Employee Behavior: Training, Guiding, Coaching
This article was originally published in the June 2009 issue of Fixed Ops Magazine and is being redistributed with permission of the Publisher.
Customer satisfaction, or CSI as it is commonly referred to, is more than a score for most car dealerships. It’s really ameasure of how customers perceive the treatment they receive from the employees, and it forms the basis for whether or not they want return and do business again. Satisfaction is the customer’s perception and most people form their perception partly based upon their emotions. In other words, how “positive” people feel when visiting a dealership will most likely contribute to how satisfied they are with their experience.
Have you ever heard someone say something like, “that employee has a bad attitude!”? What most of us probably mean by a statement like that is the employee’s behavior is being interpreted as a lack of caring, concern, politeness, etc. Attitude is demonstrated by actions and actions equal behavior. And employees’ behavior can have the biggest impact on customers’ emotions. “Process is what we do; behavior is how we do it!” What customers remember, consciously or unconsciously, is how the employee looks, sounds and makes them feel—all linked to employee behavior. Let’s look at three common behavior areas that can have a positive impact on customer emotions.
1. Welcome and Common Courtesy
Making customers feel comfortable starts with the simple things we do to welcome people into our home:
- Prompt greeting and / or acknowledgement
- Sincere welcome and asking “how can I help you?”
- Standing if seated
- Extending a handshake
- Opening doors
- Walking beside people, not in front of them
2. Positive Body Language and Tone
Positive body language or other nonverbal things send strong messages that impact customers’ emotions:
- Smiling and having a relaxed facial expression
- Standing tall—no slumping, slouching or leaning against anything
- Eye contact
- Appropriate voice tone and inflection
- Setting a comfortable pace—not rushing
- Minimize interruptions and multitasking
3. Customer Awareness
Setting the stage for positive emotion starts with being aware of customers’ presence at all times:
- Look up when customers approach or pass by
- Make eye contact and say hello to passing customers
- Use the 10 foot rule; own all customers who you come within 10 feet of you
- Offer to assist customers who look lost or are juggling personal items
• Communicate a genuine sense of caring to customers
- Treat other employees like “internal” customers, creating a positive work environment for all
“Do as I say—not as I do” does not apply here. Employees are always looking to managers for leadership and leading by example speaks louder than any words. It’s up to the managers of a dealership to set the standard for positive behavior. This simply means leading by example. Managers should always demonstrate the behavior that they want the employees to emulate.
This also means demonstrating good behavior with employees and co-workers. Sometimes it appears that two standards exist—one for customers and one for employees. Positive behavior that makes employees feel good about being at work is important too.
Begin with the End in Mind
In the best seller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Convey explains that “Begin with the End in Mind” is based upon the principal that all things are created twice—the mental or first creation, followed by the physical or second creation*. This begs the question, what mental picture can be created in the minds of the employees so that they can demonstrate good behavior for customers?
Creating a mental picture for employees may mean getting them to think about what makes customers feel good. How positive the customer feels is communicated back to the employee through their behavior. The second way to get employees to create a mental picture is to get them to relate to their own life’s experiences—thinking about what makes them feel good when they are a customer. Getting the employees focused on behavior will require an awareness that improvement is needed. This is best done through group discussions or “mini” work sessions. Consider conducting a series of cross-functional meetings that focus solely on “customer-focused behavior”.
Create a Positive Work Environment
The statement ESI (Employee Satisfaction Index) = CSI is not a myth. Employees who are satisfied with their place of employment are much more likely to take care of customers. It fact it has been proven that “engaged” employees have a direct correlation to customer satisfaction and profitability!** Getting the employees involved helps to create a positive work environment. People always work harder when they are part of the solution.
Use the cross-functional meetings (mentioned above) to generate enthusiasm and task the employees with the creation of a list of behaviors that everyone should work on. Another way managers can create a positive work environment is to provide positive, one-on-one feedback to employees, referred to as coaching. Coaching employees satisfies the human need for recognition. It also helps employees to improve when combined with feedback that redirects inappropriate behavior. Effective coaching takes place immediately following an employee-to-customer interaction. This means making time for observing daily and providing feedback to the employees.
Once a list of behaviors is identified, the employees are working to demonstrate the behaviors and the managers are coaching to provide feedback, it makes sense to periodically check to see if any progress has been made. A simple rating of the identified behaviors can offer an employee’s perspective as to the ones that they see and feel around them. This rating can be made more effective if conducted in a group setting, allowing time for discussions about which behaviors still need work.
In addition, tracking ESI can send the message to employees that managers care about them. Again, a simple survey can be created and administered that will rate the employees feeling about their work environment. Once a benchmark is established through the first survey, progress can be measured periodically (usually annually) to see if progress is being made. Some of the questions should provide ratings of the managers coaching efforts and the effectiveness of demonstrating good behavior toward customers.
The following ten action steps are provided as a “quick start” method to work on improving employee behavior and improving CSI:
- Observe employees’ behavior over a two-week period. Encourage all the dealership managers to do the same. Meet to discuss observations and determine if improving employee behavior would help to improve CSI and create a more positive work environment.
- Conduct cross-functional work sessions to create an awareness of the need to improve behavior. Make a case by sharing observations and customer comments from surveys. Include positive comments too! Solicit input from the employees and generate enthusiasm for working together.
- Ask the employees (during the work session) to generate a list of “behaviors” that demonstrate good customer handling skills, such as smiling, prompt greeting, standing when customers approach, saying hello and making eye contact to all customers around you, etc.
- Demonstrate the behaviors as managers and keep each other focused on setting a good example.
- Spend time observing employees and recognizing when good customer behaviors are demonstrated.
- Create and administer an ESI survey, establishing a benchmark for employee satisfaction. Share the results with employees.
- Meet weekly as managers to discuss employee coaching. Help each other make coaching a part of the daily management routine.
- Conduct daily “jump-start” or “lineup meetings”. These are short (10 minute) work group or department meetings held at the start of everyday to keep employees focused on behavior. Select one behavior to talk about daily. Also consider asking various employees to conduct the meetings.
- Meet with employees periodically to rate progress. Ask each employee to rate the demonstration of each identified behavior on a scale of 1-5. Use the results to refocus everyone on the importance of demonstrating the behaviors.
- Get help! Ask for assistance from your manufacturer’s representative, or find a training or consulting professional to help conduct the employee sessions. Help from an objective professional will make your efforts more effective.
*Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, (New York, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1999 by Stephen Covey)
**Buckingham, Marcus and Curt Coffman, First, Break All the Rules (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1999 by The Gallup Organization)