Companies do themselves a disservice when they don’t empower their employees to make the best decisions for the customer and the company. Leaders often hold the reins too tight because they are afraid their employees will make mistakes. Of course, they will make mistakes, but the risks can be mitigated by instilling the confidence and framework to make the right decisions.
Let’s say you’re in the vehicle rental business and there’s a miscommunication on a customer’s order. The vehicle they thought they were renting this week isn’t available until next week. When they come to pick it up, they complain to the customer service rep that they lost business because of the delay. How do you want your customer service rep to handle it?
Option 1: Tell them, “We apologize for the inconvenience. I’ll talk to my manager to see if there’s anything we can do and get back to you,” hand them the keys, and send them on their way.
Option 2: Tell them, “We apologize for the inconvenience. I’ve waived the fee for this first week. Please let me know if you have any issues,” hand them the keys, and send them on their way.
Hands down, the second option is the best one from the customer’s perspective. They encountered a problem, and it was resolved at that moment. They walked away feeling heard and satisfied. You know who else feels good about the exchange? Your customer service rep—they had the autonomy to solve the problem for the customer, and the customer walked away happy.
Giving that level of autonomy to employees can be scary for some leaders. What if the employee gives a whole month free to compensate for a one-week inconvenience? It could happen, and it did happen here at Merchants, but instead of instilling a fear of failing, we chose to see it as an opportunity to coach, teach and help employees understand how to make more balanced decisions.
Giving people the courage to fail doesn’t mean there’s no guidance. Offering a free month of service for one week of disruption is too much, but the decision has already been made. So, how do you turn that into a teachable moment instead of a disciplinary action?
To go to the employee and simply say, “Don’t ever give a free month of rental away again,” helps no one. But what if their manager sits down with them and says, “Let’s walk through what happened before you made the decision. Did you consider what your options were?”
The employee admits that they didn’t really think about it, a month just seemed like a good idea. “That’s okay,” says their manager. “Now that you’ve had time to think about it, what do you think all your options were?” They talk through the situation and the employee now understands why one free week makes more sense. The teaching moment doesn’t end there, because every problem will be different, and the employee needs to learn how to navigate those problems.
The manager acknowledges that it can be difficult to make an immediate decision with the customer right in front of them and then coaches the rep on techniques to manage that. Together, they agree that it would be okay for the rep to say to the customer, “If you could please wait here a couple of minutes, I’ll go see what I can do.” Then walk around the corner, take a breath, and think through their options before offering one to the customer. Your employee now has the autonomy to make a decision and the tools to make the right decision.
People will make mistakes, but I will take all those mistakes and inexperience over being paralyzed by fear of failure every day. If you want to move your company forward, you must empower your people to make competent decisions. If you want to retain good people, you must empower them to make competent decisions. The way to do that is let them know that it’s okay to try and to fail sometimes, and then coach them through the experience to help them learn, improve, and grow.
Are you ready to give your employees the courage to fail and the faith to succeed?