We know that businesses have a key focus on their Customer Service, but this focus is very much targeted at external customers. How much better would employee engagement be if businesses applied the same thinking to their ‘internal’ customers .i.e. their staff?

Let’s look at how this might work in practice. Customer Service skills can be broadly categorised under four main headings, which may be referred to as the 4’A’s.
Firstly let’s look at what the 4As are. What does each ‘A’ stand for?

  1. Appearance
  2. Attention
  3. Attitude
  4. Accuracy

Let’s look at a couple of examples to bring this principal to life.

Appearance
How often do staff need help from one of their peers, their manager, or even another department? Are they ever made to feel like an inconvenience, or made to feel uncomfortable about approaching their manager or colleague for help?
How useful would it be if staff had had some focused training on creating great first impressions, very similar to what may already be applied to how they treat their external customers? How would it be if managers and colleagues created a great first impression with each other?

How much more relaxed and valued would staff feel in approaching their colleagues with questions, issues or problems, if they knew they were always going to be met with warmth and openness?

Just as this focus on a warm welcome, when targeted at customers, means that they look forward to visiting a business again and again, this same approach can be reflected within a business too. Businesses could set the standard for the way they expect colleagues to greet one another whenever they answer the phone to them, meet them face to face and even how they respond to emails.

Attention
We know managers are often busy, however, how often do tasks and activities get in the way of the people side of a managers roles. We’ve all experienced instances where we’ve needed to approach our managers for help or support and they’ve been busy focusing on their email or paperwork rather than giving us 100% of their attention?

This can result in staff having to repeat themselves or being asked to put their request in an email despite having spent 10 minutes going through a detailed description of what they need? How annoying would that be and how valued or undervalued would it leave them feeling?

Businesses need to ask themselves if they would ask customers to email details of the conversation they’ve just had with them?  Would they think that this was an acceptable practice? If the answer is No – then why is it acceptable within the business itself?

How useful would it be if internal customers were afforded the same respect and attention as their external ones? How much more beneficial would your interactions be if everyone within an organisation adopted the same behaviours that they’d expect themselves to demonstrate with their customers and how much more valued would employees feel as a result?
In additional to the clear benefits to the individual there’s also business benefits of adopting this approach. How much more efficiently would queries be dealt with by giving one another their full attention and really listening to and therefore better understanding their request first time around and finding out what their colleagues need?
When any distractions are managed well, staff can demonstrate to one another that they’re there to help and that at that moment they’re the most important person to be dealt with.

Even in situations where staff approach someone who may not be the best person to deal with their enquiry or request, by them having an understanding of their business and knowing who deals with what, means that they’re able to point them in the right direction. This collaborative approach means that they’re more likely to reciprocate and give help when their colleagues need it too, building an environment of mutual respect and trust, key attributes that any employee would wish to be part of and be advocates of.

Accuracy
How annoying is it when staff approach colleagues for help and they can’t get the answer they’re looking for because they’re not up to date with recent changes or end up passing them onto someone they ‘think’ should be able to help, but actually can’t. Would your customers expect or accept this type of behaviour?

Once again, how useful would it be for colleagues to be in a position to be able to do what they need to do for one another and do it right first time?

The key learning from this is that in order to build trust with employees, employers need to deliver on their promises and know what they’re talking about. Staff want accurate and timely information and to be kept up to date on what’s happening in their business. Communication is a key dependency on great employee engagement, so ensuring that everyone has the necessary knowledge to do their role and to understand their business is key in being able to support one another.

Attitude
How does a negative attitude effect staff in a business? Have you encountered colleagues who have a negative attitude and either can’t or won’t help? Does this attitude translate into their external customer interactions? How useful is that for you, your customers and ultimately the business you work for?

A ‘can do’ attitude is one of the key components in delivering great customer service and in building relationships. It also makes for a much more productive working relationship too and has a direct impact on the way people feel about working for an organisation. People thrive in positive situations and it’s important that any messages that a business gives, or the atmosphere it creates, is one of positivity.

What could businesses do to implement the 4As within their organisation?
Here’s some suggestions:-

  1. Set the standard for the way colleagues are greeted and dealt with by one another, whether that be face to face, over the phone or by email.
  2. Help staff manage any distractions and make sure they understand the value of helping one another. Where they’re not the best person to help, have systems in place to support them in finding out who the best person is.
  3. Make sure the knowledge and skills their staff need to do their job are well trained and that systems and training is in place to keep knowledge current, so that staff understand the processes and procedures associated with the sorts of requests their internal customers will rely on them to know in order to deal with their enquiries efficiently and effectively.
  4. Focus on getting things right first time and when things go wrong, have systems and processes in place, as well as feedback mechanisms, for them to learn from those mistakes, to both rectify the initial mistake, as well as ensure those same mistakes aren’t repeated.
  5. Have a positive attitude and demonstrate a desire to help your colleagues. Possibly have recognition schemes in place where staff can recognise one another’s’ achievements and positive actions and attributes

By implementing and practicing the 4As within a business will make it second nature to demonstrate these same behaviours with customers, delivering great service to whoever you interact with and making it a positive and engaging experience for staff and customers alike.

Michelle HolmesMichelle Holmes is a Director of New Chapter Learning Ltd, a Customer Experience and Training consultancy based in the UK. Having spent 26 years in banking she decided to use her expertise in Training and Customer Service to set up her own training consultancy in 2012.

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