Posted by: Chris | April 22, 2008

Empowered Employees, In Spite of Company Policy

One significant aspect of Services Marketing is that of empowered employees.

Verizon Communications Inc. (Florida) saw what happens with little or no serious, formal employee empowering structure in place, a little earlier this month.

In a nutshell, Verizon employees felt that the company’s customers were not being treated fairly—so they picketed. (See the entire story here.)

In defense of the managers and executives at Verizon, I am sure that they meant no harm to their customers or their employees-they were simply trying to conduct business and make money. It seems however (based on what the reports would suggest) that the company was putting sales over common sense, even going so far as to mandate that employees attempt to sell new services to angry customers who were calling to disconnect. (“Mrs. Jones, we’re sorry to hear that you hate our service and that you never intend to work with us again. Would you be interested in an international long distance plan?”) What a slap in the face of the customer! And honestly, what employee is going to do this with conviction? (By the way, Verizon is not the only telecom guilty of this.)

Any logical employee recognizes that this is not a great strategy for customer retention. Empowered employees go beyond merely recognizing this to act as a true liaison between the customer and the company’s decision-makers. Granted, picketing is a little on the extreme side of empowerment, but it certainly makes a statement.

To avoid this unpleasantness altogether, Verizon’s (or any other company’s) decision-makers could have:

  • created an internal corporate blog where FLSE’s could comment and then taken FLSE’s comments seriously
  • followed FLSE comments on Twitter and then taken their comments seriously,
  • created an internal feedback mechanism in which FLSE’s could have an e-audience with the company decision-makers, who would then take the FLSE’s seriously
  • included FLSE reps in planning meetings and then taken their input seriously
  • petitioned FLSE’s for input and then taken it seriously
  • visited with FLSE’s face-to-face and then taken their comments seriously

See a theme here? The first step in employee empowerment is to recognize FLSE sentiment as legitimate.

I’m committed to keeping this short, so for more on employee empowerment, check out Why is Everyone Smiling, by Paul Spiegelman.

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Responses

  1. […] Tagged customer service, employee empowerment, front line service employees, Home Depot, Lowe’s, positioning, services marketing We’ve all had bad customer experience services. Last night, mine was at Lowe’s. Without going into the gory detail of the 50-minute experience that made the previously shunned Home Depot a viable shopping option for me and had me walking out Lowes’ sliding glass doors empty-handed, I’ll simply relate the experience to a significant aspect of services marketing: employee empowerment. […]


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