How can you offer the best possible client service even if, in reality, you're offering the same product or service as your competitors?
It's pretty simple—focus on your employees first.
It all starts with your company culture, the inner company experience felt by employees, vendors, and investors. Think of culture as the guts of your company. The way in which you serve your clients is nothing more than a reflection of your culture.
Some companies choose to fake culture and lean on readymade talking points. That used to be enough, but more and more, customers are demanding higher levels of customer service that culture-less companies just can't provide.
My advice is to avoid faking it at all costs. If you have a strong culture in your company, your client service experience will reflect that. And, inevitably, if you don't have that culture, that too will be reflected in your customer service efforts—or lack thereof.
So, if culture dictates customer service (which then dictates profits), what is the key to culture?
If you want a great company culture, it all starts with you. You need to be the one who sets the tone and determines the mindset of your employees. As a leader, there are three main areas on which you need to focus on in order to get the most out of your employees and create a fun, enthusiastic, productive, and profitable team environment:
1. Setting the course: The first step of being a leader is to define what your company stands for. This will be the litmus test used to determine how you hire and when you fire. To define your core values, reflect on the attributes of your model employees. Many companies profess to have lofty values, but a sustainable culture comes from rewarding employees that live out their ideals.
2. Hiring key players: The next step in creating a quality work environment take on the right team members. I agree with the mantra of hire slowly, fire quickly; however, hiring and firing should be based more on an employee's attitude, personality, and vision rather than their skill set. If an applicant has a personality that matches your values along with a positive attitude, then he or she is more likely to stick to the company vision for success and follow the same path as everyone else you've hired.
3. Maintaining the standard: After hiring employees who are the right fit for your culture, it's your responsibility to invigorate them. As a business owner, it's easy to get sucked into a nearsighted staring contest with the bottom line. Don't get me wrong, you have to keep a vigilant eye on your dollars and cents in order to be successful, but at the end of the day, you also have to keep your employees happy. It's a balancing act between the bottom line and the employees' happiness; focus too much on either one and neglect the other, and you'll fail.
Your employees and your budget run on different fuel. Your bottom line runs on money. Your employees don't. While payment is an incentive, your employees most crave feeling like smart, valued and important members of the team.
Reward hard work in a creative way. If I slap a gold star sticker on an employee's forehead, that employee is likely to get up and walk out. If I make it a priority to stand up in front of the entire team and say, "Look at what Fred did, without Fred's hard work, we wouldn't have accomplished this," then not only does Fred know that I'm unabashedly thankful for his work, but his teammates are likely to be motivated to work harder too.
However you reward your team, just remember that leadership defines the culture, culture dictates customer service, and customer service determines longevity and growth. By defining and living your core values, hiring the right people, and reinvesting in your team emotionally, they'll turn around and bring in more money for your bottom line. In short, focus on the employees—and the rest will take care of itself.
Nick Friedman is president and cofounder of College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving, the largest and fastest growing U.S.-based junk removal and moving franchise. He started the business in college with his best friend in a beat-up cargo van, and now has over 40 locations nationwide.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.[Image: Flickr user Nazer Khalid]