Are our employees really our most valued resource?

Are our employees really our most valued resource?

Jane stood in the que at the car rental company. There were not too many people and the staff where friendly enough. Yet, Jane was irritated. She needed to amend her booking but the system that she knew worked was no longer available. Recently, the car rental company had chosen to do away with the confirmation e-mail that gave access to booking amends and to send the client a marketing video instead. At the counter, Jane explained her need to amend the booking and then expressed her frustration with the new system. The customer service agent just smiled vaguely, and got on with changing the booking. It occurred to Jane that the customer service agent might not have a mechanism to give this feedback to the company.

While Jane was still considering this, she overheard a conversation that was taking place at the next counter. The customer was saying that she did not like being spammed when they were selling their vehicles. The customer service agent laughed and said “that is why I don’t give the company my e-mail address”. Jane stood there thinking “is this what the company wanted to achieve?”.

The knee jerk reaction in most companies is to send the customer service agent for training. But wait a minute! Is that all there is to it? To teach employees robotic answers in a system that is clearly flawed? I wondered how the Executives of the company would enjoy serving customers all day long in this environment. How does one stay enthusiastic about your job, loyal to the company and engaged with your work in this situation?

Customer service has been the buzz word for a while now. We have invented all kinds of systems to understand and manage our clients from Customer Relationship Management Systems to studying and analysing the buying patterns of our clients and potential clients. Yet, we still don’t get it right!

As far back as 1975, Schneider reported that employees need to feel that their own needs have been met within the organisation before they can become enthusiastic about meeting the needs of customers. Davidson stated that his research conducted in 2000 demonstrated that the psychological climate of individual employees has a pronounced positive or negative effect on the organisation and its performance.

In 2005 Van Bentum & Stone confirmed that their research on customer relationship management, they also found that in order for customer relationship management to succeed, an appropriate cultural foundation is needed.

So why do situations like this arise, assuming of course that the assumptions Jane is making are correct, of course. Jane’s reflection leads her to ask why is it that management is afraid to ask their staff “what do you need?” Is this fear grounded in our commonly held belief that people are primarily economic beings and will always pursue their own rational self-interest? To open that door would result in a plethora of questions and requests that management cannot answer or hope to address, as they would no doubt be unreasonable. Instead, management keeps employees at arms-length at all times. The truth is that this approach is not going to provide long term sustainable results in the world as it is today, nor into the future.

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