(Time to read this article is about 90 seconds)

Your ‘front line’, whether it’s face-to-face over the phone or by email is where customer relationships are developed or destroyed.  You can have all the best intentions at the top, you can create great marketing programs…but the folks who deal with customers can trash it all.

Last week my brother Robert received an email from Harvey’s (a large Canadian hamburger chain) wishing him a Happy Birthday and offering him a free hamburger.  All he had to do was to present the email to his local Harveys location.

His celebratory hamburger was ‘OK’ but not super yummy. In fact, it was cold and didn’t come with the toppings he ordered…and the employee who served him was miserable to the point of being insulting.

Harvey’s went to a lot of trouble and expense to build a relationship and a loyal customer…and it was all destroyed on the front line.

So, here are five “Reality Checks” for your business, or Department:

Reality Check #1: Are your front-line people effectively screened for aptitude, attitude and values…or are they chosen at random or, even worse, out of desperation?  These people are delivering your brand promise one customer at a time, every day. If they’re the wrong ‘raw material’ in the 1st place, you’re in big trouble.  

Reality Check #2:  Do you have clear and specific sales, service or other performance commitments for your front-line staff, along with clear standards of behavior?  In other words, do these people know exactly what’s expected of them and why? Were they involved in setting those commitments and standards?  Do they embrace them…and if not, why not?

Do you share with them how they’re doing, individually and as a team, compared to where they need to be to deliver their revenue, service and other commitments?

Reality Check #3:  Are your front-line people properly trained on an ongoing basis?  Remember, ‘training’ is a process, not an event.  Are they given the information, processes, policies and empowerment to do their job effectively with as little stress as possible?  I’ve seen surveys showing that 70% of employees believe that they’ve not been properly trained to do the job that they’ve been given.  Is that happening in your business?

Reality Check #4:  Do you acknowledge, thank, celebrate and reward success?   And, are you dealing effectively with non-performance by inviting poor performers to ‘move on’?  One of the biggest problems in many businesses today is the failure to deal with non-performance.

Reality Check #5:  Have you created a business environment in which frustrated employees feel comfortable coming to you with their concerns and ideas?  Or are they taking their frustration out on your customers and driving them away? 


When I run into crappy service, I gently ask the front-line staff, “Why do you do that?” and the response often is, “We know it’s wrong and we keep telling our bosses, but they won’t listen!”   They always say this with great sadness and frustration.  In this kind of business environment, the good people leave and the bad ones stay and take ‘I don’t give a damn pills’ and hope that you don’t notice.

So, using the five ‘Reality Checks’ above to jump-start your thinking, specifically what will you do to create a powerful front-line Team that has the personality, information, desire and incentive to build value-added relationships with your customers?  Sit down with them and ask what help, support and tools they need to be effective ‘Brand Ambassadors’ in your business. 

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