Our resident rock star, Ted Rubin, on why empowering your employees will ultimately result in success for your brand.
Every retail employee is an individual with their own unique skills, outlook, and ability to solve problems. With the right training, an employee can learn to be a true ambassador for your brand, an asset to your company's image, and a key reason that loyal customers keep coming back to your business. However, many brands put their public-facing employees into a box, with a selection of scripted responses and not many tools for genuinely addressing the problems of their customers. For them, promoting the brand is an afterthought and customer service is a means to an end.
Not every brand operates that way, of course, and the smart ones empower their employees to be more than robots. Treating your retail employees more like Mary Kay reps, rather than cogs in the machine, is crucial for establishing a better customer experience.
Why empowering retail employees is key to creating a better customer experience
At a brand like Mary Kay, each representative is like a mini-franchisee, which comes with both expectations and opportunities. Reps are expected to promote the larger brand, recruit new members, and organize events, all while building their own personal brand in the process. They are treated as individuals, which means that they can solve problems with efficient solutions, even if it means that sometimes they’ll mess up along the way. However, it’s their business —and they are invested in striving to make customers happy.
Your employees may not be franchisees, but the same rules apply. When the employee succeeds, the brand succeeds, too. An employee who is empowered to solve problems, knowledgeable about the brand, and has a stake in positive outcomes will be much more resourceful when it comes to customer service. Learning about the brand's products/services in great detail helps the employee do their job well and makes them more effective representatives of the brand when engaging customers.
“Smart brands empower their employees to be more than robots.”
Reward good effort
Successful Mary Kay reps are rewarded by the brand for their effort and earn the reward of repeat business from satisfied clients. They may be sales reps, but they are invested in the brand and the brand is invested in them.
While retail employees don't always have a direct financial stake in each item they sell like Mary Kay reps do, they have plenty of good reasons to want to see the brand grow. That's especially true if they feel that their hard work is consistently rewarded, and if they feel empowered to do more than read from a checklist when a customer comes to them with a question or concerns. By allowing your employees to have more of an impact on outcomes, you help them build a more personal stake in seeing positive outcomes realized.
Ongoing training is critical
While empowering employees does involve a risk that occasionally they’ll do something you don't like, you can streamline the process significantly by offering effective training. An employee who knows your brand, your values, and your preferred methods of doing business is in a much better position to provide your customers with what they need. Training is important when bringing a new employee into the fold, but it's also something that should never really stop for as long as a retail employee is with you. There's always something to be learned about your business, your customers, and your industry… and you get a reputation for being a company where employees leave better than when they joined. American Express and P&G are two great examples; it’s often said working for them is better than getting an MBA.
Keeping retail employees engaged also means rewarding them for their hard work, both financially and otherwise. It's important to recognize employees who are great representatives of your brand, and to show your appreciation for all that they do. By training employees, empowering them, and recognizing their contributions, you can make your retail reps dynamic representatives of your brand.