Nurturing employees and customers is remarkably similar

In both the “official” day job as Customer Experience Leader and the additional role of Co-chair of the LGBTQ+ network, I need to engage, educate and empower the people around me.   In a number of recent interactions, it struck me that there’s a fair few areas of overlap in how you do this.  It’s not surprising really, given that employees and customers have one thing in common – they are human beings!  This week’s post reflects on some particular themes that help achieve engagement, eduction and empowerment with both colleagues and customers.

Honesty: No-one likes being lied to – it makes us feel paranoid, under-valued and disrespected.  And yet many businesses aren’t always honest with their customers.  “Your call will be answered shortly” when you are holding for 20 minutes or “I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do to help you” when the person really means is, “it’s not my job to help you”.  In the same way, colleagues told “there’ll be a pay rise next year for sure” or “we’ll be replacing the old system really soon” rings hollow when it’s a message the employee has heard more than once.  It might be uncomfortable to be honest, but telling the truth makes all situations easier to manage in the long run.

Transparency: In a similar way to honesty, too many business hide behind complexity and confusion.  I feel despair every time I receive any correspondence from a financial business.  The attempts to bamboozle me with technical jargon merely serve to turn me off.  Sometimes businesses treat their employees like children – assuming that the employees can’t handle tricky or complex information.  News invariably leaks out, creating the impression that the company is hiding important info from the employees.  Don’t assume customers or colleagues are daft – be sensitive about the info you can share, but make sure you give a genuine and comprehensive view, or risk skepticism and animosity from your audience!

Confidence: Colleagues will often look to an expert to advise on the best course of action.  Whether that’s a manager, a long serving employee or a subject matter expert, we lean on those who know because they are confident in their knowledge. In a similar way, customers rightly assume that a business is a expert in the services they deliver – why else would you pay them otherwise?!  So where a customer faces uncertainty, or feels like they are having to explain how things should work (especially during service recovery), a lack of confidence from the business will quickly damage the relationship.  Instead, showing you are confident in what you know and do is the fastest way to build loyalty.

Humility: To counter confidence (and yes, gentlemen, I’m looking at YOU!), humility is really important.  We’ve all worked for a cocky and bossy manager, who oversteps the mark and annoys those around him.  Businesses can also come across as brash and boastful, turning off consumers with phrases like “The best a man can get” or “We are the No.1”.  Managing confidence (of knowledge) with humility (of attitude) is a great way to achieve respect, which ultimately creates loyal customers and colleagues.

One thought that sprung to mind with each of these traits, with both customers and colleagues is TRUST.  As human beings, building trust drives positive results – trust comes with effort, time and nurture.  It’s easily lost, so needs constant nurture, but with a decent mix of humility, confidence, transparency and honesty you can nurture exceptional relationships with both employees and customers.

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