In the customer service game, retaining staff and keeping them happy is key to success.
Last month we looked at the key elements of recruiting the right people as part of our top 10 strategies: I hope you identified ideas that could help you develop this in your organisation. This month we need to move to the next steps – getting new staff off on the right foot, so that you keep them, reduce headcount turnover, and improve morale and job satisfaction.
And the first thing to emphasise is that these points are intrinsically linked.
Let’s start with a simple exercise. Just put yourself in the place of a new starter to your organisation: a little nervous perhaps, into the unknown.
To begin, what kind of a first impression does your organisation present? Perhaps the new recruit has already gone on your website to get a good idea of what’s to come. Does that create the welcome you want to show? Go have a look.
Then, what about actions you could have done before they start – pre-reading perhaps, site maps, directions, details of joining, etc?
This is the perfect time to get a new recruit excited about working for you, talking to parents, relations, and others. If you are in an appropriate business, what about getting them to try your products and services, experience stores, and your competition, looking to get them to change their products to yours? They might also get others around them to change habits too.
Then there is that first-day arrival.
- Is there an appropriate reception?
- Do your people know they are coming?
- Is there a welcome?
- Did you have a security pass ready for their first day at work?
- Is there material to get them interested?
- What about a few questions relating to the points above – did they enjoy checking you out?
- What is the training plan?
I’m sure you can see many more ideas where you can make a great first impression, which could last a lifetime.
What are they going to say to their families when they go home?
This is a critical sign of how they will then continue working. An investment in that first day, and the first week, will pay huge dividends in developing a positive staff attitude to you, and your organisation.
- Have they had the opportunity to mix with existing staff, meet management, settle in?
- Do they know their job role and where/how they fit into the organisation?
- Did you encourage them to ask questions?
- Do they have a clear idea of their initial training/induction?
- Have you identified any areas of relative weakness that might need working on?
All these issues, which can be covered over the first few days, will reduce the period of strangeness for the new employee, and give you a much better idea of their strengths, weaknesses and potential. Investing the time at this stage can save months of problems and work later.
Good mentoring and coaching
Over the last ten years, it has become very clear that, whilst formal training still has its place, more is often achieved by good mentoring and coaching by experienced and committed supervisors and managers.
Staff development is not a subject that can be delegated to HR departments, however good. Of course there is a need for them to be involved in making sure that standards are met across the organisation, and the right actions actually taken, but staff are the direct responsibility of line management – in fact, development of their team is the primary responsibility if they want to achieve long-term success.
This induction period is probably the single most important time for creating the culture and long-term morale of an organisation’s staff. It is too often neglected, skipped over, or misunderstood. Personal involvement by senior staff, and direct managers, is well worth the time and effort.
Next month we will look at the next steps to keeping this highly professional approach going.
Paul Cooper is a Director at Customer Plus
Paul won the Lifetime Achievement award at the European Call Centre Awards 2011.