Most employees go to work to do their best, though somehow it seems as if employers are making it as difficult as possible for an employee to do their job well. It all starts with having a clear job description of what is expected from them. Every manager has their specific expectations and standards, which needs to be shared with every new employee, or whenever there are any substantial changes.
Employees are not mind readers and managers need to discuss and explore with employees what is expected of them. The key here is to focus on outputs or outcomes, not tasks or activities, as employees will become more interested if they understand what is required, but have the opportunity to decide the best way to achieve the desired outcome.
Most jobs incorporate a long list of requirements. Some of these actions include daily actions, others weekly or monthly outputs, and others may be more project based or one-off assignments. Having a clear and agreed list of goals is a very powerful way to hold employees accountable, provided they have been involved in developing the list of goals, which also makes it easier.
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We all enjoy feedback, hearing that we are on track and doing a good job. Feedback should always be timely and regular, rather than creating a list which is only discussed every quarter or annually.
Personal growth is often top of the list of motivators. Its an investment by their manager and the company to develop their skills and make them more employable. Having a highly developed structure of the role and how the employee is performing ensures that any training and development is of mutual benefit.
No employee wants to be in a dead-end job, without any prospects of career progression. Once the employee has proved their performance and competence in their current role, it is essential to discuss how the learning plan is assisting the employee to be appointed into their next role, where role clarity kick-start the next cycle, in a virtuous cycle of employee interest. The opportunity to rotate staff into other roles often creates new enthusiasm and also adds fresh skills, providing the employee with new career opportunities.
Increasing employee importance is a major human resource strategy for most organizations, and critical to make the employer a preferred employer of choice. If manager can nurture, develop and recognize the talents of employees, employees will be highly engaged and more likely to be retained. By using these important strategies, companies have been able to significantly increase their levels of employee interest through better people management.
As a manager, an important part of your job involves addressing the problems and concerns of your staff.Â The following suggestions may help to make these discussions more pleasant and productive.
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â Give the employee your full attention.Â Keep in mind that dealing with employee problems and concerns is not an interruption to your work.Â As a manager, itÂ isÂ your work.Â Taking phone calls or continuing to work on your computer clearly sends the message that the employee's concerns aren't all that important.
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â Listen to their explanation without interrupting.Â Unless the person is just endlessly rambling on, let them finish their story.Â If theyÂ areÂ endlessly rambling, just say, "let me stop you for a minute to be sure that I understand".Â Then summarize what you've heard so far.Â
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â If it's not clear what the problem is, ask "how can I help?".Â Â Sometimes people just don't explain things well.Â If you really have no clue what the issue is, finding out what they expect from you may make it clearer.
4.Â Â Â Â Â Â Show understanding, but not necessarily agreement.Â You want to be empathic and convey that you understand the problem, but so far you've only heard their version of the situation.Â Agreeing with them can therefore be hazardous.Â SoÂ don'tÂ say, "That's awful!Â We have to do something about it!"Â Better to say something like, "I can understand why you would be upset about that."Â
5.Â Â Â Â Â Â Remain neutral about issues involving other people.Â You don't want to jump to conclusions about the behavior of others until you have actually talked to them or learned more about the situation.
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6.Â Â Â Â Â Â Ask questions to get a complete picture.Â Sometimes people who are upset or angry fail to provide all the relevant information.Â They are usually focused on their own point of view to the exclusion of all others.Â Try to understand the whole situation before deciding what to do next.
7.Â Â Â Â Â Â Explain what you are going to do.Â Then do it.Â The end of a conversation about an employee concern should be a clear agreement on what happens next.Â There may be things that you want the employee to do, such as provide more information or talk directly with a colleague.Â For your part, you should be explicitly clear about (a) whether you can do anything about the situation and (b) if so, what your next steps will be.
8.Â Â Â Â Â Â Get permission to involve other employees.Â If the employee's complaint is about a colleague, most of the time that other person has to become part of the conversation in order to solve the problem.Â But don't assume that the complaining employee has thought this through.Â Unless it's a legal issue (see below), you may need to help the employee realize that they have a choice of either (a) involving the other party or (b) living with the situation.Â
9.Â Â Â Â Â Â Take legal issues to the appropriate people.Â Immediately!Â If the employee mentions sexual harassment, discrimination, threats of personal harm, financial mismanagement, or other legal issues, you must run, not walk, to your legal or HR department.Â Delays could create serious problems.Â DoÂ notÂ try to investigate these issues yourself.
10.Â Set a time for the employee to get back to you.Â Â Â The employee is probably more concerned about this issue than you are, so just to insure that you don't let it slip your mind or delay taking action, give the employee a specific time to follow up with you.Â
11.Â Keep information confidential.Â Â Some employee problems are just so odd or funny or interesting that you may be tempted to turn them into amusing anecdotes to tell your co-workers.Â Don't do this.Â People really resent having their personal issues shared with others.Â
12.Â Resolve the issue.Â Or clearly explain why you cannot.Â Don't leave employees wondering when their problem will be resolved or what will be done about it.Â If you can't do anything about the situation, explain why.Â Most people understand that managers have limited power.Â
13.Â If necessary, arrange a time to follow up.Â If it's a situation that will take awhile to improve (like an interpersonal problem with a co-worker), determine when you will touch base with the employee to see how things are progressing.Â
14.Â Don't reward employees for complaining.Â Addressing valid concerns is important, but some people complain endlessly about everything.Â After awhile, these employees will just suck up all your energy, so you don't want to inadvertently encourage them!Â Attention can be a powerful reward, so if you have a chronic complainer, be sure that you don't reinforce this behavior by listening sympathetically to lengthy recitations of complaints.
10 Issues That Concern Your Employees
FromÂ Leadership and Staffing, Published: 9/18/2008
Why Employee Concerns Affect Productivity
Employee concerns always affect productivity, positively or negatively. Occasions when their concerns have no effect are rareÂ and possibly non-existent. This is not a psychologically complex reality. Most managers have seen tangible effects of personal, if not professional issues affecting employee performance.
Employees find new boyfriends/girlfriends, get married, receive their college or graduate degrees, or have other wonderful events occur, and their productivity tends to improve. Conversely, people face divorce, foreclosure, the loss of a parent, issues with children, or a variety of other personal issues, and their productivity declines, for at least the short term.
Work-related concerns have an equal - sometimes greater - effect on employee productivity. Even the issues of just one staff member often affect the performance of a team or department, once again for better or worse. Concerns that are satisfied by management for just one team member can often uplift the performance of the whole group. On the down side, should management not address concerns of even one team member, performance of that employee - and possibly the entire team - typically suffers.
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The obvious conclusion: Management should address any concerns that employees have to maintain continuity of performance. Certainly, at times, the answers that management must provide are not what the employee wanted. Yet, their concerns were addressed and efforts made to resolve these issues.
How to Determine Employee Concerns
Management sometimes maintains that they didn't address employee concerns because they were unaware that one or more issues existed. While this statement may be true, it is imperative that management stay aware of employee concerns so they can address them before small issues become major performance detractors. How can they do this? Just ask. As long as your staff has the security of knowing that they will not be punished or criticized for being truthful about their concerns, they normally will be honest - sometimes brutally honest. But, that is good news. Simple surveys or requests for suggestions or concerns have proven to be sufficient.
The Top 10 Employee Concerns
There have been numerous in-house and third-party independent surveys directly addressing this issue. The results seem to indicate that the following issues are the most common employee concerns in a cross section of all industries. These are not listed in any particular order of importance as people have different concerns when in different situations.
Higher salaries and compensation.Â Surprise! Few managers should be surprised by this concern.
Benefits programs.Â This is another very common - and understandable - concern of employees. To limit turnover and increase retention, management typically tries to offer the best benefit program they can afford. Should programs fall short of ideal, management should communicate their dedication to make benefits the best they can be.
Pay increase guidelines.Â This concern might initially surprise you. Compensation guidelines are normally in place for most larger companies, those with unionized workforces, and government agencies. However, most businesses are classified as smaller companies and it appears that this group often lacks this employee feature, generating confusion and concern from staff.
Favoritism.Â This important concern may be related to item number three. Most senior management would dispute this concern, but they may be forgetting one important item: perception. Your company may be diligent in prohibiting favoritism, yet the perception of this failing or the possibility of its existence remains a concern of employees.
Pay equity.Â While this concern may appear to relate to the above two issues, employee feedback indicates that it stems from a different source. Employees want to feel secure they are earning compensation equal to those who are in similar positions and have comparable experience.
The Human Resource Department.Â Most H.R. professionals are aware of this employee concern. Contemporary workers want and expect their H.R. departments to be fountains of knowledge about a myriad of issues (benefits, compensation, corporate plans and goals, legal and insurance issues, positions to be open in the future, etc.).
Excessive management.Â Sometimes called "over management" or "micro management," this concern relates to employees feeling that their every activity is separately managed and little judgment or freedom is permitted.
Inadequate communication.Â Has anyone heard this concern before? Employees have a need to believe they are "in the loop" by having as much information as possible on employer plans, goals, dreams, news, etc.
Over-work.Â Employees are often afraid that their efforts and high performance may only result in management asking them to do more for the same compensation. Extra efforts should be rewarded by additional compensation (if possible) and/or a sincere "Thank you" at a minimum. Concern addressed.
Workplace conditions and cleanliness.Â Management is sometimes caught off guard when advised that this concern consistently appears. But, upon reflection, it is perfectly logical. With more and more people committed to improved health and quality of life in general, it is not surprising that there is deep interest in their workplace physical conditions.
It is important to remember that these items are concerns, not necessarily complaints. Senior management in most companies regularly satisfies these and other employee concerns. This compilation of many statistics, however, does display the most common items of interest to the general workforce.
Asking your staff to advise you of their concerns gives management the opportunity to address issues of importance to their employees. Studies indicate that addressing employee concerns - regardless of the answers - is the most important activity. Management displays their sincerity, their own concern, and their respect for their workforce. Making an honest attempt to address employee concerns typically results in improved staff performance.
Dealing with Difficult Customers: Best Practices for Addressing Customer Complaints
Posted on May 19, 2008 byÂ Archives
We all know it is easy to get along with people you know, like, work well with, and have things in common with, but when it comes customers, sooner or later, we all encounter that difficult patron. That difficult customer could be any of the following: a complainer, picky, frustrated, irate, or just plain angry.
Circumstances that Lead to Complaints
We get our fair share of angry customers. For the majority of cases, there has been some type of error on the customer's side, such as ordering the wrong product or entering the wrong address; sometimes, it is our fault. At times, it seems impossible to please an angry customer; they expect us to do something that does not make sense for the company and goes against our policies. But to them it makes sense, because they are looking at it from an emotional perspective instead of from a business aspect.
If an error occurred on our part, we are always more than happy to help the customer and fix the error we made. When the customer is at fault, it can become a little more difficult. While we want to provide great service and help the customer, we have certain polices in place to ensure that the least amount of money is lost and that all processes are correctly documented.
Tactics for Dealing with Difficult Customers
What we have found in our customer service department is that the best way to approach the angry customer, is to treat the problem as an opportunity. Below are a few tactics we use when talking with our customers that may fall in to the category we are discussing.
EmpathyÂ - We try putting ourselves in the customer's shoes, so that we can get a better understanding of their perspective. By letting them explain their situation, even more than one time, they know you care, understand, and are listening to them.Â Which we are, but if the customer service representative is not genuine about it, the customer will know.
RespectÂ - Any customer service rep that has been in the field long enough will know that it is difficult to respect an angry customer who is yelling at you. Most of the time, the anger is not towards the rep directly, but they are upset about their situation and we are the person they get to take their frustration out on. Staying calm sends a message to the customer you have respect for them.
Know how to ApologizeÂ - Sometimes customers just want to hear and know that you are apologetic about their situation, even if it isn't your fault directly.Â Offering an apology regardless of what you can do about the situation will often alleviate some of the stress the customer is feeling.
Take ResponsibilityÂ - If the error is one made by the merchant; we always take full responsibility and assist the customer so that their problem is solved.
Having to talk and respond to angry customers can at times be stressful. When those customers are over demanding and unreasonable, it can be very hard to deliver great customer service. If you equip your customer service reps with the right tools necessary to handle the upset customers, they are more than likely going to arrive at positive solutions and the customer may return in the future because of the way the problem was handled.
I would love to write an entire article about how every customer interaction I have had has been great. In my head I picture every one of my customers throwing their arms around me and thanking me for the work I've done, the great staff I've hired and the products that have helped them win business. But that's not reality.
Reality is a two-way street when you have an unhappy customer. You either turn them around or turn them away. I want to discuss some techniques that work (when your customer is willing) and what a discouraged customer is looking for.
Being involved in the process of managing your customer's complaints can seem like an awful job, but the key is not to get bogged down in how angry they are or how loud they might be screaming. The fact that you have a customer willing to share this experience (no matter how negative) is a positive one. For every customer that rants and raves there are probably three to four others who do not and you can assume they have moved on. I know it sounds better in theory and harder to practice, but you need to see your customer concerns as a door that is open, rather than one that is shut.
You should view every piece of feedback as critical information. How are your parts being used by the customer? What can be done to improve the process? Customer complaints give you the opportunity to see how your company is falling short of customer expectations.
What do your customers want when they call in anger? You can break it down into three areas: I'm listening; I'm sorry; and what can I do to make things better? Customers who complain are indicating where you need improvement; seize the opportunity to improve. Adjust the systems that are deficient. Mistakes happen, learn from them and prevent the same errors or problems from recurring.
The biggest and easiest issue to correct is having open communication. Make sure the customer knows how to reach you in the event of an issue. Although it may feel that way, this is not the time to sit by yourself and figure out a solution. Work with the customer and understand fully what they need.
Once you have established the issues and concerns, work with your customer on a plan to address the problem, and provide a timetable for resolution. It is true that not all problems can be immediately rectified, but providing a timetable will help manage the customer's expectations. Once the problem is resolved, communicate the resolution, and thank the customer for bringing the issue to your attention.
The best-case scenario of resolving customer complaints is that it may even build customer loyalty. Everything was not perfect, and yet you made efforts to correct the issues that the customer brought to your attention. It is possible to turn customer complaints into assets. Customers that feel you responded will often become an advocate for your business.
But resolving complaints is not a "wait and see" process. Review changes in your process right now. Is there an area that results in customer confusion? All of your processes-from part creation to shipping to packaging-should be constantly evolving. Take a close look and consider how you can implement changes to prevent any mishaps or problems from occurring.
Many small businesses that understand the value of customer feedback solicit comments from customers-often offering incentives for polite, honest feedback. If you wish to be proactive, send follow-up e-mails to all customers who have queried your company. This is quality assurance and a great way to solicit customer feedback.
Nobody likes dealing with customer complaints. The hard, but important, part is turning the bad into beautiful.
Customer complaints. How do you handle them? In the seven years that have passed since inventRight was founded, we haven't received many. But the ones we have, we take very seriously. Some of them seem to come out of left field. Is it us? Is it them? Was he or she just having a bad day? It's hard to know, but at the end of the day, the answer doesn't really matter: a complaint is a complaint.Â
We recently received a complaint from a customer in the UK. He wasn't happy with our program. He didn't criticize the content, but was very unhappy with the packaging. That's something you just don't want to hear. If one person feels this way, it's likely other people do too. And unfortunately, a happy customer is likely to tell several friends about his positive experience. But an unhappy customer? He or she is likely to inform everyone!Â
We pride ourselves on our customer service and listen very closely to the criticism we receive. We responded as promptly as possibly, offering to return his payment in full (as our guarantee promises), assuring him that we took his evaluation seriously, and admitting that we agreed with some of his statements. But most importantly, we offered several other services for free. He needed to know that we still had his interests in mind. A good business does more than simply sell a product - it meets a customer's needs.Â
When a customer feels satisfied, a positive relationship has been established. He knows we're a business he can trust. Establishing trust is better for all parties involved; the customer feels as though he or she has been heard and our image is intact. As a small business owner, it is sometimes hard not to take criticisms and complaints personally. Don't let them offend you! Take customer complaints seriously and address them promptly, but then brush them off.Â
Dealing with Customer Complaints
by Ron Kurtus (revised 6 June 2007)
When a customer contacts your company to complain about a product or service received, it can be a blessing in disguise. For every person who complains, there can be hundreds who do not bother to complain but who also spread negative comments about your company.
In situations where customer complaints occur, the complaint must be dealt with immediately and the cause of the complaint rectified. Some companies are not concerned with quality and often ignore complaints or deal with them dishonestly. Seeking customer satisfaction benefits a company in the long run.
Questions you may have include:
How should a business deal with a customer complaint?
How do non-quality companies deal with complaints?
What are the benefits of satisfying complaints?
This lesson will answer those questions. There is aÂ mini-quizÂ near the end of the lesson.
Dealing with complaints
When the customer pays for a product or service, it is assumed that the product will work correctly or that the service received is as promised. Ideally, the customer will be satisfied, and there will be no complaints.
If there is a problem and the customer complains about it, your company should quickly answer the complaint and solve the customer's problem. This is often done through your company's customer service activity. But also, you need to follow up and improve your business processes to rectify the problem.
Solve the problem
You need to immediately answer the complaint and solve the problem. It may be to give money back, exchange a product or do some repair.
To make sure the customer is completely satisfied, some companies will provide some special service or a reduced price on another product. This is done to assure the customer will come back for more business. Many retail stores have a generous return policy to satisfy dissatisfied customers.
Unfortunately, there are dishonest customers who will make false claims to get some bonus. Some people will use a product or piece of clothing and then return it, saying they weren't satisfied.
High-end women's clothing stores often will have expensive gowns returned after some important event. The clothes have obviously been worn, but the customer says she is not satisfied or has changed her mind. Usually, the store will refund the money.
Since it is often difficult to tell if the complaint is valid or not, the company will follow the adage, "The customer is always right." But since some dishonest people repeat their crimes, a better adage is, "The customer is always right... once."
Price in customer service
When a company sells a product or a provides a service, part of the pricing should include the cost of servicing a certain percentage of defective products or complaints.
The second thing a company should do upon receiving a complaint is to seek to rectify the problem.
Although a company hopes not to get complaints, they often can be blessing in disguise. Sometimes problems can be caught and fixed before they cause serious negative feedback or even legal problems.
It is in the company's best interest to solve any problems and try to make sure that they don't happen again. It is foolish for a company not to use customer complaints to initiate a corrective action.
Not dealing with complaints
Businesses that don't bother about satisfying their customers usually get more customer complaints. Answering them can, of course, cost the company money. Some companies will try to mollify angry customers but many don't even bother.
Making money off complaints
One software company holds weekly staff meetings to build morale and allow for status reports from each department. One part of their meetings is the report on how many customer problems they rectified the past week. If the number increased, the group was given praise.
When asked why they praise increased problem calls, as opposed to working to fix those problems in the software or documentation, the owner said that they charge for each call, so it is a way to increase their income.
In other words, instead of making the customer completely satisfied with the product, they preferred some dissatisfaction, so they could fix the problem and make extra money from it.
This software package was a high-ticket, expensive application that was mainly sold to small companies. They also charged $50 for a user manual for the software.
Since the customers made a substantial investment in the software, they wanted to continue using it. But I wonder how much ill-will was created, even if the application usually performed well.
Complaints that fall on deaf ears
Have you ever experienced poor service or purchased a defective product and complained about it, only to have your complaints fall on deaf ears? Many companies that have plenty of business feel they don't need to bother with complainers.
These businesses become very independent, especially if they have a product or service in demand. Some continue to succeed, even though they ignore customer complaints, but many will pay the price of lost business and degraded reputation in the long run.
Apology mollifies customer
A company that responds and apologizes mollifies the complaining customer. But some of these companies never rectify the problem, like the hotel in the above story. The act of responding to the customer and apologizing is good business. Not fixing the problem is risky, though, and may backfire on the company.
Could be sued
The bug letter story originated some 30 years ago. In today's litigation crazed society, the hotel would have been sued for millions. Perhaps that is not so bad, if it is a case of ignoring problems. But if it was an honest mistake, such litigation can be destructive to the business as well as to society. We all pay more for things, because businesses must insure themselves against nuisance lawsuits.
Benefits of satisfying customer complaints
There are numerous benefits for a company to properly deal with customer complaints.
First of all, it will help to satisfy the customer, so you will get repeat business or referrals. In fact, in some cases, effectively dealing with a customer complaint can lead to a more loyal customer than others who may not complain or have problems.
Can rectify problems
Another benefit of dealing with complaints is that you can see weaknesses in your process or products that can be rectified. This will prevent possible future complaints or problems down the line. It is an effective form of customer feedback, although one you hope to eliminate.
Major concern about complaints
For every formal complaint you receive, there may be 10 other customers who were dissatisfied and who felt like complaining, but who never did. Instead, they change brands and tell their friends of the dissatisfaction. It is said that an unhappy customer will tell 13 people about his or her dissatisfaction1. That is not the type of word-of-mouth advertising you want.
The company goal should be to get no complaints at all.
Quickly and properly solving customer complaints can help your business grow and prosper. Ignoring complaints or dealing with them in a dishonest manner can result in loss of business or even lawsuits.