People = business, people satisfaction = MORE business…

Come on; put your hands up if you would like more business.

I suspect the majority of you have your hands up right now and I also suspect you think the people I’m talking about means customers.

My question is why would you think people only relates to customers?

No, this is not a dumb question and yes it’s obvious that all businesses require customers to make money and every business with an intention to grow or succeed requires a steady flow of customers through their door.

From the work I’ve done helping many businesses grow and develop, I’ve found the majority of business owners spend most of their time thinking and planning about how to generate more sales, more cash flow and more profits but very few think and plan HOW they are going to improve their people relationships.

This is the very reason I invite you to stop for a moment to ponder what a good friend of mine thinks about business – ‘business is purely about people connecting with people’ and think about whether the focus for your business is about transactions and money OR about building stronger and more powerful relationships with the people connected to your business?

Typically the response to this question is business is ALL about profitability and cash flow. So I ask a simple second question – where would your profitability and cash flow be without people supporting you or buying from you?

You see the whole reason for being in a business is to provide goods and services which offer solutions to a customer’s problem. That’s right, we are problem solvers not (despite the views of many) sellers of products and services, managers or administrators. Yet in my experience many business owners and their staff often see the people they serve as interruptions to their work rather than as their best, but often least respected business assets.

The other thing I have noticed when discussing people with small business owners is the focus is nearly always put on customers. Seldom is consideration given to the many other people within the business environment – e.g. staff, suppliers, delivery drivers, neighbouring traders, strategic partners and any other people their business interacts with.

So let’s consider what’s most required by the three most important (in my opinion) people groups to any business and how you can build positive, mutually supportive relationships with them.

Customers

Yes it is an unequivocal truth that customers and the serving of them is the most important function of any business. It is customers who pay your wages; it is customers who are the reason you’re in business and most importantly it is through providing ongoing satisfaction to these customers you are able to guarantee your future success with some sense of predictability.

However, it is critical to remember the provision of customer service is not the sole purvey of your sales team. Every person in your business MUST understand, respect and act as a customer service agent at all times. Every task, function and role must first consider customer satisfaction and the systems for doing business second. Systems can be changed, adapted and/or improved – customers can’t.

So here are a few Customer Satisfaction tips:

  1.  smile, it shows friendliness
  2. make customers welcome, greet them by saying welcome instead of – ‘ you right?’
  3. treat them as if they are guests in your home
  4. ask how you can help them today
  5. create discussions about solving customer issues rather than sales pitches
  6. maintain your smile
  7. show and maintain your friendliness and eagerness to help solve problems
  8. watch your body language, make sure you stay open, attentive and friendly
  9. stay helpful in both attitude and action
  10. thank customers for visiting and invite them to come again

Many staff members, particularly those from non-sales functions often feel uncomfortable or self conscious when asked to display these behaviours ,either because they are not natural to the individual or because they fear the repercussions of getting ‘it wrong’ which is why we highly recommend taking time to work with those staff to allay their fears and to show them through using games, role plays and behaviour reinforcement/confidence building tools how to work with customers so friendly enthusiasm becomes their natural style rather than an awkward behaviour.

The benefits for creating the same sense of friendly enthusiasm throughout your whole staff network is imperative if you chose to have a great working environment; low staff turnover and many other tangible cost saving benefits like diminished absenteeism. I am constantly in awe of the businesses who master this aspect of relationships and often the satisfaction in the faces of customers who react positively to the attention and come back for more.

Staff

To me, one of the most disturbing although not really surprising findings from working as an employee and from many discussions with many small business owners over the years is how many share a misconception that the use of punishment as a driver rather than reward as an incentive benefits their business. Almost every animal trainer understands and supports the concept of using rewards to gain obedience and achievement in place of punishment. It is well proven that reward rather than punishment applies to humans also, so why then do so many bosses exploit, abuse, berate and use punishment tools with the expectation of creating improvement?

In 1982 Podasakov, Todor & Skov cited in their study ‘Effects of Leader Contingent ad Non-contingent Reward and Punishment Behaviours on Subordinate Performance and Satisfaction’  published in the Academy of Management Journal, Vol 25, No 4, pp 810-821 “Only performance contingent reward behaviour was found to affect subordinate performance significantly. Positive relationships were found between leader contingent reward behaviour and employee satisfaction.” 

Nearly everybody I know responds well to reward but best to acknowledgment, praise, encouragement and gratitude for what’s been done. The power of these ‘other rewards’ is clearly demonstrated in a great YouTube video by RSA animate entitled drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us. The video clearly shows the impact, or lack thereof, of using financial rewards as a sole motivator for staff. In the video we quickly see how monetary rewards only work at the lowest levels of mechanical tasks. When seeking greater levels of involvement in and/or commitment to the direction of a business, we see how MORE is achieved when business owners use trust, acknowledgement and provide staff with the freedom to express their unique abilities.

Suppliers, delivery drivers and contractors

Have you noticed how many people in these roles are treated as second class citizens? In one of my past roles, I was manger of a wholesale/distribution business where we had many suppliers and handled many deliveries (both in and out) on a daily basis. We got to see a wide variety of attitudes and interactions and guess what the most common ones were…

  • anger, frustration
  • abuse – verbal usually, but sometimes physical
  • blame and excuses

We spent some time analysing the triggers for these behaviours and quickly realized they all came down to two simple things…

  1. these people felt pressured to meet unrealistic demands
  2. these people felt under valued

So did we change it? Yes we did. First we brought all of our people together and through discussion and walking in each other’s shoes for a while, helped them see and understand the intrinsic importance of each role and realize how reliant they were upon each other. We next showed the many benefits and importance of working together and how cooperation saved everyone time, money and angst. Lastly, we showed we valued them by treating them with respect and showing our gratitude for what went well and encouragement to do better when things went off the rails.

I know some of you may consider this to be ‘airy-fairy’ but the results clearly showed something different.  Productivity went up by 38%, errors dropped by 47%, absenteeism dropped by 44% and customer satisfaction went up by 59% – all because our people started to value, support and acknowledge each other.

In conclusion I ask you to consider what motivates YOU to do well. Is it the fear of punishment, the promise of reward OR the satisfaction of being acknowledged by those important to you?

Now look at how you treat those around you and answer the question – are you getting the results you desire OR the results you deserve?

Article written by Anthony M Turner – Small Business Coach/Mentor, Speaker, Author and the founder of Transform Your Business.

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This Article was sourced from Transform Your Businessa specialist coaching, mentoring, consulting and skills training services for small and micro businesses

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