How having a happy workforce translates into good customer service

Customers can tell when an employee doesn’t like his or her job.

“Even if it’s over the phone, you can sense if the person is smiling and the energy they have,” says Rick Voigt, president of Today’s Business Products. “Morale is what it’s all about. You can have the greatest company and greatest product, but employees will not be happy and will not stay if morale is low.”

Smart Business spoke with Voigt about ways to improve morale and how happy employees help businesses grow.

Can you quantify the effect morale has on customer service?

Morale goes hand-in-hand with the success of a company and its growth. People can sense if the customer service person on the other end of the phone is smiling; they pick up on that energy and want to talk.

There’s nothing worse than calling a company and the person answering doesn’t have any energy and doesn’t want to talk — you feel like you’re interrupting what they’re doing and you’re a second-class citizen. That attitude has a direct impact on sales. Customers will look for another company to do business with when they have contact with employees who are disinterested.

Customer service is what differentiates companies. There are other businesses that sell office furniture and office products, for example. When you don’t make the product and it can be bought anywhere, it all boils down to customer service.

If you go to a restaurant and the waiter doesn’t treat you well, you will not go back, even if they have great food.

Does customer service extend to all areas of a business?

Absolutely. Drivers are the face of the company when the product is delivered. They need to have a positive attitude when entering a business. Salespeople are the ones engaging customers and bringing them on as accounts. Customer service representatives also engage customers, answering questions with smiles on their faces so that people want to call back and do business with the company.

How do you ensure that employees are happy?

It starts at the top by making sure everyone feels included and part of the team. It’s important for upper management to listen to employees’ opinions. And when they have opinions, you need to be willing to implement their ideas or explain why their idea wasn’t adopted: ‘That’s a great idea, we tried it and it didn’t work. But it’s good that you thought of it.’ When someone comes up with a good idea that is used, make sure that employee gets the recognition.

Are there training sessions or programs that help boost morale and/or customer service?

You should have fun at work. We had a six-month promotion called ‘Get your A game on.’ When employees took an extra step to help a co-worker, they were given an ‘A game dollar’ for a Chinese auction with thousands of dollars worth of prizes. For instance, a driver could earn a dollar for taking a few stops from another driver who was busier, or a salesperson could earn a dollar for turning a lead over to a colleague. People were coming to the management team to make them aware of what co-workers did for them. That promotion worked extremely well. You can tell it was successful because employees are still exhibiting behaviors to receive dollars, even though the dollars no longer exist.

The difference between that and other recognition programs is that it encouraged a team atmosphere instead of competition. It’s good to recognize employees with individual awards, but there could be employees wondering why someone else was picked instead of them.

What else can be done to improve morale?

When a customer sends an email or tells you about a positive interaction with an employee, mention it at a company meeting. People appreciate that recognition and try their best to treat customers in a way that would compel them to write a thank you note.

It’s also important to give employees a nice, clean and safe work environment. Give employees a nice place with a pleasant atmosphere, and they will work harder for you and be much happier.

Rick Voigt is the president of Today’s Business Products. Reach him at (216) 898-4242 or [email protected].

Work got you down? Check out some videos that will give you a quick laugh and make ordering office supplies more fun.

Insights Customer Service is brought to you by Today’s Business Products