It constantly surprises me how many businesses disregard the importance of front line staff. Every business, regardless of its size or industry, rests on the performance of these employees.. Frontline staff are the personnel who interface directly with customers, whether over the counter, through telephone calls, or online. Their performance is the first impression a client or prospect forms about your organisation, which could ultimately determine your customer base and overall business success.
A small business owner friend recently related a story to me about a new staff member who had complained about answering the business telephone as he deemed the ‘job’ beneath his skill set. The concern stemmed from a long held belief that only ‘bottom feeders’ answer phone calls in the company. I explained to my friend that the person who answers the phone and deals directly with the customer over the counter, in the shop or online has one of the most important positions in any business. The first experience with a customer can mean keeping or losing a customer.
Despite this very few businesses invest in customer service training as they do not see it as essential.
Training in Customer Service: A Must-Have Investment
Imagine calling a business for an inquiry or complaint and being met with an unhelpful or dismissive reception. Undoubtedly, your perception of the company would be tarnished. The same applies when you walk into a store, and the staff seems uninterested or lacks the basic manners expected in a customer service setting.
Investing in comprehensive customer service training for your frontline staff is therefore non-negotiable. It ensures that each interaction with a customer – be it over the phone, email, or in-person – is handled professionally and empathetically, leading to customer satisfaction, loyalty, and word-of-mouth marketing.
With training, not only do you set the standard for each interaction, you create a positive impression about future dealings with your customers.
Knowledge is Power: The Importance of Product Training
Frontline staff are often called upon to answer customer queries regarding products or services. Without proper product knowledge training, these queries can turn into missed sales opportunities or, worse, dissatisfied customers.
Training your staff to be well-versed in the ins and outs of your product offerings not only equips them to offer superior service but also positions them as trusted advisors in the eyes of customers. This fosters a level of trust and confidence that enhances customer relationships and can foster sales.
Telephone Manner: The Voice of Your Business
Frontline staff often serve as the literal voice of your business. Therefore, training in proper phone etiquette is crucial. Staff must learn to communicate effectively, patiently and professionally, considering tone, pace, clarity, and even silences. Their manner over the phone can set the tone of the customer interaction and often determine the outcome of the call. A positive phone manner can turn a complaint call into a satisfied customer, whereas a poor phone manner can alienate even the most loyal customer.
The Paradox of Frontline Staff
Despite the crucial role of frontline staff, they’re often not considered the most important in a business. This can be attributed to the traditional hierarchy where higher-ranking positions are perceived as more valuable.
However, a business that undervalues its frontline staff risks neglecting a vital pillar of its customer experience and thus its overall success.
I recently enjoyed a three night stay at the Crowne Plaza in Hobart and was delightfully surprised at the quality of their customer service. At each point of my stay from the valet service (which was free as part of my package) to check in and room service ordering was impeccable. Each day I was greeted by smiling wait or counter staff regardless of whether or not I had direct dealings with them. The service I received is the main reason (aside from the super comfy beds) that will see me become a returning customer in the future.
Every role in a business carries its unique weight and importance. From the executive making strategic decisions to the frontline staff creating a powerful customer experience, every position matters. The most successful businesses understand this and invest heavily in developing their frontline staff.
A business that prioritises the training and development of its frontline staff reaps the rewards in enhanced customer satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately, profitability. These people, after all, are the face, voice, and first impression of your organisation. Their interactions with customers can make or break your brand’s image, making them an indispensable asset to your business.
Cheryl Jowitt is co-founder of Rebel Connect PL, a family owned and operated Australian business that provides total marketing solutions. Rebel Connect clients have access to advertising across the company’s radio networks, Rebel FM & the Breeze and Rebel Agency, a digital marketing solutions company providing website development, SEM and social media marketing strategies.