Employees – They are in the middle

Have you ever had a call from a front-line employee, asking you for help with what seems like the silliest of customer problems?  You are thinking, “This is so simple, why are they not just following the procedure and moving the customer along?”

It is common practice for a front-line employee to turn from an empowered problem solver to someone who is out of options for a particular situation.  This is the ‘I only work here, let me call a manager’ point in the conversation.  Sometimes this happens not because the employee has done a poor job of solving the problem, but because the customer is just not going to back down.

It is important to recognize that when the employee calls you, the manager, for help that it is not always because they have forgotten the policy or the process for solving the customer’s problem.  It is very possible that they have tried all they can and escalating the problem is a step toward making the customer happy.  The manager may tell them the same thing that the employee did, or they may be able to take it a step further.

Understand that they may have a customer standing right in front of them, listening to everything that they are saying.  Their job is to tell you the situation, what is wrong, and what they have tried.  This is not so much for your benefit, but for the benefit of the customer, so that they realize their story is being heard and understood.

The critical point here is that as a manager, do not talk to the employee as if they are bothering you, and act as if they should have solved this on their own.  It is at this point that you and the employee are a team, working to please a customer.  Remember that the employee is the one that has taken on the full force of an irate customer, or a difficult situation.  This is not the time to make them feel even worse because they may have missed a step in the fray.  Now is the time to be supportive and help them to help the customer.  There is plenty of time later for training and review of the situation.

Our employees are very important to us and to our business.  The ones who interact directly with customers perform an extremely valuable job, and not a job that all can do well.  Just a reminder to respect their talents and to let them know that you appreciate them.

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