Other half of equation: Be fair to employees as well as to customers


October 28, 1991|By Gerald Graham | Gerald Graham,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

"If we don't provide outstanding customer service," an employee said, "investors lose money, managers lose their positions and employees lose their jobs."

Everyone, it seems -- investors, owners, managers, supervisors and employees -- understands the importance of customer service.

But some may have forgotten author and consultant Tom Peters' second half of the equation for success: Remain close to employees.

Some managers appear to try to deliver customer satisfaction almost totally on the backs of employees.

* Customer gods. Employees in an organization complained that all they ever heard about was how they should make sacrifices for the good of the customer.

"We know we must provide exceptional service," one explained, "but you would think that management would show us a little appreciation as well."

* Unrealistic scheduling. Flexible scheduling and overtime are two ways that managers can use employees to efficiently serve customers. But these tactics have their limits.

A service organization delayed the announcement of their weekend work schedule until Thursdays so they could better predict peak weekend demand.

Further, when weekend peaks did not materialize, managers would send employees home in the middle of the day. Both morale and performance plummeted.

* Unrealistic expectations. High expectations usually result in better performances.

In recent years, a few managers, after seeing positive results from higher demands, continue to make even higher demands. However, after several months of unrealistically high expectations, stress and frustration lower the quality of service.

* Unnecessary wage resistance. In a few organizations, where profits are increasing faster than industry averages, managers are still holding the line on wage increases. They make the case to employees by communicating the message, "Customers are tTC demanding that we hold the line on our pricing."

When reasonably applied, all of the above practices will likely be accepted. However, when management yields to the temptation improving customer service at the expense of fair treatment to employees, the success is likely to be short-lived.

Gerald Graham is a professor at Wichita State University and a management consultant. Send questions to The Wichita Eagle, Box 820, Wichita, Kan. 67201.

Check your employee relations

Respond to the following by using the scale: 4 equals strongly agree, 3 equals agree, 2 equals disagree, 1 equals strongly disagree.

In our attempts to provide exceptional customer service, we have:

* Encouraged more employee involvement in decision making.

* Staffed to deliver excellent service, even during peak periods.

* Increased our appreciation of our employees.

* Provided outstanding support to employees.

* Rewarded employees fairly.

* Communicated more effectively with employees.

* Generously allowed employees to receive benefits of our success.

* Made employees more of a partner in our efforts.

* Increased employee training.

* Earned more loyalty from our employees.

A score of 30 points or less suggests that you may be overlooking the role of your employees in your efforts to serve your customers.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.