[Editor's note: This is the second part of a two-part article on working with central station employees. Bob Harris looks at how your empowerment and support of your employees creates not only employee loyalty but customer loyalty (retention!). For the first part of this article, click here.]
Alarm companies provide certain tools to our field techs. We set them up with vehicles, laptops, cell phones, ladders and more. Without tools, technicians are obviously not capable of doing the job you hired them to do. Sure, you can turn a screw with a dime or a knife blade, but how much more successful and proficient would you be to use a screwdriver? When I was growing up, my dad always told me that every tool has a specific purpose and should only be used for that purpose. A screwdriver is not a crow bar, and a wrench is not a hammer.
While we make sure our employees have the "physical" tools, I am really surprised at just how many alarm company managers do not provide the "soft skills" tools to employees who speak with their customers on a daily basis. These same managers will run out and buy a new ladder in a heartbeat, but regrettably, they still do not provide any tangible training to employees who must resolve customer complaints, or save customers wanting to cancel their service. Most employees who work in these areas come with the basic set of tools required to do the job they were hired to do. Unfortunately, the tools they need to become better at customer relations and the skills they need to take a higher degree of ownership toward problem solving are just not being provided in many cases.
These employees experience a high degree of frustration and certain feelings of helplessness when it boils down to the hard problems. Many times they feel abandoned and forgotten. Resentment toward management and ownership manifests. Not only are they the lowest on the ladder, they are also left to fend for themselves. Left without the tools they need education on, these employees experience a high degree of pressure both from within the company and from the customers. This is the number one reason why employees leave!
This kind of situation creates both employee and customer attrition. Frustrations turn to anger and people go away. Yes, I'm talking about both employees and customers alike. Loyalty, with very few exceptions, does not just happen by itself. It must be nurtured and mentored. A number of companies I have worked with experience deeply entrenched issues when it comes to problems being passed up the ladder to be resolved by others higher up. A clear lack of ongoing training along these lines creates their inability to empower employees to take any significant ownership of problems when they happen.
One example of this very issue I will share with you happened when one of my client's customers called in to complain about having to pay for a service call. The central station operator took the call.
"What do I pay you for every month? Every month I pay you on time and now you send me this huge bill for a repair! I have never had service and still I pay you every month! HOW DARE YOU?"
She listened to the customer and then transferred the call to the to the service department supervisor. Unable to work it out with the customer, the supervisor then transferred the call to the service manager. The customer then repeated the problem for the third time to the manager. The manager tried to reason with the customer and did what he could to explain why a service charge was applicable in this case, but the customer (already frustrated at having to repeat it 3 times) blew up. The manager really didn't know how to resolve it and was perceived by this customer as being a big fat brick wall.