Improve the general atmosphere at your business by clarifying the meaning of proper behavior for your entire staff.
Setting the proper tone ultimately improves both employee and customer loyalty. After all, workers as well as customers prefer a pleasant atmosphere to one teeming with tension or ravaged by raw nerves.
Tire dealers and service shop operators have told me that some otherwise-competent employees seem clueless to the basics of successful human interaction.
One shop owner summed up a new hire's social shortcomings this way: "To say the young man must have been raised by wolves would be an insult to wolves," he said.
Fostering a more pleasant environment may require a boss to stand up and clearly demonstrate proper, normal behavior to the entire staff. (By all means, hire the proper coach or consultant if the boss lacks the necessary skills for this task.)
It may be time to schedule a mandatory-attendance team meeting specifically to coach the staff, highlighting the differences between a warmer and colder approach to people — a winning and losing attitude.
Today, some people instinctively seek training from electronic sources of one kind or another. However, I prefer the impact and urgency of face-to-face presentations.
Where practical, an owner or top manager should lead this affair. After all, he or she already is well-acquainted with both the personnel and the areas where they need to improve their people skills. A boss can highlight needy areas without embarrassing individual workers — calling out names.
Here are just a few potential examples.
Some workers have difficulty matching an appropriate emotional reaction to the situation at hand. For instance, I have met people who react to stress by laughing. Imagine how laughter would come across to an angry customer or to a confused co-worker who has a legitimate complaint.
Next, employees may not be as self-aware of their body language as they need to be. For instance, they need coaching because they lapse into a scowl, sneer or "eye-roll" when dealing with difficult customers or a stubborn co-worker.
Mind you, I recognize how challenging it can be to telegraph empathy and concern to a caustic, mouthy motorist. (If it was so easy, everyone would do it well, correct?) Nonetheless, service personnel must telegraph concern instead of condescension to all customers.
Of course, customer relations may become fraught when the motorist "cops an attitude" with one of your service personnel: The customer's being obstinate or nasty in spite of your employee's efforts to help that person.
Sadly, some service personnel make such a situation more difficult for themselves because they don't recognize something. They're struggling because they're failing to maintain eye contact with the customer as the discussion intensifies.
In other cases, customer relations suffer needlessly because service personnel don't apologize at all — or do so promptly and effectively. An apology doesn't mean you're giving away the proverbial store or needlessly taking responsibility for a problem.
For instance, a service salesperson may respond, "I'm so sorry that you're upset. A technician's going to investigate your concern in a few minutes."
Last but not least for now, some workers lose track of how loud their voice becomes when they're talking to a co-worker or customer. Although people near them recognize "high volume," the worker does not. Typically, loudness raises stress rather than reducing it. Often, dissolving stress is the real secret to defusing a potential confrontation with an aggrieved person.
Surely, there's more than one way to coach and train employees. And some workers respond better to one approach than to another one. But this highly focused team meeting may be a successful option you haven't tried it.