2008 Summer Volume 8 No. 1

High-Speed Service

Motivating Your Service Staff Makes Happier Customers

by Steve Washburn and Carol Sinks-Farmer

Providing good service to your customer really starts with a motivated staff. So, when you begin to think about service, doesn't it make sense to think about creating an environment in which your people can thrive and excel? It’s one of the hallmarks of a good manager and a precursor to the success of any business.

Creating a nurturing and productive environment in your business requires a mixture of common sense and an understanding of people. We all like to be challenged, to receive compliments, and to be rewarded for good work. Easy, right? Well, yes and no. People are different, and your job as a manager is to pay attention in order to find just the right stimulus to get your people moving in the right direction.

Meet Their Needs

There are some basic considerations to undertake in the motivation of people. One well-known theory is Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, often illustrated as a five-tiered pyramid of human aspiration. Maslow suggests that humans cannot progress in life until their needs are met. These needs begin with the basic physiological needs (food and shelter), move through safety needs (family, health, and job security), and social needs (friendship, love, family), to esteem needs (self-respect and respect from others), all the way to self-actualization (morality, creativity, acceptance of self and others). If you look around, you can probably recognize various stages of development in the people within your organization.

Put simply: different things motivate different people. For some, it’s paying the rent every month (physiological). Others are looking for health insurance (safety). Some want to organize a company picnic (social). Another might be seeking elevation to the management level (esteem). A few really believe they are providing a necessary service to humanity (self-actualization).

Satisfiers and Dissatisfiers

So how do you find the right environmental mix to inspire such a diverse group? To begin with, understand what motivates and demotivates them in general. Noted business management psychologist Frederick Herzberg famously identified two factors that influence people in the workplace. He called them Motivator Factors (Satisfiers) and Hygiene Factors (Dissatisfiers).

Satisfiers are achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, promotion, and growth. Dissatisfiers include pay and benefits, company policy and administration, physical environment, relationships with coworkers, physical environment, supervision, status, and job security. Look at how important meaningful work and recognition is in satisfaction. Notice how often relationships factor into dissatisfaction.

A motivated staff returns untold benefits to your company. There are a few simple things you can do to give them what they need to achieve success for themselves and for the company. In “10 Minute Guide to Motivating People” Kathy Stevenson discusses ways to achieve satisfaction and maximize productivity within your staff. She defines motivation as an incentive, an inducement, or a stimulus for action, anything—verbal, physical, or psychological—that causes somebody to do something in response.

Stevenson suggests starting by designing a motivating work environment. She recommends you look at color, lighting, music, ergonomics, and technology. Creating a workplace designed to make your people comfortable will make them more positive. Giving them the tools they need to keep pace with technology will make them more productive. (See inset for technology tips that will improve communication and work speed for your staff.)

Technology that Improves Productivity

  1. Automatic response mail to customers who complete information forms at your Website
  2. Call forwarding to cell phones when out of the office
  3. GPS devices or MapQuest printouts for deliveries or first-time visits to customers
  4. Cell phones for drivers loaded with all customer and company numbers
  5. Outlook scheduling of customer meetings and appointments with automatic reminder notices

It Just Takes a Minute!

Finally, for a high-speed approach to motivating your people, check out Kenneth Blanchard’s “The One Minute Manager” which describes three simple secrets to managing people.

One-minute goal-setting

Set goals for your people. To make it clear what you are asking them to do, ask them to write down their most important goal on a single sheet of paper.

One-minute praising

Instead of only reprimanding people for doing something wrong, look for ways to do the opposite: praise them when they do something right. Use these three steps:

  1. Praise them immediately. Let them know right away when they do something right. If you can't find someone to praise everyday, you should wonder why.
  2. Be specific. Be clear about what was done well.
  3. Share feelings. Tell them how you feel, not what you think about what they did.

This small habit of instant and regular praising is key to improved performance and increased productivity.

One-minute reprimanding

The third secret of the One-Minute Manager is that she or he has the ability to change the attitude of the poor performer. There are four aspects to this:

  1. Immediacy—When a reprimand is necessary, do it as quickly as possible after the poor performance that led to it.
  2. Specificity—Admonish the action, not the person. Don't tell people how you feel about it; tell them what they did wrong.
  3. Sharing feelings.—When you’ve established what was done wrong, share your feelings.
  4. Reiteration of the positive—At the end, reiterate how good you know they are. If you finish with negative feedback, they will reflect on your style of behavior, not on their own performance.

Your staff is your most valuable asset. Treat them as such and your business will be rewarded tenfold. Simple.

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