Front-Line Personnel – Have we abandoned our soldiers on the Front?
Soldiers? Uuuh… On the front? What? As a soft skills trainer, I have encountered thousands of workers who come to learn the skills needed to face the daily workplace reality without losing their marbles. They are looking for tools to optimize their professional “know how to act” … Most of the time, they are professional in their “knowledge”, excelling in their “know how” …But they still need to learn the value of “knowing how to be” and “knowing how to interact”. To ensure their effectiveness, they must be hard-skilled, but also soft skilled.
What good is it to know your products inside out if you can’t present them with confidence?
What good is it to have a customer service if the person behind the counter doesn’t know how to manage their emotions, to show some empathy, to understand the customers and to manage a complaint?
What good is it to have the world best product if you can’t show any professionalism?
Believe me, those are not caricatural! These situations are seen every day.
Front-line workers are in touch with customers on a daily basis: they have an opportunity that other members of the organization don’t. They interact with the customer, promote and represent the organization.
And every time, I ask myself the same question: Why do people wait so long before teaching these “soldiers” how to use the essential survival tools before sending them to the Front?
No self-respecting general would pick people off the street and send them to the Front, left to their own devices, and think they still have a chance to win the battle! This is only a metaphor used to show you what often happens in our businesses: people are hired only because they can fulfill a task; but without ensuring that they are willing to embrace the mission and the corporate culture, with no concern for their ability to interact with customers or coworkers, nor for their ability to manage stressful situations, to solve conflicts, or simply to be aware of the benefits of active listening.
The way your front-line staff represents your business sets your customers satisfaction level. A positive approach to the front-line team allows you to develop and secure a long-term relationship with your customers.
In your opinion, what would be the most effective way to build a satisfactory relationship with your customers? An automated thank you note from your CRM in order to thank the customer for their business? Or a warm greeting at the reception desk? A personal attention from the clerk? Or a genuine smile from the deliverer? Obviously, a human and personal interaction has a much greater impact, doesn’t it?
Imagine what a difference it could make if we gave every front-line worker the possibility and ability to solve customers’ dissatisfactions, the opportunity to manage their priorities effectively, to gain the skills needed to adequately cooperate and communicate. Business performance would increase exponentially.
This article’s title might seem a tad bit pessimistic (even far-fetched for some), but soldiers Abandoned on the Front! Illustrates how all the front-line employees are left to their own devices, with no vision, no support, no training beyond their immediate duties, no encouragement, no coaching… Abandoned at a crucial time – the moment of truth, the moment where a trustworthy relationship can be developed, the moment where the customer’s loyalty can be secured! There are more leadership and management trainings than ever before! Even if managers training is important, I think training the workforce is mandatory in order to cope with a constantly changing work environment.
For every manager’s vision, there are tens (even hundreds) of employees who must provide continuity. For it to be possible, it is first of all necessary to equip those workers so they can assimilate this vision and contribute daily to the organizational objectives’ achievement.
I strongly believe that these employees are and will remain the most important asset of any organization wishing to increase its productivity and competitiveness. I am convinced that their soft skills can never be replaced with software, and that they are worthy of our investments as well as our respect.
Every position is important. However, front-line employees are often seen as the bottom tier within the organization; they usually earn insufficient wages and are insufficiently equipped. Front-line employees are important, they deserve the title of the organization’s ambassador, in order to skillfully and professionally represent it before the customers. Because we entrust them to take care of our customers, of a complaint, or a need. The organization’ success thus rests on their shoulders…
As the new year begins, I want to encourage you to step back, think, and answer with sincerity the following: Have we abandoned them on the Front, or have we equipped them with the needed tools to win?