Customers. Without them, we wouldn’t be in business. But if you really want to succeed, you need to take one step back and focus on your frontline staff. Why the front line? In a service business like mine, employees are our biggest asset and also our biggest cost. I don’t want to have a poor relationship with the people who are essentially taking money out of the business without understanding how there will be a return on it.
We don’t have any control over customers, but we can invest in our front line. When you focus on nurturing your staff, then everything else comes together and that in turn increases the chances of attracting and retaining customers.
For example, the bulk of my dental practices profits come from repeat business that I would put down to excellent staff who are thriving in their roles and help create a great customer experience. So when we promote our business to new potential customers through marketing like listing on iNEEDaDentist.com, the positive reviews that these loyal customers post online, add fuel to that marketing fire.
Keeping staff content and committed is an active process and it starts with drawing a line from how their performance affects the business. Every day I ask myself and my staff: “What changes need to occur so that they can better serve current customers and attract new ones?” And here are the steps I use to answer that question.
Find out what motivates them
Hint: it’s not always money! In fact, it’s rarely money. While employees should be paid well for what they do, money can sometimes be a disincentive; big bonuses can put pressure on people and impede their performance. If your business offers bonuses to staff, then the best monetary incentive is a lower amount given more often.
Beyond the dollar, however, you need to make sure their roles offer a reason to get up for work in the morning with a smile on their faces. It starts at a macro level with a shared purpose, the values and vision of your business. Without an inherent meaning that comes from what the business offers, it’s hard to build a sense of connection to others, whether that’s other team members or customers.
More specifically, people generate motivation from how they fit into that purpose, how they contribute. That entails recognition and sense of ownership of their role. At the literal end of the day, they need to feel a sense of accomplishment. Longer term, that might need to be presented as progress.
You may also find that your staff thrive when they find the security of a long-term commitment and feel as if what they do matters, that is, creates a legacy.
Give them the resources to perform
So, you’ve found the trigger to motivate your staff. Now equip them to do their jobs properly. Start with a clean and pleasant work environment that gives them a sense of ease when they step into work; there’s nothing like a mess first thing in the morning to spoil a good mood.
Secondly, and this is industry specific, give them the tools and technology to enhance their role. If you’re upgrading, make sure to get the change management piece right so they are comfortable with new equipment or software, and welcome the update.
Reverse their reasons for leaving
There’s a saying that good employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. It’s possible that you may have made some mistakes in the past – if that’s the case, here are some areas to focus on in the future to maintain great employees.
As a business owner, if you fail to ignite their passion and relate it to the work they do, challenge them intellectually, engage their creativity and develop their skills, then good employees get bored and feel their talents are wasted. This is particularly true if they’re innovative but keep hearing ‘no’ when they want to contribute ideas for new ways of doing things.
Good business leaders furthermore know to give their staff a voice as well as recognise their contributions, giving credit and appreciation where credit is due. Most of all, they show their trust by giving employees responsibility.
On a personal level, in addition to genuinely care about their welfare, you need to be real, open and honest with them. This extends to keeping to your commitments, delivering on the promises you make. Only then can they trust you to follow through, which helps them see you as a leader, not just the boss or their next paycheque.
When you have customers return or give great reviews, let your staff know and congratulate them on the role they played in that. Identify milestones and great achievements, and share them with your frontline. You’ll be amazed at how that has a multiplying effect.
It’s the right way to do business
When you have a front line that’s well-resourced and committed to doing their best for your business, you’ll have customers that are well cared for who will keep coming back. A happy business that puts people before profits is the foundation for happy patients and a flourishing business.
Dr David Hills is the founder of iNEEDa Dentist, Australia’s only independent dental comparison site. iNEEDa Dentist brings unprecedented transparency to the dental industry and even includes price guides, a Get A Second Opinion feature, 3D virtual tours of dental clinics, advanced matching, and 24/7 booking, to help remove the most common barriers that are keeping millions of Australians from maintaining preventative dental care and contributing to our alarming dental health statistics.