|How to Market your Company from Within|
Or: Saving Money by Getting Known
By John Locke
The cheapest and most effective marketing tool in your company walks into the building every day, your employees. But what happens, go into your local bar, go to a party, anywhere, where there is a gathering of people and I will guarantee you there will be someone slamming the company they work for. You will also notice something else, when one starts they all do. No one wants to be left out.
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What if you could change that? What if the people you employ say, “My Company is not like that, our management is superb. We will not use cheap materials, our equipment is second to none, our customer care can not be beaten. I would recommend our product to anyone.” The spin off from this is enormous. It is said that we all know 250 people well and network with them regularly. If this is so, can you imagine how many people your employees come into contact with directly and indirectly? These are all people who could be giving your company a good name and all for free.
What is the answer? More then anything else it takes commitment and in some cases a change in philosophy.
Let’s turn the tables. How many times do you hear company executives slamming the work force? Their lazy, do bad work, never turn up when the weather is bad. What is the difference between the people we employ running the company down, or employers running them down.
Respect runs both ways. Like you, they are buying a home. Like you they are raising a family. Like you they pay taxes. Like you they act responsibly. So what happens to them when they walk into your place of business? Why is it thought that they are such ogre’s? Why are they thought of as such wasters? Who was it that employed them, who is it that manages them? The executives and managers have to show leadership and accept responsibility that is why they are in those positions.
To break the impasse the company leadership has to do their job. People will only promote the company they work for if they themselves believe in that company. What you are looking for is employee loyalty and for those employees to recognize that what they say and do, reflects on themselves and the company.
The whole process is tied up with customer care. It has been know for years that the best advertising is word of mouth. It is known in retailing that something like 68% of customers when ask why they did not return to an establishment said bad customer care. Good customer care is what builds a good reputation. If you think that having excellent customer care does not matter you are on to a looser. The perception of your company by the public is a prime factor in your sales. How does it look when prospective customers arrive on your premises to meet staff and the waiting room is a mess, the Supervisor is arguing with an employee and two more are shouting obscenities at each other. Is that good for business? How does it sound if a prospective customer calls your office and gets short shrift on the telephone? You would be surprised how often it happens. Should we expect our employees not to act like this, or should we train them not to. There is a difference between being polite and customer care. The majority of employees at the bottom end have not got a clue about customer care. How do you expect them to if they are not trained?
There are a few things we are inclined to forget, often this is because of the pressures of our work environment, but we should work hard at looking beyond our personal pressures.
Just remember that after the customer the most important person is the employee who deals with the customer. Any employee, when an employee picks that phone up to speak to a caller. Any caller, no matter what the reason, he, or she, is representing that company. It’s not my department, is not good enough. It’s not my fault, is not good enough. If an employee is speaking to a member of the public, they are representing the company.
Building up a reputation for being a company that cares has to be worked at and be part of the normal working day. Customer recommendation and praise to friends are the cheapest way of selling ever discovered.
When an employee answers the phone they have no idea to whom they will be speaking, or to where that conversation will lead. It could be an executive of another company that wants to speak about a contract he wants to negotiate. He is not quite sure and wants to discuss a few points. Does it look good if he gets. Sorry, nothing to do with me. Down goes the phone. If you think it does not happen think again. I know of an engineer who works on the principle never give you name over the phone. If he is asked for his name he hangs up.
My point here is that if your staff can see that you are absolutely and totally committed to customer care and you have taken the time and trouble to train staff to the required level with regard to their position, it becomes part of their culture to think customer care, providing supervision is vigilant. If we think about it we all have tales of bad service, I can recall one from my days as a contractor.
I had given a considerable plumbing order to my local supplier. I had been guaranteed delivery after a certain time on a given day. It was a condition of the order. Guess what, it did not arrive. I had a call from my employee that he had contacted the supplier and they could not tell him when, or if, it would arrive. I telephoned the supplier. I happen to get through to the manager. I ask the manager why I have not received my delivery as promised. He tells me that it is not his fault. It is nothing to do with him it is the people out in the warehouse I should complain to them. I tell him to inform the company President I am on my way in and I want to see him.
When I arrive the three of us discuss what has happened. After we had gone through the whole saga the Manager says. “I am not responsible for Customer Care if you want to have a go at some one go to the ones who messed your order up” I turned to the President and said. “I think you have a training need” and walked off. My goods were there within half an hour, but that was not the point. How the Company President dealt with the situation I have no idea. I do know that when it was realized I had stopped ordering from them I had a call saying they were sorry to loose my business. Why was it that when it hit his order book that he saw fit to call me? This was not a small outfit. It was the biggest privately owned builder’s supplies company in the area.
As a leader, our biggest enemy can be ourselves. We sometimes allow ourselves to be disconnected from what is happing at the bottom. It is so easy under the daily pressure of running a business, to let others take care of the people at the bottom end. The result is you are out of touch.
There was a television program running in Britain called, Back to the Floor. They take top executives of major companies and put them back on the shop floor. Right at the bottom and let them work there for up to a week. The reaction of these people on the one hand is good entertainment, on the other, an eye opener for the executive. Most of them had not got a clue what they were asking people at the bottom to do, or the conditions they were expected to work under.
One executive on his return, at the first board meeting instigated that each director from then on would spend one week a year on the shop floor and would change departments each year. The most common problem was ineffective first level supervisors. Bad planning, not sticking to systems, or policies, bad communication between departments. Utter chaos in some cases and staff at the bottom jumping through hoops to ensure everything got done. The interesting thing was to see how the staff got there in the end regardless of management. The staff at the bottom earned a lot of respect from the executives.
One of programs was a family holiday camp. A massive company with holiday camps throughout the British Isles with thousands of visitors weekly through out the summer. The Executive was put into customer care. His started his week on a change over day. His job was to greet the new vacationers as they came in and find out who had been booked into the wrong cabins and sort them out. He was given a list of people who had been booked into the wrong cabin and where they were to go. His first question was why have they been given the wrong cabins? That’s the system he was told. There are a number of people who get booked in wrong and they have to be changed. He asked if the booking office had been told what was happening. The Supervisor going to a file cabinet pulled out a handful of letters. No one takes any notice.
The Executive then went out with one of the Customer Care Agents to sort things out. You have never seen such chaos in your life. The number of incorrect bookings were few, when you thought about the hundreds of cabins that were booked in this one establishment, but the confusion and waiting around for things to get sorted were horrendous. Some of these people had been traveling for hours on end. They were then expected to stand around until there cabin had been sorted out. The Executive was fuming that this should be happening. At the end of the first day they interviewed him and asked how he got on. He said he was extremely tired and had a lot more respect for his staff. He had made a note of a number of changes he was going to bring about.
He admitted he was out of touch.
A good example of the opposite is the old perennial, Southwest Airlines. What them again comes the cry. Yes them again. Readers may well be tired of hearing their praises being sung yet again, but the results speak for themselves.
They posted the thirtieth year of profitability in 2002. The only Air Line to do so.
About 81% unionized
10% of the company owned by employees
They were ranked number one for the eleventh consecutive year for fewest customer complaints by the Department of Transportation’s Consumer report.
One of their planes, Triple Crown One, is dedicated to the staff.
Can you honestly say that you provide the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within your organization that your staff are expected to share with your customers?
As top executives your biggest allies to help you promote your company from within, are your lower managers and supervisors. Why, because their actions have a knock on effect to the people who are most likely to come in contact with your customers. Your staff! They come in contact with lower management daily. If the supervisor / manager’s attitude is not right, then theirs will not be. If you have a bad supervisor, or manager over employees their attitude will reflect on their staff and be conveyed to the public. I would say that the selection and training of supervisors and managers is vital if you want staff loyalty. If they are not trained, if they are not adhering to company policy, you are wasting your time and money. They have got to know that the top will not tolerate anyone not complying with company philosophy, or vision.
Unfortunately we have a tendency to promote to these levels and not to train correctly. They are expected to know what they are doing with none, or very little training at all. Selection for these positions is as vital as the CEO’s.
Joe Blogs has been here thirty years, give him the job, is not where it is at. Harry smith is a superb craftsman he will make a good supervisor, is also wrong. Choose the man for the job not the job for the man. Select with care and train within the philosophy of the company.
First of all we have to accept the fact there is no different between us. Some may well be moving up the ladder to replace us. The employees who work at the lower levels are no different to anyone else. They have the same requirements for a happy stable life as anyone else. They view life the same as everyone else. We all like to be praised. The pat on the back makes us all feel better. Use praise and criticism like a bank account and always be in the black. Have you noticed? And we are all guilty of this. If we succeed it’s us. When we fail it is the system.
As human beings we are all susceptible to what goes on around us and to how we are treated. That total environment has an effect on how we think and perform as humans.
We adjust to our total environment, this is a fact we ignore at out peril. It’s a known fact that if you take a bad time keeper and move them into a department that has a good time keeping record. That person will improve. If you take a good time keeper and place them in a department of bad time keepers that persons time keeping record will deteriorate. As leaders we have to be aware of these factors.
A sure sign of a company with problems is the staff turnover rate. If you are turning staff over with regularity you have a problem. That is not a wild statement it is a guarantee. If you are saying ours is comparable to the rest of the industry you still have a problem. I would argue you do not want to be comparable to the rest of the industry you want to be better. There are hundreds of good company’s out there, but very few excellent ones.
As much as 30% of a company’s turnover can be for staff. If we were spending that much money on capital plant and having problems we would deal with the problem right away. Other indicators are bad time keeping and sickness record.
Let us get something clear. We are not talking about Mollycoddling. We are talking about tough minded respect for the individual and the willingness to train them and to set reasonable and clear expectations. You will not get anything out, unless you put something in.
Paying a decent rate for the job is only part of the answer.
Give your staff respect
Face problems as they occur, do not put things off
Talk to your staff, get to know them, show you are interested in their lives
Be involved with recognition for a job well done
Speak to you supervisors regularly in confidence
Do not expect staff at the bottom to know about customer care if they have not been trained.
Show staff there value to the company by pointing out to them where they fit and how what they do effects the company
Never run a staff member down to anyone. Inside or outside the company
Put on a social event. The number that turn up will indicate how they are fairing as a Team. Do this early so that later when you run another if the numbers attending increase you will be on the right track.
Carry out good interviews. Only choose the one who will suit your objectives.
Have a written orientation program
Have a fair discipline procedure
Provide clothes with a logo. Promote pride.
Keep rest areas clean. Have good facilities.
Promote competition between departments.
Give awards and make sure everyone knows.
Have a company news letter
Inform staff at every opportunities of how the company is doing. Tell the truth.
Insist that sub contractors coming onto your ground comply with your staff rules. The public can not differentiate between employees
Keep in mind: Management = Naked Power
Leadership = Getting results without using that power.
Sit quietly and think about how you approach your customers and your staff. You want something from both, money from the one and work from the other. If you give the customer concern, respect and a caring attitude to get their money and it works. Why not do the same with your employees?
You will need 100% commitment if you decide to change your philosophy. It is my experience that one of the biggest failings in management is to allow policies not to be followed through, in other words, to pay lip service.
Keep people informed and insist that your policies are adhered to.
Train, Train, Train and monitor the training, if you check out the top companies they all have two common denominators, a high number of training hours per employee and a low staff turnover.
If you have contented workers, who have good leadership they will promote your company because they feel part of it.
Here is the Spin Off.
Better time keeping, less sick days, higher productivity, better workmanship, low staff turnover.
Why do companies carry out good works for the locality? Why do they get involved with local organizations that give them a high profile? It may partly be philanthropic, but in the main they know that there is a return in good will and reputation. Your staff can do the same job, but more effectively.
A good reputation is a lot cheaper then paying for advertising.
|Copyright© by John Locke, An Englishman Abroad.|
This article maybe be reproduced without permission as long as full author credit and photo is included.