How to ensure that your customers respect your employees

Some companies today are striving to build a relationship with their employees first, before establishing one with the customers.

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The service industry has grown tremendously over the last two decades with the focus being the customer, who has been basking in all the attention and enjoying the position on the throne! Management books have only added to the customer’s power, highlighting in bold that, ‘The customer is king,’ and that the ‘The customer is the boss’.

Companies persevere to teach employees dealing with customers to smile and be at their politest best all the time. Many have adopted zero tolerance policy to eliminate undesirable behaviour between employees and customers.

But are customers reciprocating the same way?

Companies are taking the right steps to help develop amicable relationships between their staff and customers.

Online food delivery start-up, Swiggy, is known for its meaningful and original ads, the latest one being #callmebymyname!

This ad campaign exemplifies the importance of calling the delivery person by his name. It is a general practice to use common names for service providers under a common category. For instance, all delivery boys are addressed by their company names, such as Swiggy, Bigbasket or Flipkart. Similarly, the driver who comes to pick you up is either an Ola or an Uber and you address him so in all your conversations.

Paramjit Singh Nayyar

“We do have an ombudsperson who gives an independent view in case of a dispute. A dedicated team ‘office of the customer’ is set up which has customer representation too, to provide an objective view and handle situations where customers have misbehaved.”

When you speak at a customer care centre, you are only interested in finding a solution to your problem. There is little or no effort from your side to register the name of the person you are speaking to or address the person by name in the rest of the conversation. This is a problem that requires an immediate solution. An individual deserves to be respected, especially in the way she/he is addressed.

Paramjit Nayyar, CHRO, Apollo Munich Health Insurance Company, says, “All building blocks of an organisation are crafted to keep the customer happy. We feel a happy and satisfied customer will always be respectful. We make sure we have a culture of mutual appreciation and collaboration. Our employees live and get guided by our value system but are not afraid to objectively analyse any situation that may arise with any customer.”

“We do have an ombudsperson who gives an independent view in case of a dispute. A dedicated team ‘office of the customer’ is set up which has customer representation too, to provide an objective view and handle situations where customers have misbehaved,” he adds.

Hari T.N

“Being courteous and gracious is far more than addressing someone by name. However, the starting point of being polite is by addressing a service provider by name. Companies can make it easy for customers by providing pinned name tags to delivery partners. Hotels have been doing this forever.”

We asked Hari T.N, head-HR, Bigbasket how an online e-commerce company can ensure some respect for its fleet of delivery boys.

“In India, we tend to carry a bias as to whom to respect and whom not to, which is guided by a person’s profession. Unfortunately, delivery partners fall into a category which does not receive due respect. Being courteous and gracious is far more than addressing someone by name. However, the starting point of being polite is by addressing a service provider by name. Companies can make it easy for customers by providing pinned name tags to delivery partners. Hotels have been doing this forever,” Hari shares.

“We also plan to introduce name tags for employees who come into face-to- face contact with customers,” he adds.

Makarand Khatavkar

“We employ the principle of reciprocity in our organisation. Our staff is trained to show utmost respect towards customers so that it gets the same in return. In our branches, if a customer makes noise, the branch manager will intervene to objectively deal with the situation.”

A powerful way of inducing customers to behave better is to have delivery partners rate customers at the end of every service, in the same way that customers rate delivery partners.

One may not need to take any actions beyond allowing customers to see their own ratings. This can potentially change customer behaviours. Uber was the first to introduce this globally.

“We also train our delivery partners in basic etiquette, which makes it easier for customers to relate to them and respect them,” Hari says.

The banking industry also faces direct customers, while delivering their products and services. How do they uphold their employees’ respect?

We spoke to the group head- HR, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Makarand Khatavkar. “We employ the principle of reciprocity in our organisation. Our staff is trained to show utmost respect towards customers so that it gets the same in return. In our branches, if a customer makes noise, the branch manager will intervene to objectively deal with the situation,” says Makarand.

Clearly, there are good times ahead with companies keen to adopt measures to create amicable relationships between employees and customers. Along with customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction is also within their focus and they are changing the way the world deals with the working class.

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