Riddell: If you can’t find ‘em, how do you keep ‘em?
March 10, 2015
Walking the talk is a whole lot harder than most people realize. Never has there been a business with the stated goal of having dissatisfied customers. Yet so many business owners get locked into old practices, patterns, beliefs, and acceptances that dissatisfied customers are exactly what they get. The connections between valuable well-trained employees, satisfied customers, and the financial success of their business just never get made.
Consider for a moment two very real experiences which occurred just this past week. Going out for breakfast one morning, we visited a local eatery. Upon entering we noticed that the restaurant was about one-fourth full yet there were a number of tables needing to be cleaned. Waiting in line, we were told that they would be with us in just a minute.
"A minute" stretched out to 10, but we were assured at least four times that they would be with us in "just another minute." When our magic minute finally arrived we were seated and there ensued another period of desertion while we waited anxiously for a cup of coffee. Finally we got around to eating breakfast and the quality was average at best. The bill was $25. We'll not go back. Figure we eat breakfast out once a week, so this bad experience will cost this restaurant about $1,300 in lost revenue just from us. This doesn't even take into consideration the multiplying impact of our neighborhood discussions.
Contrast this with an encounter with one young Norwegian named Kristian at Devil's Thumb Ski Ranch. I needed some technical advice. Kristian spent a considerable amount of time listening to my problem and then implementing a solution. Now you may not think that one can have an in-depth and informative conversation about a simple ski pole, but I learned more about the intricacies and construction and subsequent benefits of various components of ski poles than I ever envisioned. While I was not in the market to purchase a new pole, when I am I will do business with Devil's Thumb. Kristian's patience, knowledge, and experience underscored my recreational enjoyment that Devil's Thumb strives to provide.
“I am a strong believer in the old saying, ‘You get what you pay for.’ If you believe in the importance of satisfied customers and want more of them, then figure out a way to pay employees for providing this satisfaction.”
I bring these two instances up to highlight the two employee categories we defined in our last column. The breakfast disaster was in line with "experience adding" while the ski pole was clearly "knowledge adding." Both affected customer satisfaction in different ways, yet both underscore the real world impact of good employees or lack thereof.
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So a very real challenge for many small business owners or managers is if I can find a good employee, and I decide to invest in training, how do I keep him or her? While quite a few companies in this area stress free recreational offers like lift tickets and days off and paid lessons, direct compensation remains the single best ingredient for retention. Said differently, if you value good employees, pay them more! The key is structuring this "more" so they stay with you and it is self-funding.
I am a strong believer in the old saying, "You get what you pay for." If you believe in the importance of satisfied customers and want more of them, then figure out a way to pay employees for providing this satisfaction. I once ran an organization of over 350 employees and paid every employee and manager solely on the basis of improving their skill sets and increasing customer satisfaction. The key is to identify what the key customer satisfaction issues are and then make sure that the employee can impact these key issues. Once you get this done, you have to have a system in place to measure the anticipated improvement.
If your business is seasonal, then simply pay half of the bonus this season, with the commitment of the balance at the start of next season. Properly structured, for forward thinking owners this retention incentive is very much like giving sleeves off your vest. You will be funding the retention through an improvement in customer satisfaction which always improves your bottom line. You are paying with found money!
The hidden benefit to this approach is that talented employees attract other talented individuals. Just think what your company might look like if every employee was an "A" player and you could focus your energies on truly growing your business. Just a thought!
Following a successful international business career, John Riddell turned his attention to small business/entrepreneurial pursuits that included corporate turn-arounds, start-ups, teaching, authoring business and sports columns and serving as VP for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce directing its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth.
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