Front Line Employees

Front-line employees are the face and voice of almost every business. Are you developing them as brand champions? Recent research has indicated that when organizations invest in their front-line employees, it’s one of the key elements to creating a high-caliber customer experience.

I was grocery shopping one Sunday – not my favorite shopping experience. From the middle of the store, I heard clapping and cheering, hooting and hollering. Obviously, something was being celebrated. When I finished and was at the register, a very pleasant cashier, “Jane” was helping me. One of her associates joined us and started bagging my groceries. She turned to Jane and congratulated her on her award. “Was that you they were clapping for? What did you win?” I asked. Jane was the proud winner of a customer service award. In addition to the heart-felt recognition, she also received a gift certificate for a dinner out for two. “How nice that the company recognizes its employees,” I said. “Oh, the recognitions would have been enough. The gift certificate is like the frosting,” Jane replied. Both women went on to tell me how much they loved working for Harris Teeter and how much the company recognizes and appreciates its employees. I left the store after completing this required errand feeling uplifted. What a great story.

Compare that to two other recent experiences I had with organizations I won’t name. When Barbara and I gave feedback about a style preference in a clothing store, the sales associate responded, “Write to the company, please. The e-mail address is on the receipt. They don’t listen to us.” Don’t listen to their sales force – their face to the customers? Seriously? Or the flight attendant I was sitting next to once who told me the CEO of the company told them that the flight attendants don’t add to the bottom line! Seriously, with whom does the flying public most interact? Not the CEO, that’s for sure.

The front line of your organization is critical. They can create a culture of efficiency and excellence and that results in productivity and profitability. Are you assuring that they are the best that they can be? Are you investing in them?

Investment in your employees can take many different forms. We recently heard the story of Michelle. She worked in customer service for a large organization in the health-care industry. Cost was an issue—one of the factors holding her back from an education, but the company made an investment in her through tuition assistance and a special program that allowed her to get an associate’s degree in 12 months. She got promoted and went on to work towards a bachelor’s degree. The investment of their money and her time paid off.

Investing in your employees, however, need not always have a significant dollar amount associated with it. Jane was thrilled to be recognized—which cost nothing. The gift certificate was a nice, additional investment. While her attitude was pleasant, our sales clerk’s self-esteem and enthusiasm could be elevated to great heights if the company invested some time to listen to their front line. They could be superior brand champions. As far as my flight attendant goes, I know the industry is having its challenges, but I’m not sure I’d rush back to fly on his carrier anytime soon. If you don’t treat your employees with fairness and respect, how will they treat your customers?

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