When we think of employee engagement, motivation, and response to organizational direction, supervisors and managers need to think of the employee-customer connection. All too often, managers and supervisors can shoot themselves in the foot when trying to design work structures or organizational culture in an effort to increase employee discretionary effort. Instead of seeing themselves as facilitators of the customer/employee relationship, supervisors position themselves as middlemen and women, inadvertently sabotaging the profitability of a strong connection between the employee’s effort and the demands of the organization’s customers.
I have seen this first hand, both done well and done not so well, in both profit and non-profit organizations. The employee-customer connection can be vital to the success of small organizations. All too often the connection between customer demands and employee work gets filtered through supervisors. Working effectively, this filter can serve as starting block for the employee to take on direction, customer engagement, and increased discretionary effort. When this filter acts as an excuse to micro-manage, employee enthusiasm and effort can be stymied.
Rather than a linear customer-supervisor-employee relationship, try to generate a triangular relationship where all parties are able to have an equal voice on the customers’ needs.
As your organization looks to generate return customers and greater conversion, try some of these strategies to foster a greater employee-customer relationship:
Seek specific feedback for specific employees – let employees read/hear for themselves how their efforts contributed to the satisfied needs of customers.
Mentor and coach, do not micro-manage – Supervisors need to realize that yes, they have a respected and vital role to produce needed results, but it is more important that their subordinates know that they are producing results for the customer, not the manager.
Get employees involved – Employees want to contribute when they can see the impact their efforts have on customer satisfaction. Get employees involved in as many levels of organizational and strategic planning and implementation activities as possible.
Be a customer-employee role model – Practice what you preach as a supervisor. If you want your employees to have a positive and meaningful relationship with customers, model this relationship of positive customer engagement yourself.