How To Empower Your Frontline Employees With Horst Schulze
Horst Schulze began his career in the service industry at just fourteen years old, waiting tables at a small hotel in Germany.
Many bellmen, white robes and room services later, Horst worked his way up to co-found one of the world’s most famous hotel companies, the Ritz-Carlton.
Talk about a humble success story.
In an exclusive presentation from the AskNicely Frontline Experience Summit, Horst reveals his key to success: his frontline employees.
Horst is adamant that the Ritz-Carlton would have failed without his motivated frontline team, and their commitment to the 20 basics of service.
Studies show that 80% of millennials are willing to pay more for the exact same product if they receive excellent service and attention.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Service-based companies, from glamorous hotels to pest control businesses, compete on customer experience, and customer experience relies almost solely on your frontline team.
So we know how essential your frontline team is in order to grow your business, but how do we empower our frontline employees? How do we build a team of people with a genuine desire to deliver above and beyond expectations?
Horst has some tips…
- Select don’t employ.
The first stage to frontline employee empowerment is to select the right people in the first place. Not people to do a job, but people that can join your collective vision.
“We didn't hire employees. We selected employees. We invited employees to join us in our vision.”
Horst’s vision was to build the finest hotel company in the world. In the hiring, orientation and and building of daily employee habits, Horst ensured this vision was ingrained. His employees were always working towards a bigger picture, a picture that benefitted them. If the hotels grew, so did they. If the hotels made more money, so did they.
Think about an employee you’ve managed or worked with that didn’t quite cut the mustard…
Who was the leader? Why did you hire them in the first place? Are there faults in your selection process? Your orientation process? Did the employee feel appreciated?
These are the questions Horst encourages a friend and fellow business owner to ask when he’s discussing letting an employee of his small business go.
Horst’s advice to his friend is confronting. He says “the fact that Joe is not a good employee is not his fault, it’s yours.”
Ouch. That’s some tough love advice. But as with most tough love, it hits hard on the truth.
The more energy you put into selecting, training, nurturing and inspiring your frontline employees, the better your customer experience will be. And the better your customer experience is, the more repeat business and referrals you’ll get.
- Establish Your 20 Basics of Service.
Within days of selecting employees, Horst teaches his frontline team the 20 basics of service. That is, a list of 20 service standards that sets the Ritz-Carlton experience apart.
"We want to be number one in the world." We said, "What are the 20 things we have to do in order to become number one in the world?"
Try applying this to your business -
What do you want to be?
And what are the 20 service standards you need in order to achieve your mission?
The 20 basics of service are not orders or directions, they’re aspirational objectives that your frontline employees work towards. Some examples for the Ritz-Carlton are:
- Adjust to each guest and be sensitive to their unique needs
- Make your guest's experience memorable and unique
- We assist each other, stepping out of our primary duties when necessary
Horst says it is management's job to establish these standards, and create processes, systems, measurements and controls to ensure these expectations are met. It’s then leadership’s job to foster an environment where employees are inspired to deliver on these expectations.
- Provide a sense of belonging and purpose.
Over two thousand years ago, our good friend Aristotle made a good point (unheard of, we know). He said people can not be fulfilled unless they have belonging and purpose.
Despite belonging being a fundamental human need, 40% of people say they feel isolated at work. Employees cannot, and will not provide excellent customer service if they don’t feel a sense of belonging. Why would they? What’s in it for them?
Belonging has a clear correlation to commitment and motivation in the workplace, which directly translates to employee retention, pride and motivation.
When companies place significant emphasis on belonging, like Horst Schulze did when building the Ritz-Carlton, they reap significant bottom-line benefits. A high sense of belonging is linked to:
Take these statistics and apply them to a company of 10,000 people, that’s an annual saving of more than $52M.
Horst’s advice when it comes to fostering belonging and purpose comes back to that shared vision. Ask yourself, is your vision good for all concerned? Is it good for investors, customers, employees and society at large? Engrain your vision into everything you and your frontline team do.
Another simple solution is checking in. An EY survey found that 39% of respondents feel the greatest sense of belonging when their colleges simply check in with them, both personally and professionally, revealing the power of communication and feedback.
- Teach the function and provide feedback.
The fourth step to empower frontline employees according to Horst is practice and feedback. This is about implementing the 20 basics of service and providing both positive reinforcement and constructive feedback.
It’s widely known that coaching and feedback are directly correlated to employee performance and morale. But finding the time, resources and money to regularly coach employees is a challenge for many businesses.
That’s where the AskNicely frontline feature comes in handy. Every employee gets a long-term coach. In a single glance, every worker can see their own customer experience score, ranking, shoutouts and areas to improve. All on their phone. Learn more here.
Customer feedback is one of the most valuable currencies to your business, you simply can not improve customer experience without it. Horst says “We orient the employee. We clearly let them know what our customers think” in order to successfully improve customer experience.
- Sustain thinking and knowledge.
So your employees are well selected, they’re well oriented on your 20 basics of service, they are working towards a collective vision, they feel a sense of belonging and purpose and they are receiving training and feedback.
Take a breath. You’re almost there.
But here comes the tricky part: sustaining this motivation. Long term employee empowerment requires a continuation of inspiration, training, feedback and knowledge.
As our AskNicely frontline customers know, one-off training doesn’t cut it.
Each day at the Ritz-Carlton, frontline employees focus on one basic service from their list. As the 20th day rolls around, they go back to service one. This practice is about identifying what makes your organization excellent, and repeating it. It’s about refreshing mindsets, providing new strategies and sustaining constant support and feedback.
The fact is, the Ritz-Carlton would not be where it is today without their highly motivated frontline employees. “If my employees were 5% better than yours, I would win” Horst says, and rightly so. A business with a highly motivated frontline team, is a business that will succeed.
Empowering your employees and providing them with meaningful feedback is not an easy task, but luckily, as with many 21st century problems, there’s an app for that…
Learn more about the AskNicely frontline coaching platform here.