VOL. 125 | NO. 157 | Friday, August 13, 2010
Why is Everyone Smiling?
There’s a company 200-strong in Texas called Beryl, and it’s the nation’s leader in health care customer interactions and relationship management. That’s the long way of saying it’s a call center. In an industry where turnover is usually about 80 to 90 percent, Beryl’s is 17. And their client retention rate is 95 percent.
When people visit the headquarters, they frequently ask, “Why is everyone smiling?” Well, that’s what happens when a company is supremely focused on employees. People who feel valued and trusted give off a special vibe; customers feel loved, and the result is immeasurable satisfaction for both employees and the people they serve.
There are a host of step-by-step programs you can follow to get the kind of results Beryl does. But there are some simple things you can do without undertaking a major overhaul of your company’s personality.
Realize the tremendous impact you as a leader have on every single person in your company. When you show genuine interest in others, they will know they matter. Beryl CEO Paul Spiegelman sends personal notes to congratulate employees on new babies or to offer condolences on the death of a loved one. Employees pin them up all over cubicles. Paul shows his team members that they matter. Be this kind of role model and you’ll encourage people to care about their co-workers – and that builds a foundation for teamwork.
Listen. You don’t need to know your employees’ whole life stories; just take the time to listen to what’s happening in their lives right now. Five minutes in an employee’s office will earn you a lot more than a day’s worth of loyalty.
Don’t make assumptions about how people feel. Maybe your company has had to cut jobs. Do the people who remain feel grateful? Sure. But they’re also thinking, “Could I be next?” They might even feel guilty that they’re still around. Be up front with people about the future, because whether you’re talking about it or not, they’re thinking about it.
Accept that it’s OK to say, “I don’t know,” or, “We haven’t worked that out yet.” Just because you’re the leader doesn’t mean you have all the answers. But as soon as you do have them, get back to people. Investing your time in getting them an answer shows they matter.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Paul Spiegelman does comic videos for employee holiday dinners. No one thinks he’s goofy; they think he’s a great, down-to-earth guy. Not every leader feels comfortable on the comedy circuit, but most could do a better job of letting their hair down. Admit mistakes, laugh at yourself and recognize a few areas for improvement. Being perfect won’t earn you a warm spot in people’s hearts. And that’s where great culture and service begin: with a nice, warm heart.
Got a great story to tell? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Drake is the author of “Light Their Fire, Using Internal Marketing to Ignite Employee Performance and WOW Your Customers” and is president of Spellbinders.