How many times during the day does a customer stop by or call, and ask to only speak with you, the shop owner? Do you know why? It’s because in general, the experience the customer has when dealing with the owner of a business is much different than when dealing with an employee. The owner goes out of his or her way to make the customer feel special and important. The owner has a vested stake in the customer relationship, and an attitude of appreciation is expressed toward the customer. The customer picks up on this, and thus the tendency is to seek out the owner. You, the shop owner, have a culture of ownership.
Think about your favorite restaurant, Deli or other business where the owner goes out of his way to say hello to you, and spend a few minutes engaging in small talk. What kind of impression does that make with you? It makes you feel great. You can’t put a price on that type of customer service.
Now, just imagine how powerful your business would be if your employees also adopted that same culture of ownership? Most employees have no feelings of ownership, and many feel disconnected from the company’s success or failure. They may value their job and may be loyal to you, but don’t always feel that their contribution to the company is recognized and makes a difference in the overall outcome of the company. If employees think that their efforts are not valued or respected, they will not develop the right culture and consequently, not care as much.
So, the question you are probably asking is, “How does one create the right culture”? First, you need to understand the term, “buy-in.” Buy-in means that the people in a company do things not because they are told to, but because they want to. You don’t want people to simply obey you; you want people who can think on their own and contribute to your company. You want to create an atmosphere where everyone has mutual respect for one another and is committed to the common good of the company.
Employees adopt the right culture when they are shown appreciation for the work they do. People who are just compliant to the rules of the company aren’t totally engaged and committed to the overall success of the company. When people are engaged and feel that the work they do does make a difference, they are committed to the success of the company.
Give people the power to make decisions, don’t handcuff them with complicated polices and procedures that have them constantly reporting to you. Let them use their talents and empower them to make decisions. Will they make mistakes? Absolutely, especially in the beginning, but in time you will build a powerful team of thinkers and decision makers.
Get people more involved with the daily operations. Ask questions and ask for help. Request their feedback on critical issues. You may be surprised by just how in tune your employees are to the inner workings of your company. By discussing issues, both good and bad, you will make everyone feel important and part of the big picture. Above all, people want to feel that they matter to the company. Money is important, but self-esteem is something that will bond an employee to your company.
When an employee feels they can act on their own, take risks, and make decisions on their own, they will begin to adopt a culture of ownership. They will feel good about themselves with the confidence that you are behind them 100%. Customer service, productivity, and quality will all improve.
One thing to remember; everything starts with you, the owner. Take a long hard look in the mirror and look at the way you treat people. The way you treat your employees will be reflected in the way they treat customers. If you walk around with a doom and gloom attitude, your employees will also. If you speak in a harsh tone or are disrespectful to employees, one can only imagine what they are saying to your customers. You set the tone in your shop, so carry yourself in a way that will cause people to emulate you in a positive way. This will insure that customers are treated with the world class service they deserve.
Building the right culture will improve the customer service experience. The customer will receive that warm reception from not only you, the owner, but from anyone they come in contact with. That culture will build strong relationships and loyal customers. The result: increased sales, more profits and positive growth.
This article was contributed by Joe Marconi of Elite. Joe is one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners build more successful businesses through the Elite Coaching Program, and is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com.