Customer experience

Coach for Small Improvements: The Seven Habits of Empowered Frontline Teams.

AskNicely Team

Throughout our time working with hundreds of experience brands and conducting interviews with the world's best, we’ve identified seven common habits that all successful, empowered frontline teams make a priority. The fifth habit is coaching for small improvements. 

“Without a coach, people will never reach their maximum capabilities” — Robert Nardelli, CEO, Home Depot. 


Think about what Robert is saying here for a second. Your frontline team will NEVER reach their full potential without coaching. Never. Imagine how much you’re missing out on! If your frontline team does not receive regular coaching, it’s fair to assume they’ll be working at between 60-80% (at best). When you turn your attention to this habit, you unlock the extra 20-40% of frontline capability, which massively impacts the empowerment of your team, the experiences they deliver and subsequently your bottom line. 

If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know that habit #2 of empowered frontline teams is doing one thing better, where the frontline are encouraged to focus on one service standard, or one practice at a time. Habit #5: coaching for small improvements, ensures employees aren’t left in the dark on meeting these standards, and that they receive the coaching, nurturing and feedback they need to help them reach their full potential. 

Unfortunately, across the industries, frontline teams are getting left in the dark. A study by McKinsey & Company found that frontline managers generally spend only 10 to 40 percent of their time actively supervising their employees. Of that time, managers are devoting as little as 4 to 10 percent of their time to coaching teams. That means a district manager in retail, for example, may spend as little as one hour a month developing people in the more junior but critical role of store manager.



The repercussions of coaching neglect are huge. The result is a working environment with stagnant growth, confusion, a lack of trust, little flexibility and an increased risk of low morale among both workers and their managers —all at high cost to companies.

When companies do focus on coaching, particularly for small improvements, everybody wins. Trust between managers and employees increases, morale is boosted, outputs increase, customer experiences are better delivered, and that 20-40% of capability is finally unlocked. All of these elements drive repeat business and referrals for your company. 

But don’t just take it from us. Here’s three companies who are thriving because of their focus on coaching for small improvements. 

The first is Shine, a large residential window cleaning and holiday lighting franchise. In measuring Net Promoter Score across their franchise locations, they noticed certain locations that significantly outperformed the average and, as a result, enjoyed higher rates of repeat purchase and referrals. Shine identified a small but impactful practice unique to the high-performing locations: they conducted a walk-around visual inspection with the homeowner after each service, which provided an opportunity to catch any issues and ensure expectations were met. This practice was rolled out to all locations and became part of the standard operating procedure for frontline coaching.

Then there’s DebitSuccess, one of the largest full-service direct debit management services in Australia and New Zealand. They managed to get their lowest performing frontline staff to match their best through coaching for small improvements. They used real-time customer feedback to coach their team on what was working, and what could be improved.  With this feedback loop, they've improved the results of their bottom-ranked agents by coaching for what they know drives great customer experiences, and validating awesome work when it happens.

Yet another example is Aptive Environmental, one of the fastest growing pest control companies in the world. The entire organization is fueled with real-time customer insights which the team uses as their main coaching mechanism. Feedback is filtered straight from the customer to the frontline, and as a result the frontline is supported on making small improvements to enhance customer experiences. Subsequently, there’s significantly less rework, an increased employee retention and an increase in the company's Net Promoter Score by a whopping 29 points in just 90 days.  

You may be thinking, well I’ve got hundreds, or even thousands of frontline staff. How on earth do I actually go about coaching all of them? It doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds. Leverage technology and customer feedback and use the tool that Shine, DebitSuccess and Aptive used — AskNicely! 

To uncover the remaining habits of empowered frontline teams, and for practical steps for implementing them into your business, check out the free Frontline Coaching Playbook here. 

AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

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