What separates a good company from a great one? In a word, people. Even in a world driven by technology and commodity pricing, the most successful companies realize that their greatest asset lies in their workforce. That’s why employee tenure is one the most effective ways to evaluate the quality of a business. Some of benefits of highly tenured employees are obvious, while others may not be as apparent.
Tenured employees can help recognize and correct issues before they become major problems. The typical business only hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers. By the time they do, it’s often too late. A pushy salesperson, rude support staff, or faulty product can damage a company’s reputation for months or even years before the problem is identified. And once it is, the average customer will need to have 12 positive customer service experiences with the brand to make up for a single negative one.
It’s easy to see why a proactive approach to customer service is so important. Successful businesses know they need to aim for a customer experience that isn’t just adequate, or even good. In order to build customer loyalty and grow profits, customer service must be legendary. How can a company reach legendary status? Tenured employees hold the key.
How Employee Retention Improves Customer Service
Tenured employees possess specialized knowledge.
It’s common sense that the longer you do a job, the more skilled you’ll be. But tenured employees don’t just refine their skills over time—they acquire specialized knowledge.
They’ve evolved with their industry. They’ve had first-hand experience with previous products, services, and systems. If a returning customer wants a product that’s been discontinued, a tenured employee can compare current offerings and suggest the perfect fit.
Customers rely on this experience and view tenured employees as trustworthy industry experts.
Personal connections elevate the customer service experience.
Over time, tenured employees build connections to customers and clients. They become familiar with their needs, their business, and their communication style. They may even forge more personal connections and share hobbies or chat about daily family life.
When they do, they transform a customer’s perception of a company. No longer a faceless corporation, the company is humanized.
Moreover, having a consistent contact at a company gives consumers the impression of stability. When a business supports its employees for years or even decades, consumers feel more comfortable trusting the brand.
Experienced team members provide unparalleled client support.
Luke Teboul, Vice-President of Sales & Marketing at MSP & BlueSky ETO, has noticed a major trend emerging:
Over the last few years we have seen a great deal of headcount reduction in our clients’ marketing production departments. This has resulted in smaller teams with less time to keep up with the latest technologies and techniques—like variable color inkjet printing or digital asset management, for example. Additionally, smaller departments often have less time for valuable checks and audits of instructions or data quality. Consequently, our highly experienced teams have become increasingly valued extensions of our clients’ teams, with the skills and training to quickly spot looming pitfalls.
Equipped with experience and detailed industry knowledge, tenured employees stop being outsiders and perform as intricate members of client teams.
Long-term employees provide ongoing customer service training.
Learning doesn’t stop when orientation ends. No matter what field you’re working in, you’ll continue to gain and refine new skills over time. Tenured employees are invaluable to the learning process. Not only can they answer questions about equipment, processes, and practices. They also provide valuable insight into building relationships with customers. Their first-hand experience imparts a level of wisdom corporate training programs simply can’t.
Tenured employees have learned from their mistakes. They’ve developed the ability to predict customer concerns and provide proactive solutions. Even better, they can teach these lessons to new hires, allowing them to learn the same skills without making the same mistakes. As new hires become tenured employees, the cycle continues and customer service improves with each generation.
Tenured employees are walking success stories.
No employee is fully dedicated to their work unless they can see the clear benefit to their future. Although the managers or founders of a brand may share immense pride in their products and services, many employees simply feign enthusiasm as they watch the clock. Without genuine interest and excitement, customer service suffers. Tenured employees can help.
Imagine a recent college graduate being trained by a woman who’s been at the company for twenty years. In that time, she’s had several promotions. She started with an entry level job and is now in a senior management role. Her career has allowed her to travel, to buy a beautiful home, to send her children to the best schools and even to cross some items off of her bucket list. These goals may seem far away for a recent grad, but this experienced mentor shows they’re definitely possible. A single long-term employee can be proof that the journey to success lies within your company.
With tenured mentors, employees see their work as more than just an investment in the company. They’re investing in themselves and their future. It’s employees with this mentality that provide the most outstanding customer service.
Despite Customer Service Benefits, Tenure is Shrinking
Less than 30% of wage and salary workers have been working with their current employer for over 10 years. The median number of years employees have worked at their current company is 4.2, a number that’s decreased almost 9% in the last two years.
Median employee tenure was generally higher among older workers than younger ones. For example, the median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 (10.1 years) was more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 years (2.8 years). Also, a larger proportion of older workers than younger workers had 10 years or more of tenure. Among workers ages 60 to 64, 55 percent were employed for at least 10 years with their current employer in January 2016, compared with only 13 percent of those ages 30 to 34.
What’s cutting retention rates short? It could be the simple fact that many don’t view employee retention as a major concern. In fact, according to LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends report, only 32% of global talent leaders view retention as a top priority.
“While the ability to attract and recruit talent is vital to any company’s success – many companies fail to have a holistic approach to the entire candidate lifecycle from attraction through onboarding and development,” says Lars Schmidt, Founder of Amplify Talent. “This disconnect creates a fractured process where companies over-emphasize hiring and under-emphasize development, leading to retention issues and creating an endless loop of new recruiting.”
Regardless of the cause, each time a company loses a tenured employee they also lose customer service expertise, as well as the time and money spent on acquisition and training.
Engaged Employees are in the Minority
Remaining focused on employee retention isn’t the only important goal. To maximize the impact tenured employees have on customer service, companies need to keep them actively engaged.
According to the Harvard Business Review, “the highest performing individuals in companies have three things going for them: (1) they have tenures of a decade or more in their organizations; (2) they are engaged in their work; and (3) they are in roles where the expectations of the job align well their natural talents.”
When this trifecta of features occurs, employees perform 18% higher than the average employee and 35% higher than a worker who strikes out on all three factors. Unfortunately, this perfect combination exists among only 5% of employees. Employee engagement could be the largest factor holding them back.
Gallup polls provide some startling statistics. The majority of employees (50.8%) are “not engaged” at work. 17.2% are even classified as being “actively disengaged.”
While many companies actively poll employees to gauge their engagement, the researchers and Gallup say this is a mistake.
“Companies also fall into a common trap of mistaking their survey for an employee engagement strategy. Taking employees through a set of survey questions does not lead to improved engagement. Organizations have to approach employee engagement as an ongoing human capital strategy and consider all of the elements that matter in performance management—from leadership accountability and manager education to clear role expectations and employee development opportunities.”
To improve engagement, Gallup recommends employing these five tactics:
- Use the right employee engagement survey.
- Focus on engagement at the local and organizational levels.
- Select the right managers.
- Coach managers and hold them accountable for their employees’ engagement.
- Define engagement goals in realistic, everyday terms.
You can read more about how to utilize these tactics here.
Legendary Customer Service Requires Renewed Focus
There are few factors that have a greater impact on a business’s success than customer experience. But raising your company’s customer service profile to legendary status won’t happen overnight. The process will require a holistic approach—one that leverages the skills and experience of tenured employees. Employee retention is essential, not just to maintain a company’s current team of customer service superstars, but to nurture its next generation of mentors.
Which strategies has your company put in place to continually nurture the customer service skill cycle? Comment below to share your insights.
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