In today’s competitive business world, providing exceptional customer service is a crucial part of any company’s success. While having knowledgeable managers and customer service representatives is important, it’s equally important to give your employees the flexibility to make decisions that benefit the customer. Empowering employees to take care of customers eliminates the phrase “I have to check with the manager” and enables the company to provide a more personalized and positive customer experience.
Recently, I experienced a delayed Southwest Airlines flight, which caused me to miss an important meeting. I called Southwest to inquire about changing my flight, expecting to face long hold times and multiple agents to get a resolution. Afterall, how many times have you contacted a company’s customer service line only to have to explain your problem multiple times to multiple employees before you get to the person who can actually help you? However, to my surprise, not only did I immediately get to an actual person, the agent on the other end of the line immediately offered me a $100 credit without even asking. I was stunned and immediately felt like I was being taken care of.
What stood out to me about this interaction was the agent’s obvious empowerment to make decisions that benefit the customer. She didn’t need approval from a manager, nor did she have to check with anyone else for permission. She was able to offer me a solution on the spot and demonstrate a clear understanding of Southwest’s customer-focused values.
This experience made a significant impact on me and my perception of Southwest as a company. It was clear to me that Southwest values its customers, and that its employees are empowered to make decisions that benefit them. As a result, I would not hesitate to fly with Southwest again, knowing that they prioritize my satisfaction and that their employees are empowered to make decisions that benefit the customer.
Empowering employees to take care of customers can benefit a company in various ways. It helps to build trust and loyalty with customers, and it can lead to increased revenue as happy customers are more likely to return and recommend the business to others. Additionally, it can boost employee morale and engagement, as they feel trusted and valued by their company. When employees feel like they have a say in how they interact with customers and can make decisions that benefit them, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged in their work. This can lead to increased productivity and better overall performance.
Here are three things you can start doing today to empower your front-line employees (and what I believe Southwest is likely doing that allowed for my experience above to play out).
1. Eliminate the phrase “I have to check with the manager.” Allow your employees the ability to make decisions without having to involve a manager. Empowering employees to make decisions without having to involve a manager can not only improve the quality of customer service but also lead to more efficient problem-solving. Granting your employees the necessary authority to make decisions demonstrates trust in their abilities and allows them to take ownership of the customer’s problem. When employees feel trusted, they’re more confident in their abilities, which can lead to better customer satisfaction and employee morale.
2. Don’t script your employees. A great customer service representative will show empathy and seek to understand the person standing in front of them or on the other end of the phone line rather than the black-and-white facts of a situation. Companies fail when they dictate that if “X” goes wrong then the employee should provide “Y” as a solution. A prescriptive chart or script can almost never take into account what a customer is dealing with on a personal level. You want your team members to be able to read their customers and make decisions based on what they hear and see.
3. Let go of your own fear as an owner/manager. Let go of your fear that allowing your frontline staff to take care of the customer without your permission will represent a major expense. Yes, there may be an occasional scenario when someone requires financial compensation. However, this type of situation is very much the exception and not the rule, and it ultimately boils down to a minor expense in return for a huge pay-off of satisfying your customer to the point they still want to return. The alternative—a customer feeling unheard and taking their voice to a social review—can cost you a lot more than the compensation itself.
If you want to provide great customer service, empowering your employees to take care of the customer is crucial. It eliminates the need for endless red tape and ensures that customers feel taken care of and valued. Companies like Southwest Airlines show the direct correlation between employee empowerment and customer experience. By prioritizing customer satisfaction and empowering employees to make decisions that benefit them, companies can build lasting relationships and improve their bottom line and create a positive work environment for their employees.