Most towns have at least one "flashpoint" business--a place that's famous for its turbo-charged workers and lines of eager customers. These are the local hot spots that are "always jumping," places in which employee motivation and customer satisfaction fuel each other in a flashpoint of contagious enthusiasm.
But flashpoint businesses don't just happen by lucky accident. They have to be made to happen. If there aren't many such businesses, it can only be because so few owners and managers understand the simple four-step process for creating a flashpoint culture in their own workplaces.
Not convinced such a process could be that simple? Not sure any such process could ever work in your own business setting? Here's a quick and easy way to find out.
Step 1: Invite your employees to come up with some ideas for improving the customer experience. For this process to work, the ideas for changes in behavior or procedure need to come from the workers themselves. The old way is to dictate in memos or training programs the kinds of behaviors management wants employees to adopt, and then try to legislate these new behaviors into the workplace--a way that's never worked. Employees will only get behind a change if it's one they believe in. And employees are always more likely to believe in a change if the idea for it comes from them, instead of their bosses.
Step 2: Choose one employee idea and help your employees implement it successfully. The objective here is to make the employees who came up with the idea look like heroes in your customers' eyes. If there are costs associated with the idea, helping with implementation will mean providing funding for it. (Think of this cost as an investment in positive word-of-mouth, the most effective form of advertising on the planet.) If the idea requires changing a policy or procedure, do everything possible to make the change. Eliminate all obstacles to successful implementation of the employees' initiative.
Step 3: Make it easy for customers to give positive feedback about the new initiative. It's always good business practice to find out and listen to what your customers have to say--but few businesses make it convenient and easy for customers to give feedback on a regular basis. To test this process, make a point of soliciting feedback that relates specifically to the idea your employees implemented. Use various methods to collect feedback, especially that most powerful method of all: simple face-to-face conversation with your customers themselves.
Step 4: Let your employees bask in the motivational effect of the positive feedback. This is where the magic begins. Let's say an employee came up with the idea of installing a bench so senior citizens would no longer have to stand while waiting in line. When delighted seniors begin to rave about the convenience of the bench, tell them, "This bench was actually Terry's idea. In fact, Terry, could you come over here for a moment? These folks would like to tell you something about your bench."
Then watch the effect this feedback has on Terry. You're seeing the first spark of the flashpoint effect: customer satisfaction driving up employee motivation, and employee motivation driving up customer satisfaction.
Once you've seen how well the process works, apply it again. And again. Keep the ball rolling by holding regular employee brainstorming sessions to come up with a rich supply of new ways to delight customers. Break a typical customer transaction down into its individual steps, and get employees thinking about ways to add a "wow factor" element in each step. You probably won't want to implement every idea, of course, but make sure enough are implemented to keep the positive customer feedback flowing in. And give your staffers opportunities to hear this feedback directly from their customers. Immediate, positive feedback from delighted customers is the primary motivational fuel all flashpoint businesses use to keep the fires of employee enthusiasm burning hot and bright.