5 Tips for Overcoming Today's Staff and Labor Shortage
In challenging times, the customer experience will set your business apart – for better or for worse. We share five ways to shine when recruiting for growth is tough (as in now).
We’re all experiencing it. Longer wait times, lead times, and lines. More rings before a call is picked up – if it doesn’t go to voicemail. The reasons are many, but the reality is the same: these days, many businesses can’t staff enough people to meet demand, whether at the franchisor or franchisee level.
It’s not just the labor crunch. Supply chain delays are affecting everything from silicon chips to potato chips. Frustrations are high because after a tough 18 months, just as demand is picking up, meeting that demand is difficult on many fronts.
Beyond the challenges we see every day is the stress we may not see on customer-facing employees. When demand is high and staffing low, your best team members – the ones you can always count on for great customer service and keeping a cool head – are stressed from working harder and dealing with frustrated consumers. Today, you can’t assume that your rock stars are still rock solid.
With so much out of our control, it’s more important than ever to focus on what we can control: the customer experience (which also includes corporate staff and franchisees, as well as consumers).
All businesses might be facing similar challenges, but how they handle those challenges with customers can make the difference that results in higher revenue and profitability – and a true competitive advantage in customer loyalty and employee retention.
Here are 5 ways to win more customers and retain great staff in these challenging times.
1) Go slow to go fast
Longer lines and hold times might be expected, maybe inevitable, these days. But they still detract from the overall experience. Customers might forgive the waiting, but they won’t forgive a negative customer interaction after they’ve already given you grace. That’s why the customer experience must shine. It starts with focusing completely on the customer, making an extra effort to smile, being pleasant, making a genuine connection, and showing gratitude for the opportunity to serve. The key is to make sure that front-line staff are taking that extra second to breathe and refocus on each customer. This extra moment to regain focus will save time by reducing the need to repeat information and reduce possible frustrations that may escalate, making a negative experience worse.
2) Let’s get real
In challenging times, it’s critical to manage expectations – and then deliver. This can only be done well if front-line staff have the facts to share with customers – and are empowered to do so. Long wait time? Out of a key product? Let the customer know the truth, give them options, and let them decide. They’re more likely to forgive modifying their expectations, but they probably won’t forgive a missed commitment or feeling like they weren’t told the truth. In challenging times, integrity will be remembered.
3) Put out the welcome mat
With challenge comes opportunity. For many businesses, product and labor shortages can mean that customers are shopping around more – and will be more likely to call your business for the first time. In dark times, great customer service shines brightly. Be ready to welcome new callers and create a Wow! experience. It starts by asking callers if you’ve had the chance to serve them before. For new customers, that Wow! comes from thanking them for giving you a chance to be of service, explaining how you work with customers, and showing sincere interest in their project or business.
4) Explain and train to retain
Part of handling a labor shortage is to understand why you’re short-staffed in the first place. According to a recent study by Indeed, the top reasons that employees leave a job include not feeling challenged, not feeling valued, needing more feedback, and wanting a clear company vision. Investing time with front-line employees (and in-house staff) to help them focus on skills for success shows that their leaders care about their success and can deliver both the How and the Why in delivering a great customer experience. In a busy work environment, the key is having data-based insights on those skills that have the most impact on customer conversion and loyalty.
5) Measure what matters
Business owners and operators today must juggle new challenges and changes and do more with less. The smart way to deliver for customers is to leverage tools that monitor the health of the business and provide insights into efficient ways to improve. Measuring the customer experience – especially those critical first-time callers or walk-ins – sets the path for prioritizing training, hiring, and more.
One leader can’t solve the labor crunch. However, understanding and setting up franchisees, their front-line team members, and corporate staff for a successful experience will have a big impact in setting your business apart at a time when a great customer experience is valued most.
Jayson Pearl is President of ServiceScore, a company that helps franchised brands get the results they want from phone calls. By reviewing and scoring actual inquiry calls, ServiceScore delivers actionable reports along with strategic insights to help improve conversion rates, customer service, and marketing ROI. Call him at 414-436-0040.
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