Because frontline workers interact with the public, the quality of their interactions can either add to or detract from your company’s reputation. This makes bolstering their frontline skills important to protecting (and sometimes even enhancing) your operation.
Here are four ways to ensure that your employees provide a satisfying customer experience.
1. Practice active listening
Frontline employees can’t help your customer base if they don’t adequately understand the issue at hand. Active listening assists with this and involves not only hearing the words being said but also seeking to understand why they are being said. This requires removing personal judgments based on their own experiences and trying to see things from the other person’s point of view.
To help employees practice active listening, pair them up in training and ask one person to make up a fake problem they are having with your company. The “listener” should then respond with what they think the talker has said. This is called paraphrasing or parroting and allows the talker to clarify any misunderstandings, adding any additional explanation if they need to better make their point.
Other ways to help boost your employees’ active listening skills include:
- Reminding them to be fully present in the conversation, such as by limiting outside distractions like phones
- Teaching them to not interrupt the other person when they are speaking
- Encouraging them to ask questions if they don’t understand what is being said
- Helping them recognize how their own experiences may influence their understanding of others
2. Work on conflict resolution strategies
Working directly with customers often requires finding ways to resolve their concerns when they are less-than-happy. The better your employees are at conflict resolution, the greater their ability to handle customer issues with compassion and grace even if these same qualities are not returned.
Use meetings and training sessions to help employees improve their conflict resolution skills.
Important things to stress when resolving any type of negative situation include:
- Staying calm, even when the other person is not
- Expressing empathy for the customer’s feelings
- Not taking the customer’s unhappiness personally
- Not pointing blame
- Accepting responsibility when something was handled inappropriately
- Working to find a mutually rewarding compromise
- Thanking the customer for their understanding, and for allowing your company to “make things right”
3. Offer advanced equipment training
At a minimum, frontline employees are likely to use a computer when interacting with customers. Depending on their position, they may utilize other electronic devices or equipment as well.
While a basic understanding of this equipment is needed, the more an employee knows how to use these devices, the greater their ability to serve your customer base at a higher level. This type of knowledge also improves their ability to resolve customer issues with greater speed.
Whatever equipment your employees use when dealing with the public, make sure they know how to fully utilize its functions. This may require more advanced training, either in person or online, teaching them the ins and outs of the equipment as well as best use practices.
4. Conduct regular reviews
Have your managers sit down with frontline employees regularly to talk about the skills needed when interacting with customers directly. Ask the employees directly how they feel they do with these skills or if they’d like more training in a certain area.
One way to better ascertain their skill level in these key areas is to give the employee a questionnaire and ask them to rate their skills in specific areas on a scale of 1 to 5. A self-reported score of 3 or below is a sign that more training is needed in that area.
Another option is to have customers complete surveys after interacting with your employees. Ask them to share what they felt the employee did well and where the employee could improve. Paying attention to customer satisfaction levels can tell you a lot about the level of your employees’ frontline skills and identify where improvements can be made.
About the Author
Christina M. DeBusk creates small business content for a variety of publications, some of which include Businessing Magazine, Compendent, Chiropractic Economics, and more. She is also the author behind the column, "The Successful Solopreneur.
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