Is Your Staff Too Fearful to Deliver Helpful Employee Criticism?

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employee criticism

Are your employees providing outstanding customer service, or do you just think they are?

A new study by VitalSmarts reveals that in both B2B and B2C companies, many employees fail to speak up when they witness other workers providing poor customer service.  The report estimates that each employee who doesn’t speak up about bad service costs the company an average of $54,511 per year.

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If you think this can’t be happening in your company, consider these stats from the study:

  • The typical employee observes 19 poor customer-service incidents per year.
  • Just 7 percent of employees say they always speak up when they see another employee providing poor customer service.
  • Even though 66 percent say they could help to solve the customer’s problem.
  • Seventy five percent of B2C customers and 42 percent of B2B customers say poor service negatively affects the amount of money they spend with a company by 50 percent or more.

OK, that’s the bad news.  What about the good news?

Company Culture: Critical for Helpful Employee Criticism

Companies can prevent and/or recoup those losses by developing a company culture where employees feel empowered to speak up when they see others providing poor service.

Convincing employees to step in when they see someone else behaving badly is easier said than done — but it can be done.  Here are some ways you can help to develop an empowered customer service culture at your business.

Start by explaining to your employees how failing to act hurts the business — and how that damage trickles down to them.  For example, ask them to consider how a loss of $54,000 a year multiplied by each employee would affect profits and wages.  Conversely, focus on the positive aspects of being able to boost the company’s sales simply by stepping and when you see poor service happening.

Don’t assume that all incidents of poor service stem from uncaring employees.  Often, employees simply don’t know how to provide good service or what resources they can use to help a customer.  Promote speaking up as a way not to criticize, but to educate others on staff and improve everyone’s skills.

Encourage employees to assume the best of their coworkers and, when they see poor service occurring, reach out to offer help if appropriate.  To avoid embarrassing others, the report recommends employees talk to each other face-to-face about problems they observe, and do so privately so as not to embarrass the worker.  (For example, an employee could call a coworker aside to quietly ask some questions while the customer is still being assisted.)

Employees can avoid making coworkers defensive by exploring the situation gently, using phrases such as “I’m not sure you meant this, but … ” Or “you might not be aware of this…”  Don’t make accusations or draw conclusions from what is observed; simply state the facts.  The goal is not to develop a “gotcha” environment, but to learn from each other’s mistakes.

Above all, the report states, every employee, no matter what his or her position, should be treated respectfully — and no employee should be above receiving helpful criticism.  If your employees take this approach, there’s much more likely to be a positive outcome and better service overall.

Not Listening Photo via Shutterstock

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

One Reaction
  1. Hi Rieva, great article and very interesting insight from the survey. Do you think that companies who have a strong learning culture would have an easier time getting people to speak up or would it even make a difference?


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