Working at the world’s best airport has made me realize the importance of service excellence and providing a pleasantly surprising experience for the customers. As HR professionals, we serve internal customers too, don’t we? What are some lessons that we can learn from the service industry and apply to our internal customers – the employees?
When we talk about having a customer-first mentality, you will probably think of the tagline, “The customer is always right.” But is that really the case? Perhaps not. Having the customer as your top priority doesn’t mean that you have to give them everything they demand for. Instead, it is really about having their best interest in mind and always thinking about how you can deliver the greatest value to them.
For instance, you are aware that your organization is going through a massive project but one that will only last for the next few years. Your line manager wants to hire full time employees and insist on working through further deployment plans for this group after project ends. In the short term, it might seem to resolve the manpower issue. In the longer term, is hiring full time employees really the best for the organization? A short time solution could potentially lead to an issue of retrenchment later! Therefore, HR needs to take a firm stand at times to be a valuable partner and advise its internal customers on what’s best for them. Sometimes, a neutral party might in fact be in a better position to cover the blind spots of the line manager. Therefore, having a customer-first mentality is at times not easy because you need to upset the customer before they become enlightened on the good intent behind the tough decision.
Before the issues are brought up, start pre-empting possible problems that could arise from certain cues that you have obtained while working with the line managers or observed from the business environment. For example, if you foresee that you will need more engineers in the next few years due to an upcoming project, don’t wait till the time is up before panicking. Strategize on what you could do to ensure this manpower piece is covered. Perhaps think of how you could engage schools or the relevant communities to cultivate a strong relationship so that you have good sources to tap on when the need arises. You will then be ready to leverage on the advantage when the time is ripe.
Truth of the matter is, some things take time and cannot be achieved overnight. Think ahead and start building capabilities for the organization before you hit crunch time. By pre-empting the needs, you are ensuring that your customers’ needs are taken care of even before they realize such a need exists. They will be grateful that you were able to provide an early alert and in turn, gain the much-needed trust from there.
Deliver beyond expectation
To create a pleasantly surprising experience for your customers, you need to deliver beyond the basic expectation. It’s a tall order but the focus is really on the experience itself. One way to do it is by putting yourself in your customer’s shoes? Think about what your employees need, what they want and identify touchpoints where you can deliver a tad more to keep them positively surprised.
For instance, simple gestures like placing a “Thank You” card on every employee’s table during your company’s year-end dinner or anniversary is a simple way to appreciate their contributions to the organization. It doesn’t cost much, employees probably do not expect it but yet, it’s an effective way to create a feel-good factor. Such experiences will accumulate bit by bit and can create a lasting impression. It is important to note that sincerity is key to ensuring the acceptance and sustainability of such experience delivery.
It never hurts to put on a smile on your face whenever you interact with someone. Regardless of the time of the day, people you meet, the positive energy is contagious and will increase your likeability. What does likeability do then? Ever encountered a service crew so likeable that a big mistake could somewhat become a small one and in turn, be easily forgivable. Being likeable on one hand helps to provide an additional cushion when negative things happen and on the other hand, creates greater acceptance when introducing new initiatives which may be tough to sell.
How do you then further enhance your likeability besides always putting on a pleasant smile? One way is to show that you care. The sense of inclusion is something that human needs whether being part of a family, community or certain groups. They like being included and cared for. As such, if you are able to show that what you do has good intent and for the genuine good of the employee, whether it’s through good or bad times, people will be more willing to buy-in and stand by you.
It’s no rocket science to deliver a great experience. What matters is your intent and the approach you take that can be readily felt by the end-user themselves. Put on your employee hat, think about how you would like to be treated and what would provide you with the best experience. With that, your ability to create a great employee experience will be ready in no time!