Many small business owners grasp the importance of the 4 Ps in Marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Various experts add a few more Ps to the mix. But probably the least attention is paid to the P that can have the greatest impact: People.
The people you employ can build or destroy your company’s reputation and ultimately hurt everyone’s favorite P – Profit. In this age of social media, positive or negative behavior can spread like wildfire.
A part-time clerk at a Tropical Smoothie in Winter Haven recently refused service to a local police officer, causing a major uproar and an overnight avalanche of negative news and online coverage. The clerk was fired and the owner apologized, but only time will gauge any long-term impact.
On a positive note, an Ormond Beach Publix supermarket employee became an instant hero through the simple act of tying an elderly man’s shoe. The employee noticed and reacted to the man’s dilemma and a customer caught it on a video that quickly went viral. This kind act lent credibility to the culture Publix tries to promote, creating a grocery “Where Shopping is a Pleasure.”
A business owner can’t always guard against a single employee’s lapse in judgment, but a focus on effective hiring, training, empowerment and high customer service expectations can reduce the need for damage control. Here are some suggestions to help you get the most productivity, loyalty and profit from your employees.
CHOOSE WISELY: Hire the right people from the start.
This may not be easy, but it’s worth the effort. Businesses complain about poor work ethic and a labor pool shortage. But settling for a mediocre candidate likely will lead to bigger problems.
Remember, you can train to improve skills, but a poor attitude can infect others in your work force. When you interview, can you feel the person’s enthusiasm? If they can’t demonstrate high energy and confidence and smile for one hour, don’t expect those traits to magically appear once hired.
If possible, shorten the hiring process – schedule back-to-back interviews over no more than two days so you can compare candidates and not lose the best by dragging out the selection. Really good prospects likely will get another offer if you don’t move quickly enough.
COMPENSATE FAIRLY: Don’t be “penny wise and pound foolish.”
Study after study says salary is not the number one factor for job satisfaction; most employees want respect, autonomy and recognition. If an employee jumps ship for an extra $1 per hour, you need to closely examine your compensation structure and the cost of onboarding and training a new person.
Instead of just matching an offer, why not create a compensation plan with performance goals that offers significantly higher wages for helping grow profits? If you offer referral bonuses to customers, do you also offer them to employees? Share the responsibility. Make it a win-win.
INVEST IN TRAINING: Demonstrate your commitment to developing your employees.
Even if your new hire brought experience and a good skill set to the job, ongoing professional development is important. Consider cross-training. Reward those willing to add special skills or certifications. Support their involvement in professional associations. Showing your commitment to their future helps build loyalty.
EMPOWER: Give employees wide latitude and decision-making authority.
Nordstrom department store generally is considered the gold standard for customer service. The company urges employees to do “whatever it takes” to make the customer happy and then management backs up their well-intended decisions. Obviously, you can’t give away the store, but are your rules for returns or exchanges so rigid that it forces your employees to be the bad guys?
Ruby Newell Legner in “Understanding Customers” suggests it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative one. Estimated percentages vary, but many past studies agree that people are far more likely to tell others about a bad experience than a good one. But a 2015 survey by independent market research firm Ipsos offers a bit of good news. Social media seems to be closing the gap, with a significantly higher percentage of people now sharing positive experiences. This demonstrates the vital role every employee plays in building goodwill and positive customer experience.
ENGAGE: Do your employees understand and embrace your mission?
Business owners and top management likely live it, breathe it, walk it, talk it. But every one of your employees represents the business and its mission out in the community. Are they positive messengers or spreading negativity?
If they embrace the mission, having employees wear branded clothing, logo nametags and passing out business cards can stretch your marketing dollars, lend credibility and reach a much larger potential market.
Without encroaching on constitutionally protected free speech rights, you might suggest that if they have a bad day, employees should discuss it with their supervisor or best friend, not post it on Facebook.
Continuously remind employees of their roles as ambassadors for your company. Thank them for helping build your positive reputation. Reward good behavior.
Remember, you can have the right Product, Price, Place and Promotion, but if you’re sincerely interested in building your business and profitability, don’t forget your People.