I cringe when I hear people excuse their rude behaviour by saying “business is business”, because whether you want to believe it or not, business at the root, is people. Cultivating a culture within your organization with colleagues and externally with clients that promotes compassion and kindness will not only positively affect your bottom-line in sales revenue but is proven to increase retention and productivity within your doors. On this topic I can speak from personal experience, and want to shed some light on just how paramount these character strengths are in business.
Firstly, let’s talk about the impact inside the organization. I am certain you have had a boss or a colleague that sucked the energy out of you, by either raising their volume, attacking your opinions, or bringing to work negative energy. On the same token, at least I hope, you’ve encountered a leader or colleague that you wanted to work hard for and helped you with your personal development in a constructive and positive manner. What a difference it makes, right?
Jonathan Haidt of New York University recently published an article that concluded positive bosses increase loyalty, retention and productivity, which is counter to traditional beliefs that money and tough love will get you what you want from employees. Further to this point, Adam Grant, Professor at the Wharton Business School in his book Give & Take, talks about the power of reciprocity and how negatively reacting to an employee loses their trust, and decreases their motivation.
I have worked for leaders in both extremes and I speak on my experience to easily draw a correlation to what I accomplished and my over all well-being to the attitudes and energy of my superiors. As a naïve career woman, I chalked up one of my boss’s negative behaviour as normal; rationalizing that she was under a lot of stress and if I was going to make it up the corporate ladder than I needed to grow thicker skin. It wasn’t for the power of contrast during my next role that I realized, I was very wrong.
Simply put, it costs a company, conservatively, 3x more to hire a new employee than retain a current employee. Negative actions can not only damage the motivation of one employee, potentially causing them to leave the organization, but can poison entire teams and departments. I remember my entire office needing to take breaks to discuss how destructive our boss was, solely for therapeutic reasons.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate those in power have a lot on their plate, and deal with high stress circumstances, but the smallest consideration of how to communicate and interact with colleagues in a positive manner will only make life easier. If you are manager, leader or interact with colleagues, consider how your behaviours affects theirs, as much as you know the reverse to be true. A global study done by McKinsey, Stanford, and the London School of Economics showed: “A one-point improvement in your company’s management practices is worth as much as a 25 percent increase in your labour force, or a 65 percent increase in the amount of your invested capital.” So, its not just a warm fuzzy, it truly affects your bottom-line and greatly.
"People will forget what you said..People will forget what you did ..But people will never forget how you made them feel."
This insightful quote by the late Maya Angelou is something all managers and leaders must consider. To get the best out of people, you need to focus on their assets, not just the flaws. Kim Cameron, a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, emphasizes that managers need to have a good ratio, whereas, not to completely ignore areas of improvement but ensure the positive reinforcement is much greater. As a manager once myself, I would debrief after meetings and discuss three points with my team: one thing they did great, one thing they could do even better, and one thing that makes us a great team together. Thus, when you do need to be constructive or improve a colleagues skillset be sure to be address it in a positive way and be sure to have a ratio of feedback that weighs heavily on the positive to keep them motivated.
Outside of the organization, if your employees have any external social interactions, whether with clients, prospects, buyers or partners, they are acting as brand ambassadors on behalf of the company.
The old saying goes that if you have a bad experience you tell 10 people and a good one maybe 1, thus, it is evident we know what bad customer service can do. Sure your company may have a standard customer service manual and you may train staff to believe the Selfridge motto “the customers always right” but do your employees go the extra mile and truly show they care? And how can we cultivate or ensure employees do? With never before seen levels of competition and globalization, your people are what truly make a difference.
I worked as a bartender for years during my undergraduate and had the pleasure to work for the Charcoal Group in Kitchener-Waterloo. It was there, for the first time, I truly witnessed a customer centric culture. They promote staff to go above and beyond for clients and trained each member of the team on what they call “A Moment of Truth”. Not only was it positive to see this philosophy when I was on-boarding but it motivated me to seek my own “moments of truth” with my customers during my time there. It is no wonder why they have some of the most loyal customers and continue to be successful in new ventures within the hospitality industry (not to mention why that have my business for life!).
Darrell Rigby, author of a recent article in The Harvard Business Review, talking about the retail landscape and customer service, states “Each wave of change doesn’t eliminate what came before it, but it reshapes the landscape and redefines consumer expectations, often beyond recognition. Retailers relying on earlier formats either adapt or die out”. Thus, how better to ensure you are meeting your customers expectations by listening to them and caring about their feedback? Customers, and everyone for that matter, has an abundance of social media platforms’, and places to leave reviews online, thus the ability for a negative customer experience to be advertised to a larger audience today is greater than ever before. In contrast, positive feedback and third party testimonials can increase conversions online and be the deciding factor in a customers buying process.
As a company, it's important to consider how to be proactive in showing customers you care, but even more importantly, when mistakes happen, which they will, how much you care to make a wrong into a right. There are endless examples of companies who lost revenue and customers solely because of their behaviour and though I am tempted to name a few from my experince, i shall refrain.
Customer services is not just a manual, but starts with hiring the right people and empowering employees to deliver and act on behalf of their clients best interest. I have done a lot of interviews in my career, and I will always judge the company and hiring manager, not on their merits but the questions they asked. Customer service can be trained and developed but ensure that your hiring managers are asking question to uncover where a candidate falls on the spectrum of compassion and kindness, and ensure it is a point to consider, just as you would on their competency as a team player or with Microsoft office.
Another tactic to help develop a customer approach is to consider and develop as a team the right questions to ask customers. Role-playing is a great why to uncover if your employees are asking the right questions to get to know their clients, prior to giving a sales pitch. Selling is like dating, everyone wants to be asked questions about themselves, because it feels good that someone cares, and sales is very similar. Building trust and rapport with clients comes from empathizing and trying to understand their needs and once a client feels like you care, they are more likely to be return buyers and loyal clients. In the digital space you can create custom experiences for clients by supplying surveys, custom log-ins and recommendations based on searching habits or preferences.
Being kind and compassionate is not a gesture, but a mindset and if you can cultivate that within; your team, organization, and customer facing employees, the ripple effects and revenue that it generates can be forever lasting.