The biggest issue facing the customer service industry is high employees turnover. Lack of motivation, low level of job commitment and attitude towards the job itself, are the cause of high staff turnover. Very often staff view their job as “it’s just a job” or a “stepping stone until they find a better one” or “unglamorous” or even “hopeless”.
However, they are not entirely responsible for having such low expectation of the job. Businesses play a major role in creating a working environment that is conducive to happy and highly motivated staff, instead of only focusing on reaching sales target and bottomline. After all, having happy and motivated staff working in your business translate to more happy customers, hence higher sales. It’s a win-win.
So how do you create a working environment where staff are happy to work in?
Let’s take a look how Pret a Manger does it.
Pret a Manger adapts an out-of-the box approach to their human resource development, which when you think about it it all makes sense. One of the criteria used for recruiting and promoting staff is, believe or not, “cheerfulness”.
Another critical factor in creating a motivating working environment is a positive teamwork. When you spend a 9-hour day working, you want to like the people you work with and hence go along with a desire to accomplish something rewarding together.
There is a “survival” element in how Pret a Manger does it. After a 6-hour day working at the shop, a new hire is voted by the employees. The team decides whether or not the new hire is suitable to work as a team member. With bonuses awarded based on the team performance, the team “survival” depends on the team members.
When you see Pret a Manger’s staff serve customers with a smile, they are not smiling because they are told to as a customer service staff, but 1) they smile because they are genuinely happy and content with their work and 2) they take their job seriously because they have shared responsibility to perform as a team.
This achievement is based on the whole company’s believe that delivering outstanding customer service start from the well-being of their staff. As Clive Schlee (CEO of Pret a Manger) said during the interview with The Guardian
“Pret really has worked hard to make our staff care about what they are doing,” he says. “That is very clearly understood and appreciated by customers and is, I believe, Pret’s ultimate competitive advantage.”
With sales reaching £327.5 million in 2010 and work force turn over rate is only about 60% (normally for fast-food industry the rate is 300-400%), we could all learn from Pret a Manger.
The article is an excerpt from The New York Times article (6 August 2011) : Would you like a Smile with that?
SOMETHING weird is happening inside a Pret a Manger sandwich shop on Broadway in Midtown Manhattan.
It’s not all those quirky British sandwiches, thin and understated with ingredients like free-range egg mayonnaise and avocado-and-pine-nut filling.
No, it’s the employees. The cashier is asking New Yorkers how they are doing — and genuinely seems to want an answer. The guy who is throwing out the garbage offers customers a cup of water. The manager swings by to commiserate about the sweltering weather.
This is fast food? In Manhattan?