Why is a Workforce Shortage Causing Customer Service to Suffer?

The obvious answer… companies don’t have enough manpower to give proper attention to the customer! While this is true, there’s another reason; some employee’s “give a damn” is broken.

What I mean by this is some people just don’t care. If they get fired for not taking care of customers or not performing their duties, they’ll just hop to the next business that’s desperate for employees.

This is why most companies won’t say anything to their employees if they screw up or act like jerks. They fear if they point out an area that needs improvement, the employee will get butt hurt and just wash their hands and go to the next job that offers them a sign-on bonus or an extra $0.25 per hour.

Customer service blog page photo

Workers have a ton of leverage in this tight labor market. This is a good thing for awesome workers who deserve to be compensated. In reality, good companies probably already take care of these employees. It stinks for the employees that have little integrity, though. Employers get stuck paying these low performers the same inflated wage. It might take a week or two for these low performers to wash out. Hopefully the damage they cause in this short time isn’t irreversible.

This also causes the high performers to request even more, thereby perpetuating this vicious cycle. We all know the market can only bear so much labor inflation before there is an implosion.

For a little context, I own a commercial cleaning company. Most of our work is performed at night, alone, with little administrative oversight. We have to trust our team to perform every night with integrity. Our supervisors will inform us if trash is missed or the restrooms aren’t shiny. We must be able to have conversations with our team about how to get better without hurting their feelings. You need the right people who want more out of life.Most people just want to be appreciated and valued. Many times it’s not just about the money. In fact, you don’t want this kind of person on your team. They’re the person who will jump ship when another company offers them $0.25 more per hour.

What can you do to hire the right people on your team?

  • Be honest from the beginning – We tell our applicants we’re going to hold them accountable. We’re not going to put up with any crap! We’re going to follow up and check progress. We give them an out and say it’s okay if they don’t think they’re a good fit. We’re honest and tell them it will be evident in the first week or two if they’re not passionate and driven.
  • Be fair to all – If it’s good enough for one, it’s gospel for all. You can’t let something skate for one employee then reprimand another for the same thing. People talk. You will get bit if you’re not fair to all.
  • Don’t hire when you are desperate – Keep a steady flow of potential candidates in the queue. Begin having conversations and training before you need to fill the position. This will allow you to filter out potential problems before they are on site causing grief for your customers.
  • Lead by example – More is caught than is taught. You need to set the example that leadership is accountable to fix their issues too. If a team member comes to you with an issue, you have to be humble and own your mistakes too.

How do you keep the right people on your team?

  • Appreciate them – People love praise. If they’re doing good, tell them! Don’t just go to them when you are having issues. Tell them when they do little things right or do something remarkable.
  • Create a great culture – Employees should be encouraged to build friendships within the business. They need to feel welcome and valued. Host events, mastermind groups, or just random parties. This will go a long way to build camaraderie.
  • Cut toxic employees fast – A few bad apples will slip through your hiring process. You need to listen to the rest of your team to validate concerns, then move on from toxic employees immediately. Toxic employees will cause morale to suffer and create drama amongst the rest of the team.
  • Don’t let things slide – If someone isn’t carrying their weight you must address this right away. Your other employees will suffer or gain animosity if you allow others to perform below the company’s expectations. Low performance cannot be tolerated.

How can you have tough conversations with your employees about how to improve their process without pushing them into a frenzy and storming off like a big old baby?

  • Frame conversations to benefit the employee – How can this proposed improvement make the employee’s life better. We like to discuss living up to your potential. You feel so much better if you’re proud of your work and worth. If you give it your best you’ll feel accomplished and your spirit will flourish.
  • Give them a safe place – Don’t jump down their throat about small issues. Allow them to come up with a solution and fix it.
  • Give respect – Don’t sit up there on your high horse thinking you have all the answers. If you give respect you will likely get respect in return.
  • Let them come up with the solution – Did they screw up? Ask them to come up with a resolution. Don’t fix it for them. Empower them to own their process. If it’s their idea they will work hard to implement it.
  • No one is perfect – We all need to remember this when we are having tough conversations. Allow grace. Be compassionate. Find a solution, don’t freak out.

What are some red flags of potential bad apple employees?

  • The interviewee has all the right answers and isn’t at all nervous during the interview (this applicant has been to many interviews).
  • The guy interviewed great and appears ambitious but is a little late on the first shift.
  • Calls in sick or says they will be a few minutes late within the first month.
  • People who don’t respond to your texts or emails within a reasonable amount of time (same day).
  • Blames others for past failures.
  • Talks negatively about past employers.
  • First night on the job, he’s a couple minutes late and does an ok job for his first time at a new building. The company needs this guy so they brush it under the rug so the guy doesn’t get angry and leave. This happens over and over until finally the customer calls and tells you their building is a pigsty. Again you are afraid to say anything to correct the employee’s performance because you are desperate. The customer service suffers and the customer will eventually hire Clean Impact to help them (shameless plug).

As the owners of a professional cleaning company, we are in a very unique position. Our employees don’t work in a central location. We are not able to stand around the water cooler and build a good culture. We need to hire the right people and build a solid company culture that allows us to serve customers all over the state.

Over the past 4 years we’ve learned a few things that have helped us weather the current storm. Might a few of those habitual interviewers sneak in? Yes. But, if your culture is right and you’re following up and holding people accountable, they will wash out fast before any damage can be done to the culture or to the customer relationship.

Let’s face it, we can’t be with our team all the time. We have to trust that the pride our team has in their role of keeping people healthy and their integrity towards the whole team will encourage them to do the right thing. Once you build a team around this, your customers will benefit and sing your praise.

I hope this helps you achieve success by hiring right to offer award winning customer service.