When was the last time you had a seamless customer service interaction? Chances are, those experiences have become harder to recall in the past few years, as ongoing labor shortages and pandemic-related closures have led to service interruptions, longer wait times, and even business closures. It’s tempting to prioritize attracting and retaining loyal customers as the most essential goal when running a business—but in fact, creating loyal customers often starts with creating loyal employees.
A perfect storm for service-based businesses
It’s no secret that many service-based businesses like restaurants, hotels, airlines, and even hospitals have struggled to provide smooth customer service in the past few years. And it makes sense that they would; they’ve dealt with the perfect storm of pandemic-related interruptions, rising inflation, and increased demands from a new generation of workers who won’t settle for less than they’re worth.
Add to this the ongoing growth of the gig economy—which has made speed and flexibility non-negotiables for both workers and consumers alike—it’s easy to see why industries like hospitality and healthcare have struggled to deliver a seamless experience at every turn. By honing in on one aspect of this problem, however, businesses can grow a more loyal customer base through enhanced service—and that aspect is attracting and retaining more engaged workers.
You don’t have a customer problem; you have a worker problem
Unmotivated, burned out employees are not only more likely to provide subpar service, but they’re less likely to stick around. Increased turnover can lead to even more customer service issues and decreased employee morale, and for industries such as hospitality or healthcare, this can have unfortunate consequences. One bad review is all it takes to tarnish a restaurant’s reputation. One unengaged healthcare worker can be a significant detriment to the quality of a patient’s care. By turning your focus inward on the retention and engagement of your staff, you can create large-scale changes in your overall customer loyalty.
3 quick and easy tips to unlock your people potential
Companies that put their people first and offer the flexibility, speed, and choice expected by today’s workforce can deliver a better overall experience for who they are serving, whether it’s diners at a cafe or patients at a hospital. Here are three easy ways to begin promoting better staff engagement and loyalty:
1. Focus on flexibility
Workers across industries have demanded more flexibility in recent years, both in terms of the hours they work and how much control they have over their work. Influenced in part by the ever-expanding gig economy, more workers now consider autonomy and flexibility high priorities when looking for a new job.
Consider different ways you might provide added flexibility to your workforce, whether that’s allowing them to swap shifts or pick up additional work on their own, letting people work part-time or have more control over the days they work, or advocating for more time off to accommodate improved work-life balance. All of these steps can go a long way in helping you recruit and retain more loyal employees.
2. Deliver on speed
In today’s on-demand economy, speed reigns supreme—and there’s no area that people prioritize speed more than payments. Gone are the days when a bi-weekly paycheck would be enough to keep employees in a service-based profession satisfied. People want the more immediate gratification of seeing their earnings delivered instantly after a completed shift. Whether that’s cashless tips sent to servers after each shift or same day payouts to healthcare workers, prioritizing faster pay is paramount to building a loyal workforce.
3. Prioritize meaningful benefits
The traditional workplace benefits of 401(k)s or paid time off are no longer considered enough to attract and retain top talent. Focusing on what matters most to your staff is crucial in being able to keep them happy. Sending out surveys or finding other ways to gain feedback and insights into what your staff values most is a great way to deliver exactly the benefits they’re looking for. This can help you cut down on turnover and provide perks that actually incentivize your workforce each day. Plus, providing the benefits that best align with your employees’ needs can help you reduce costs, as you’re only spending on the benefits that actually matter. (For instance, you may find that certain perks you’re spending a lot on don’t hold much weight for your staff and other, smaller perks, actually provide a big impact.)
Start with your staff to build customer loyalty
In many service-based industries, focusing on driving loyal customers is considered the first step in boosting business. But turning your focus inward—to the retention and engagement of your own workforce—can actually prove to be a smarter first step. By investing in the people who make your business great and ensuring they are happy, motivated, and incentivized, you can deliver a smoother experience to your customers, patients, or patrons—a win-win for everyone involved.