What are you thankful for? I say it is your employee Heroes.

Last month we talked about the changing season and that customer retention was the lifeblood of any business including your business. One extremely important point to make is that companies don’t provide customer service: employees do.

Almost from the earliest days of my career in the Capital Goods Industries, I was struck by the invisible nature of the customer service and support staff. They just do the work. There’s not a lot of drama, no fussing nor whining, they just do it. Nike made that their motto – I think that should be ours in Product Support as well.

At all hours of the day or night, all days of the year, these employees, who you entrust with the relationship that your business has with your customers, are there. Answering the phone, solving problems, going out in the field to a job. They work on everything to keep your pumps and systems in proper working condition. This job has not gotten easier over the years. It has become more difficult.

Technology changes: from business systems, to telephones, to mobile apps, to telematics. There is an expression in French “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.” or in English – “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Through all the changes over the past two or more decades one thing has remained constant. The skills and resources of your support personnel. We might have given them productivity tools to make them more productive, or communications systems to make their lives easier, or telematics to track the customer equipment and water systems, but there are a few things that I think we have left behind.

Like training.

As those of you who read this column regularly know a colleague of mine, Edward Gordon, talks about the 4,500,000 jobs that are unfilled in America at the moment going to well over 10,000,000 by 2020. The education structures are not delivering the work ready people that are needed for the work place today. It is truly discouraging when I don’t believe that this generation or any generation of student is better or worse than any other generation of student. I am not blaming the education system alone, but it is true to say that something is amiss here. You also know I taught education at university early in my career but left thinking I could make a better living doing something else. Something to think about, isn‘t it?

Like compensation.

Too many workers in America today are living paycheck to paycheck. No, I am not saying you aren’t paying enough to your employees. Not at all. I am saying that we need to reevaluate the cost benefit for each and every job function. What is it worth to have a satisfied customer? Who delivers the service that causes the customer to be satisfied? I am not here to cast judgement but I do want to precipitate thinking. How you compensate your heroes is not what moves them to go above and beyond expectations. No, it is pride. It is a very personal task that these support employees are performing every day. They will work harder to satisfy your/their customers than they will work to satisfy their bosses. Stop and think about that a moment. It is very true. Why do you suppose they will do that? It is because the work they do for the customer is PERSONAL.

Like recognition.

It is amazing how recognition will make a difference in a person’s life. Let me pose a question please. Has any one of you been praised too much? Has any one of you been thanked too much? Probably not. So how about starting now? When you see someone go above and beyond acknowledge it and recognize it. Right away. In public. Make a huge fuss about it. Now don’t overdo it: your team will know when it isn’t sincere or fake. I don’t believe we celebrate our successes anyway near often enough. One of the films we use in training seminars is called “The Syd Story” and stars Dennis Franz. Mr. Franz is a night shift foreman in a machine shop. He has people that fight in gangs but they are extremely competitive people. He starts giving the performance scores to his team on a daily basis. Then he posts the scores on the board. Then he provides rewards to high performers. And guess what – the performance goes from worst to first and the night shift outperforms the day shift. That is something that doesn’t happen very often. Well the final prize was if the team as a whole exceeded a certain goal, every member of the team, the reward would be that his wife would make them all Pumpkin Bread. Imagine. The boss thought it was a great idea and introduced a new incentive. Any department that increased their productivity by “x” percent would receive a free lunch from the lunch wagon. Splat. It fell flat and productivity tanked. The Company was thinking that a $5.00 lunch would be a sufficient reward for $500.00 more productivity. Things don’t work that way, do they?

So how do you treat your heroes? Do you provide regular and ongoing training? Is the ratio of cost for employee compensation commensurate with the level of performance and customer satisfaction generated? Do you recognize and publicly reward extraordinary performance? Simple questions with HUGE impact on employee satisfaction. That is what causes each employee to work their heart out to satisfy your/their customers. I am certain we can all do just a little bit better and a little bit more. Don’t you?

The time is now.

About Water Well Journal

The Water Well Journal is the leading resource for those working in the groundwater industry. The flagship publication of the National Ground Water Association is delivered to more than 24,000 people every month and covers technical issues related to drilling and pump installation, rig maintenance, business management, well rehabilitation, water treatment, and more.

Since many of the companies in the groundwater industry are small family-run businesses it is critical that Water Well Journal provide much more than technical content. That is why Ron Slee’s monthly columns addressing management, supply, and inventory issues are valuable. It is that type of information that helps the publication achieve NGWA’s mission of advancing groundwater knowledge.