By: Shad Bookout
There is no situation more unsettling to a business professional than when you enter your company’s office or storefront and there is no noise. No clicks of key boards. No email chimes. No one on the phone. No customers are present. You enter and are just met with absolute silence. Some will tell you that the worst time of all is when you have an upset customer. But an upset customer is at least engaged and providing suggestions – not always the best ideas, but at least they are ideas. The silence, on the other hand, means that no one is engaged. Not customers and not your team. This silence is deadly and by the time it occurs, it may already be too late.
This type of silence also can breed contempt and animosity between team members in your organization. Operations may blame it on the lack of effort from the sales team. Sales will tell you that the operations team has made it too difficult for others to do business with us. And both might blame leadership for poor guidance. No one ever wants to own the blame for the root causes of the silence that is inflicting your business. The truth is, it is everyone’s fault. But something did not happen yesterday to cause today to be silent. Most likely, the problems began weeks or even months ago.
Customer and employee disengagement is a slow process. It is a series of events – a chain reaction of sorts – that creates a slow downward spiral into a dark hole. In most cases, it starts inside the office with a team member who is
on the front lines and deals with your customers every day. Something happens (either in their work or personal life) that somehow puts them in the wrong mindset for the day. A chance encounter with a customer goes poorly and the customer leaves with a foul taste of dissatisfaction from the customer experience they just had. They go online and complain. Someone else sees that complaint and decides not to do business with your brand. Meanwhile, the upset employee has caused enough of a disturbance that they have upset another team member. They wind up feeling bitter about the encounter and begin to add in other examples of things that have irritated them (such as a scheduling issue). They decide to call in the next day and leave the team shorthanded. The employee who started all of this shows up in a better mood until they discover the team is shorthanded today. More customers have bad experiences. And the situation just continues to snowball. All of this because of one small chance encounter in the office with an upset employee.
There can be thousands of different variations of this story. To prevent silence from happening, you have to treat it at the beginning. Help employees feel they have an opportunity to vent frustration to you safely and without judgement. Help the team get through the struggles of employee absences or when a stressful workload. Be engaged with your team so that they feel connected to you and to each other. Also be engaged to your customers. Be open, receptive and thankful for any and all feedback. Ask for reviews and testimonials in good and in bad times. Most importantly, make your customer believe that you value them and that the best thing they can do to have an ever-improving experience with your brand is to never be silent.
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