How To Get Employees To Make Empowered Decisions
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How To Get Employees To Make Empowered Decisions

How To Get Employees To Make Empowered Decisions

The backbone of great service is empowerment. My definition is for any employee to make a fast-empowered decision on the spot in favor of the customer. No asking for approvals. No delays. No moving the request up the chain of command.

I think most leaders believe their employees are empowered. The description of empowerment for most companies is the following: You are empowered to take care of the customer as long as it fits into the rules and policies we have. For empowerment to work the employee must be willing to bend or break the rules.

Empowerment is by far the hardest skill to get employees to use. I have always said it takes two miracles at one time to get an employees to spend $20 of your money.

There are 4 reasons why an employee is reluctant to use empowerment:

  1. They know they will be fired
  2. They believe they will be forced to pay for what they gave away
  3.  3 Many managers do not like empowerment because they feel they are not needed. They lose their power
  4. No one likes to be screamed at or put down. Rarely is an employee recognized for making a fast-empowered decision in favor of the customer

Front line employees are the most powerful when it comes to empowerment. What they do is magic. As the request moves up the chain of command the final decision has less value. Most customers are not willing to push. My wife would never push a problem up the ladder. She will just never tell you and for sure will not come back. On the other hand I am very assertive and will push until I get what I want or expect.

On my 45th wedding anniversary, my wife wanted me to take her to one of the most expensive restaurants in the Twin Cities - Kincaid's Fish, Chop & Steakhouse. I forgot my mask in the car so when approaching the host I asked if she had a mask I could have. She said it would cost $1.00. At every other place I know they give free masks. Their cost is probably about $.10.  I told her I was not paying $1 and she said you cannot enter without a mask. My wife found an extra mask in her purse. The two employees would have let me walk when the average cost of a dinner for two exceeds $100. 

I rated Kincaid’s a “1” on Trip Advisor a day later.  Service was bad. My wife never told me until two days later that her food was cold. We will never be back. It started with a $1 decision the employees were not empowered to make or were afraid to make. We are talking $1.

Most empowered decisions are under $50 and I think the vast majority under $25. Often there is no cost. Not enough companies and employees understand the power of word of mouth advertising. Your single goal each day is to have over-happy customers. This way you have them for life. They are resistant to advertising by your competitors. You want them to fall in love with you and your organization.

I love Amazon. I prefer to call them when I have a problem. I have never had anyone at Amazon tell me “no”. Their employees are in call centers all over the world.  All of them are awesome. Amazon increased sales 38% or $105 billion last year. You rarely see them advertise. They focus on repeat business. Word of mouth advertising. They love their customers.  Customers prefer speed, price, and great service. Master these skills so you become another Amazon.

How can you get employees to make empowered decisions? Here’s a couple of ways I recommend:

  1. Train everyone on empowerment. There are no schools in the world that will teach this skill. It is up to your organization to train your entire staff. Remember that 99% of your customer contact is with front line employees who are often the least paid, least valued, and least trained.
  2. Recognition. You must make a celebration out of each time you hear or see an employee making an empowered decision. The wilder the empowered decision the more you want to make a bigger deal out of it. Other employees will see the employee was not fired and got lots of recognition.

With an empowered workforce, your organization can reap the benefits experienced by companies like Chewy, Apple, and Amazon.

Empowered employees have the power to make decisions without a supervisor. They are entitled to go off script, bend the rules, do what they see fit if they believe it is the right thing to do for the customer. If you’re concerned they might give away the store set a limit. Maybe start with $100. The Ritz Carlton has a $2,000 limit.

 John Tschohl is a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant.  He is the president and founder of Service Quality Institute with operations in over 40 countries.

Published: April 27th, 2021

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