Opinion: I Guarantee You Don’t Listen to Your People Enough
Happy customers = happy business, right? Not quite. What’s missing in this equation are happy frontline employees. You’ve probably heard the saying “the customer is always right”. And yes, while customers' needs should be a priority, they simply cannot be met if you don’t listen to employees first. Yet, across the board, businesses aren’t listening to their employees enough, and the repercussions are scary to say the least. Almost 80% of workers leave their jobs because they feel undervalued and only 34% of employees feel engaged in the workplace. But times they are a-changin: you need to listen up, with a closer ear, if you want to keep your employees around and your customers coming back for more.
Employees Are Heading for the Door
In 2021 alone, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that over 47 million workers had resigned from their jobs. Imagine going to work every day in a thankless, overbearing job, where your needs are ignored. It’s the case for many frontline employees across the globe. So, what do you do? For many, they simply walk away. The lack of listening (and acting) on employee needs has created a mass exodus of talent, resulting in higher costs and lower productivity as businesses become understaffed and overworked. The Great Resignation is a global phenomenon that describes exactly this.
What Happens When We Listen
Employee turnover is avoidable. Awesome customer experiences are possible. And it all starts with a listening ear. When we actually listen to employees, foster environments where folks are encouraged to speak up, and act on feedback we get from frontline employees, we can build a loyal, energetic and motivated frontline workforce who deliver exceptional service to customers.
Here’s what happens when we take a moment to listen:
You Learn More
Creating a successful business is all about innovation. It involves not only thinking outside the box but turning it inside-out. The best insights about your customers can come directly from employees on the frontline. Frontline employees talk to customers daily, and arguably know the customer best.
This is best said by David Reiss, founder and CEO of the Mastery Group. He says:
“While you’re standing in the corner office trying to spot problems from 50,000 feet, they’re seeing them up close. If you can activate your team and turn them into your eyes and ears, you’ll learn more about your business than you ever dreamed possible” — D.R
Employee Satisfaction = Customer Satisfaction
The first step to increased customer satisfaction is improving the employee experience. Interactions with employees set the tone for whether a customer has a good or bad experience with your business. The statistics support this too; as businesses that have strong frontline satisfaction programs in place experience a 73% improvement in customer satisfaction.
However, satisfied employees are employees who feel heard, and research from UKG suggests otherwise. Their study found that 86% of employees, or four in five, feel colleagues at their organization are not heard fairly or equally – with 47% of teams claiming underrepresented voices are totally undervalued by their leaders.
An employee that feels ignored and undervalued will undoubtedly deliver a worse customer experience than an employee who feels heard, valued, seen and appreciated.
Less Conflict and More Resolutions
The higher the employee satisfaction, the fewer conflicts they'd have in the workplace. High levels of conflict stall productivity, create hostile environments and turn away customers and employees. Conflict often arises when employees feel they have to fight to be seen and heard. Imagine going to a workplace and being ignored and undervalued? All that pent-up aggression is bound to boil over and explode into a disastrous mix of employer-employee conflicts, high absenteeism and low employee performance. In any type of conflict situation, all parties involved will suffer: customers, employees and your business as a whole.
How to Listen Up
Listening is easier said than done. So, how do you go about making your employees feel valued and listened to? Spoiler alert: it takes more than a one-off survey or focus group.
In an age characterized by technology and social distancing, we’re beginning to realize the importance of human centered empathy. Part of what makes us human is our ability to connect on an emotional level, which is something even the most sophisticated AI cannot replace. At its core, listening to your employees is about sitting down with them over a coffee and having an open, honest and authentic conversation about their experience, and what could be done to improve it.
Make Feedback Accessible
Even though software and AI can’t replace human interaction, it can be used to aid it. An employee feedback tool can help you stay connected with your frontline, whether in-office or remote. Not only can you keep up-to-date on an employee’s progress and status, but a good employee feedback tool can “unmute the frontline” so that any employee can suggest ideas to improve the experience.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
At some point in our lives, we’ve all been given a false promise. Maybe it was by a high school sweetheart, a boss or a parent. False promises sting – and while listening is half the battle, acting on feedback is just as important. When employees see their voices are being heard, they are more likely to stay with your business longer and work harder for a brand they believe in.
Listen Beyond Words
Listening is more about hearing words spoken, it’s about staying attentive to body language, actions and other forms of communication. As Christine Riordan, a leadership coach and president-elect of Adelphi University says, employees communicate in a myriad of ways and many of them are nonverbal. “In a conversation, people might say one thing but their face and body are saying the opposite.” Don’t let these cues pass by unaddressed. Acknowledge the information you’re receiving with questions like, “You seem excited about this, can you tell me more?” or “I get the sense that this upsets you, is there anything you need to share?”
Listening. It might seem like the most simple act, yet service businesses across the globe aren’t listening enough. When we can learn to authentically listen, we build meaningful relationships with our teams, improve their experience and as a result improve customer experiences.
So, are you listening up?
Learn more about the AskNicely employee feedback tool here.