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How to empower your team to transform the customer experience

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Employee engagement provides many benefits, from increased productivity to lower turnover, but the most vital for retailers is its capacity to boost customer service and transform experiences. This makes sense as an engaged employee is an employee who cares, and is far more likely to view your brand in a positive light.

As engagement practices are often quite cost-effective, the return on investment can be immense. By leveraging engagement you’ll find a much needed leg up on your competition.

Actionable strategies to empower your team

In recent years there has been a growing body of research that has examined different engagement strategies, and business leaders are beginning to catch on. These strategies provide actionable steps to creating lasting engagement among your employees. Among these strategies, some of the most effective are those that target intrinsic motivation, or motivation that comes from an activity itself.

The psychology of organizational behavior has shown that strategies involving extrinsic motivators are less effective than intrinsic — meaning that, to harness the benefits of recognition for the empowerment of your team, leveraging intrinsic rewards is fundamental. One study conducted on manufacturing stated that, “It has been identified that intrinsic rewards have a significant influence on employee results; however extrinsic rewards do not have a significant influence on employee results.”

The research is clear, leveraging intrinsic motivation strategies delivers results. Business leaders have begun to catch on and are developing strategies around these insights. Here’s two effective examples currently being utilized by business leaders.

Peer-to-peer recognition

When employers provide recognition it can feel rigid and formal to the employee who may appreciate the recognition, but ultimately may not take it too seriously. When it comes to recognition rewards, financial or otherwise, they will certainly seek it out, but it always remain an extrinsic reward.

This is where an authentic peer-to-peer recognition strategy come in: best self reports.

Actionable strategy: At your next team meeting give each of your team members a large index card or regular sheet of paper. Have them write their name on the sheet and have them put all the cards in a pile and shuffle the pile. Hand out the cards to team members and instruct them to write down positive attributes or a success story of the person on the card. Do this until everyone has had the chance to write something on everyone else’s card.  When this is completed, return the cards and allow time for the team to read them.

From my experience with business leaders and their teams this simple activity can have a major effect on your team’s sense of belonging and levels of engagement.

Target habits

Habits are those little actions that comprise much of our day and shapes our performance. As organizations are comprised of a sum of individuals’ habits, habits shape much of an organization. This includes your team’s customer service behaviors.

The best way to target habits is simply by having your team commit consciously to enacting the habits at the key moments. This is where micro-actions come in.

Actionable strategy: Compile a list of habits you want your team to enact. At the beginning of each shift have your team individually commit to a single habit that they will engage for the day. These simple actions could be as simple as striving to make at least one customer have the best experience of the day, or ensuring that they take special care to make eye contact and focus on other’s needs.

Just like with peer-to-peer recognition, it’s vital that you focus on the intrinsic reward of positive behaviors. Positive work habits aren’t just beneficial for employee’s work lives, they enrich their personal lives and can be aligned with their larger personal goals. Mastering customer service habits isn’t just customer service it’s developing interpersonal skills that they will take with them for a lifetime. So it’s essential to frame any new initiative in this light, as professional skills they can take home with them.

Don’t get rid of incentives

As the science continues to show the benefits of intrinsic motivation and leaders are building actionable strategies, like the ones above, some have made the claim that extrinsic rewards and incentives actually hurt overall employee motivation. According to a 40 year study of employee motivation, intrinsic motivators and incentives work together. So don’t rush off to cancel your incentives programs, just be sure to include intrinsic motivation strategies to your overall motivation strategy.

The takeaway

To put it as bluntly and briefly as possible, employee engagement drives customer service and intrinsic motivation drives engagement. By using the strategies outlined above you’ll position yourself to empower your employees and maximize engagement.

Republished with permission from Retail Customer Experience.

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