At a time when apathy and distrust are so endemic in many organizations, some companies have nurtured employee loyalty to create customer loyalty flourish. The following case studies will substantiate the cultivation of a positive work environment that prioritizes employee recognition and support invariably results in exceptional customer service.
The Nordstrom Way: Enabling Employees to Have the Freedom and Vision to Become Self-Directing
Nordstrom’s founders created a culture that prioritized a “worshipful relationship” with its luxury department store customers and empowered employees to do everything they could to please them. The Nordstrom Handbook emphasizes outstanding customer service and encourages employees to set high personal and professional goals, expressing confidence in their abilities. The company’s Rule 1 reads: “Use good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules. Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division manager any question at any time.” Nordstrom’s success is a testament to empowering employees and supporting policies prioritizing exceptional customer service.
Flying the Fun Skies at Southwest Airlines: Giving Employees the Freedom to Deliver a Great Brand Experience
Southwest Airlines achieved great success early on due to its committed and motivated workforce. Founder Herb Kelleher recognized the importance of prioritizing employee satisfaction to create a culture of caring for one another and providing excellent customer service. Kelleher famously said, “The business of business is people—yesterday, today, and forever. If the employees aren’t satisfied, they won’t provide the product we need.”
To create a positive work environment, Southwest Airlines encouraged fun among its employees, setting it apart from other airlines that were considered dull and unappealing. Celebrating employees and their families is deeply ingrained in Southwest Airlines’ culture, and it is evident in the prominent display of pictures capturing these special moments throughout their office spaces. This people-centric culture helped the company attract and retain talented workers passionate about their jobs and provide top-notch customer service, which made flying with the airline a fun experience. Despite the potential cost savings, Kelleher remained committed to celebrating employees with parties, banquets, gifts, birthday cards, and outings, citing the value of having the fewest customer complaints in the industry.
Beyond the Call of Duty: Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen at Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz Carlton is renowned for its exceptional customer service, with the empowerment of employees being a critical factor in their approach. The company’s philosophy of “Ladies and Gentlemen Taking Care of Ladies and Gentlemen” highlights the importance of treating customers and employees with respect and dignity. Regardless of their rank and title, employees can spend up to $2,000 per day per guest without seeking supervisor approval to solve problems and deliver personalized and unforgettable guest experiences. This approach may seem costly, but it empowers employees to use their judgment to create memorable and personal experiences for guests. One of my friends enjoyed staying at a Ritz-Carlton hotel a few months ago, where he ordered a burger and a milkshake. Unfortunately, the hotel did not offer milkshakes, so he settled for a glass of water. However, to his amazement, the waitress surprised him with a milkshake to accompany his burger. She went the extra mile without being prompted by scouring the kitchen for milk, ice cream, and cold milk to create the shake.
Idea for Impact: Empowering Employees is a Strategic Approach That Yields Significant Benefits
Empowering employees goes beyond providing the necessary tools and training; it fosters a culture of trust, autonomy, and ownership.
How you treat your employees directly impacts how they treat your customers. When you prioritize making your staff feel appreciated and supported, they are more likely to provide exceptional customer service. A positive work environment can foster innovation and creativity within your organization while attracting and retaining top talent.