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Is Your Staff Too Fearful to Deliver Helpful Employee Criticism?

Employee Criticism employer

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.

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

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 [2] Photo via Shutterstock