its empowering initiatives ensure that employees:

  • Feel valued and know that their opinions are valued.
  • Have purpose in their work.
  • Are made to feel that they own their jobs, and that the responsibility for performance is up to them.
  • Take pride in their work, quality of products, and service to customers.

With an empowered workforce, your organization can reap the benefits experienced by Google.

Empowered employees have the power to make decisions without a supervisor. They are entitled to go off script, bend the rules, and do what they see fit if they believe it is the right thing to do for the customer. After all, what’s the worst that can happen…an employee gives away too much and now you have an overly-happy customer.

Empowered employees take pride and ownership in their jobs when they         know that they can exercise independent judgement when necessary.

Ritz-Carlton famously empowers its employees to spend up to $2,000 to make a customer happy, and you’ll likely never find a Starbucks barista who’s not empowered to give you a free drink or coupon if you have a service issue.

If you shop at an Apple store, you’ll probably find the staff personable and engaging. They are intensively trained on what they can do. Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s SVP of retail and online stores, believes the key to Apple’s future is not just marvelous products, but also engaging and energizing its nearly 100,000 employees, 60% of whom now work in the $21.5 billion retail division.

To maximize your success, take a tip from Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, one of the world’s most customer-centric companies: “Determine what your customers need, and work backwards.”

Understand what drives customer value, then figure out where empowerment can improve the quality, speed and cost with which that value is delivered.  Following are three reasons to copy Amazon:

  1. In 2016 Sales increased 27%
  2. They increased revenue a whopping $29 billion (from $107 billion to $136 billion)
  3. Jeff Bezos increased his net worth to $72.8 billion. He is now the 3rd wealthiest person in the world.

“My definition of empowerment is getting an employee to make a fast decision, on the spot, in favor of the customer. If the customer wins, your organization wins.” – John Tschohl

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About The Author

International service strategist and speaker

John Tschohl is an international service strategist and speaker. He is founder and president of the Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Described by Time and Entrepreneur magazines as a customer service guru, he has written several books on customer service. He will release shortly the 11th Edition of Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service. The Service Quality Institute has developed more than 26 customer service training programs that have been distributed and presented throughout the world. John’s monthly strategic newsletter is available online at no charge. He can also be reached on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.