It only takes one person to influence my decision as a customer when deciding to return or not. One person will give me a sense of how hard or easy it is to do business with your brand. One person will either make me feel appreciated or a burden. One person will determine if I like you as a brand and even if I trust you.
The service sector is fragile. One person; the strong link or the weak link in the customer journey is the face of your company. The challenge we have in the service sector is that whilst we continue to employ humans we need to expect a bit of inconsistency because we humans are unique. We are individuals, we are emotional beings, we give meaning to everything and not any day is the same for us. We are a ball of energy, ebbing and flowing constantly, so yes, there is going to be a bit of inconsistency when interacting with humans.
An example of a weak link is an employee who;
- didn’t smile
- didn’t know their products
- were not interested in the customer at all and disconnected in their interaction
- seemed to be preoccupied instead of present with the customer
- delayed serving the customer to finish a conversation with a staff member first
- ignored the customer
- didn’t listen and missed an opportunity to connect
And the list goes on….
When we have a weak link we have three obvious options;
- Ignore it
- Remove it
- Fix it
When a leader ignores a weak link they are turning a blind eye. I’m not sure how smart this strategy is. Whenever I, or a colleague of mine, has chosen to ignore a weak link it always creates more problems. If it’s not customers who are complaining about them, then it’s the impact they have on their fellow peers, the toxicity, and motivation sapping that drags others down.
When a leader wishes to remove a weak link it can be problematic initially and any HR manager in the country would suggest this is not where you start. Of course, we can redeploy a weak link to another part of the chain; however this is transferring a problem instead of fixing it. Alternatively, if we sit long enough, the future may replace weak links with robots.
According to a recent CSIRO report, 73% of jobs in Australia will be fully automated by 2035. The industries most susceptible to automation are; accommodation, retailing, food service and manufacturing.
The third option and one that people feel is the harder road to take is, fix it. The reason it is harder to fix it is because we are talking about developing a weak link skill set in areas that we have not traditionally thought to develop in the past. Often we have concluded that certain soft skills such as emotional intelligence, social interaction and caring for others is something you cannot teach and you either have it or you don’t.
Well I’m here to tell you this is not factually correct. These skills of sensing people’s feelings, empathy, awareness of your environment and awareness of your social triggers and your adaptability are like any other skills that can be learned and practiced. Like developing skills to play football, skills to write, you start as amateur and you practice to get better at it.
‘Why serve when you can inspire’