Empowering your employees
Monique Richardson explains how you can empower your team across three different levels in order to deliver superior customer experiences. The ability of a business owner to empower employees is crucial for delivering an exceptional customer experience. Merely saying, “You are empowered,” is not enough. True empowerment involves equipping team members with the knowledge, authority, […]
Monique Richardson explains how you can empower your team across three different levels in order to deliver superior customer experiences.
The ability of a business owner to empower employees is crucial for delivering an exceptional customer experience. Merely saying, “You are empowered,” is not enough. True empowerment involves equipping team members with the knowledge, authority, and decision-making capabilities necessary to act in the best interests of both the customer and the organisation.
An empowered workforce offers numerous benefits, positively impacting team members and customers alike. When team members know they have a supportive leader who will stand behind them, it fosters a culture of creativity and innovation, encouraging the generation of new ideas and alternative approaches.
Empowerment is associated with several positive employee outcomes, such as job satisfaction, organisational commitment, improved productivity, and reduced turnover. It is also linked to enhanced team performance and morale. Importantly, empowerment significantly influences the customer experience, leading to faster responses, fewer escalations, and minimised customer frustration.
You can empower your team at three levels: knowledge, decision-making, and discretionary spend.
When team members possess the necessary knowledge, they are better equipped to assist customers effectively. Knowledge is a fundamental pillar of empowerment, emphasising the importance of comprehensive onboarding, ongoing training, and development. Teams need access to articles, quick guides, internal tools, and training on technology and systems. Knowledge empowers team members to provide excellent customer service.
Empowerment enables every employee to make prompt decisions during every customer interaction. Leaders perceived as more empowering are more likely to delegate authority, seek input from employees, and encourage autonomous decision-making. It is crucial for each team member to understand the decisions they can make independently and when to escalate matters to their leader.
Discretionary spend refers to the amount team members are authorised to spend before seeking approval from a leader. While this may vary across organisations and industries, it is a significant aspect of empowerment.
In the words of Stephen M.R. Covey, “People want to be trusted. It’s the most compelling form of human motivation.” An exemplary illustration of empowerment is demonstrated by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Renowned for its exceptional guest care, the company also prioritises taking care of its employees. At every level, Ritz-Carlton team members are empowered to spend up to $2,000 per guest per incident. Although they have access to this full amount (or more, with the general manager’s permission), it is rarely exhausted. By empowering their employees, Ritz-Carlton ensures that the team member closest to the customer can swiftly resolve any issues, resulting in a better guest experience. This empowerment eliminates the need for multiple layers of approval, saving time and costs. Ritz-Carlton encourages its team members to devise memorable ways to enhance the guest experience.
For a team to make decisions in the best interests of the customer, they must possess the courage to do so. This is a moment of courage versus consequences. When team members feel trusted and empowered, they can make decisions confidently. They will be reluctant to make such decisions if they fear reprisal, lack support from leadership, or worry about facing trouble. A team feels supported and empowered when mistakes are viewed as opportunities for learning and coaching, and when they know their leader will stand by them, regardless of the outcome. Empowering leadership involves mentoring and supporting employee development, ensuring that even when a team member makes a wrong decision, it is seen purely as a learning opportunity.
Trusting individuals is often regarded as the most effective way to foster trustworthiness. Leaders who empower their employees are more likely to earn the trust of their team members compared to those who do not prioritise empowerment. An outstanding illustration of such leadership can be found in Nordstrom, a renowned luxury US department store chain established in 1901. Nordstrom is widely acclaimed for its exceptional customer experience and legendary service, and it begins by placing trust in its team members right from the moment they are hired.
During the first day of orientation, Nordstrom provides team members with a 5½” x 7½” card titled ‘Nordstrom Employee Handbook,’ which prominently features a crucial line: “Use good judgment in all situations.” This concise six-word directive forms the cornerstone of the Nordstrom Way, embodying the company’s culture of empowering individuals and demonstrating trust in their capabilities. To address any potential uncertainty, the statement is immediately followed by the assurance, “Please feel free to ask your manager or Human Resources any questions at any time.” This rule simultaneously establishes a high level of trust in the team while offering leadership support whenever needed.
An empowered workforce driven by leaders who prioritise empowerment is the key to delivering exceptional customer experiences. By providing knowledge, decision-making authority, and trust, organisations can create a culture where teams feel supported and empowered to go above and beyond in serving their customers.
Monique Richardson (pictured above) is author of They Serve Like We Lead – How To Take Care Of Your People So They Take Care Of Your Customers and a service leadership and customer service expert. Monique is a highly sought after global speaker and trainer who is obsessed with transforming customer service cultures through a service leadership driven approach. Find out more at www.moniquerichardson.com.au.