Customer Service Is an Inside Job

Customer service is a critical function in every organization. It is something that business owners count on their employees to consistently deliver. But how can employees deliver exceptional service if they're not feeling empowered, appreciated, and respected themselves?

We think about improving customer service through additional training or incentives, even though effective results often come from something much more human: how your employees feel about their jobs. Employee job satisfaction directly affects attitude, performance, and, ultimately, the experience customers have with your company. In short, happy employees make happy customers.

Unfortunately, job satisfaction and engagement are not as common as they should be. According to Forrester Research, only 31 percent of organizations recognize and reward employees across the company for improving the customer experience. If employees do not feel valued, what would motivate them to go above and beyond?

Get to the Root

Employees could be unhappy or disengaged for different reasons. Some are frustrated with company bureaucracy, lack of feedback, or feelings of exclusion. Getting to the root of employee dissatisfaction can help resolve long-standing problems throughout your organization.

The good news is that doing so doesn't have to be an expensive corporate endeavor. It can be as simple as asking staff how they feel about their jobs, their bosses, and the organization as a whole. Affecting change often doesn't take more than listening to what employees have to say and then putting their words into action.

Assess the Employee Landscape

Measuring employee satisfaction and engagement can be done in a number of ways. It's important to find the most effective approach for your staff. Here are some suggestions:

  • Employee Surveys: Surveys often yield more honest responses via anonymity. To encourage in-depth responses, use open-ended questions rather than rating questions only. The idea is to get to the reason behind the rating.
  • Personal Interviews: A one-on-one conversation allows for the most personal and responsive look at the employee experience. Questions like "If you were in charge, what would you do differently?" empower employees to share solutions. Hiring an outside consultant to perform these interviews might yield more honest responses.
  • Focus Groups: Craft focus groups that include one person from each department. Ask them all what's working and what's not. Encourage honest communication between departments to work out disconnects and help develop a more seamless experience for customers, while also helping employees understand how their actions affect other staff members.

Satisfied vs. Engaged

You might find that your employees are satisfied enough with their jobs and the organization to keep contributing at the current level. Satisfied employees are good, but engaged employees are better.

Being engaged means possessing an ownership mentality. Engagement manifests itself in commitment; in doing more than asked. Engaged employees are those most likely to deliver the stellar customer service for which most business owners can only hope.

Respond to Feedback

Getting employee feedback is critical to improving engagement. It's even more important to take action on the feedback. If you are asking employees to share their thoughts, you should be prepared to work on any areas of opportunity.

Your employees possess a tremendous amount of intelligence that goes beyond their jobs skills and knowledge. They know what works and what doesn't. They know what the kinks are and what customers are saying. Tap into their thoughts to improve employee experience. Doing so sets employees up for success right from the start.

Satisfied and engaged staff are empowered to provide excellent customer service that will establish your organization as one that puts both customers and employees first. If customer service doesn't happen inside, it's not going to happen with your customers outside.

Randi Busse is founder and president of Workforce Development Group, a training and coaching organization that specializes in improving the customer experience, increasing customer retention, and maximizing revenue. She is also the co-author of Turning Rants Into Raves: Turn Your Customers On Before They Turn On YOU! She can be reached at