By Giacomo Squintani, Marketing Manager EMEA, Servigistics
Earlier this week, The Economist reported on how staff-motivation schemes may be feeling the impact of the recession. You may be experiencing it yourself: as corners are cut, those elements that are not seen as directly linking to revenue, and which take up time that could be devoted to primary activities, are most endangered. Of course, the line between perception and reality is blurred: as The Economist reports, “Towers Perrin, a consulting firm, found that between 2002 and 2006 companies with excellent records in motivating staff generated an average annual return over the period that was 9.3 percentage points higher than that of the companies in the S&P 500 stockmarket index”. Their message is clear: dismiss the value of motivation at your peril.
This article in last October’s Harvard Business Review did a pretty good job of pinpointing four key areas to focus on for motivating employees. However, in times of trouble, our focus shifts towards corporate stability, rather than individual benefits. We can go back to basics, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: we pursue Self-Actualisation and Esteem only when Safety is taken care of. When this is no longer a given, our perspective changes – and, with it, our behaviour. The best healthcare and pension plans in the land are worth nothing without a job underpinning them.
If this blog entry could guarantee you safeguarding your job, it probably wouldn’t be publicly accessible – and I would retire on selling the formula. But this is anything but The Age of Guarantees. Furthermore, how you go about re-engaging your staff (and yourself?) within your organisation depends on specifics that a generic entry cannot address. You should be aware, however, of changing behavioural patterns around you.
But I will make one point I believe is relevant to us all. As you look to cut costs, close that deal, refocus… don’t lose sight of the importance of customer service.
Companies that excel in customer service foster an atmosphere that improves both internal and external relationships. Furthermore, remember:
· Winning a new customer costs as much as five times as much as retaining an existing one – and that’s before you’ve built up any loyalty or knowledge;
· Customers who become advocates are an amazing marketing tool; unhappy customers are a potential barrier to growth;
· Dealing with happy customers motivates staff. Solving issues for appreciating customers gives a great buzz. But dealing with unhappy customers, not being able to help them… that leads to high turnover rates. And high agency fees…
· If your products and service are at the premium end of the scale, this is the time to be engaging with customers – to ensure you are not threatened by low-cost alternatives
This is not just about niceties. Even in a recession, excellent customer service makes sound financial, commercial sense – throughout your value chain. It’s only normal for you to lose sight of this, at times. But, if you let your competitors make the mistake on a long-term basis and you keep your eyes on the prize, you will come out of these time a stronger player for it.