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Recognition of retail's 'front-line' workers will bring post-lockdown success

Jo Causon

As Scotland's car dealers re-open their showrooms to sales customers, Jo Causon, the chief executive of The Institute of Customer Service, tells AM that recognition of front-line retail staff is the key to post-lockdown success.

 It’s needless to say that the last few months have been incredibly testing for businesses, and the people within them.

As we have navigated the complex challenges presented by the Coronavirus pandemic, employees across the country have been working tirelessly, under increased pressure and demand, to keep businesses running.

This is particularly true for those in customer-facing roles, who have had to find new ways to service customers in the face of increased restrictions, and a rise in vulnerable cases. This provides both difficulties and opportunities.

Which is why as we enter the next phase of the crisis, there is a real opportunity for organisations, despite the challenges we are all facing to recognise the hard work and commitment shown by their staff, both throughout this period and into the future. 

Recognising and rewarding excellent service should not just be seen as a nice ‘to do’; but a genuine business priority.

Employees across all parts of the business are and will be the bedrock that a return to prosperity depends on – and keeping them engaged, motivated and committed to delivering good customer and business outcomes will be crucial for long-term success.

Customer facing roles at ‘the forefront’

The crisis has thrust the role of customer facing employees into the forefront. 

For all of the advances we have seen over recent years in leveraging technology and automation to improve the customer experience, (which we absolutely need) in times of crisis it is staff who have made the personal  difference – applying empathy and problem solving to difficult and complex service issues.

Even before the crisis hit, we had begun to see consumers much more strongly influenced by the attitudes and behaviours of employees; placing increased value on their experience with an organisation and how the relationship is managed. 

As the economic realities of the crisis cause consumers to be more discerning with where they spend their money, maintaining this strong customer experience is more important than ever.

And the relationship between good customer service and employee recognition cannot be understated.

Employees who are truly connected with an organisation’s purpose and driven to deliver the best outcomes will be most likely to communicate their understanding and passion with the customer – and businesses that make efforts to drive this level of engagement amongst their staff will reap the benefits in the long-term.

We know from the Institutes research that for every 1% increase in employee engagement we achieve almost a 0.5% increase in customer satisfaction.  

Recognition breeds success

There are, of course, many drivers for employee engagement – but regular and authentic recognition of successes is a fundamental factor in building a happy and motivated workforce.

As we emerge from challenging times, and face fresh obstacles to come, recognition and celebration of a ‘job well done’ will go a long way to unlocking the discretional effort that will be so crucial for rebound efforts. 

Many organisations already have successful employee recognition and incentive schemes in place, and it’s important not to let these fall to the wayside amongst other priorities.

And with many employees still working remotely, we must not let the lack of physical contact deter from recognising excellent performance.

Small makers of appreciation – whether it be recognition within internal newsletters, celebrations of individual successes in team meetings or marking achievements via internal or external award schemes – will go a long way to boosting morale, and keeping employees motivated to handle the mammoth task of rebuilding.

There are still challenging times ahead, and I understand that many may feel uncomfortable celebrating successes whilst difficult decisions are being made elsewhere in the business.

But we must be mindful not to let immediate challenges deter us from the task at hand. , We must put service at the heart of our organisations – and ensure all employees, from CEOs down to call centre operators – are united in a common goal.

Engaging, motivating and inspiring staff to deliver the best service possible in the first step towards building the true service culture that will be key to long-term success.


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