As it appeared in the Daily Nation on June 26th, 2018
Frontline staff play a very crucial role in all businesses. It is the receptionists, waiters, cashiers, tellers, sales personnel, customer service agents, shop floor assistants, cleaners, deliverymen etc. that create both the first and the last impressions. They are the face of any business; to the customers they are the business. These staff manage the majority of customer interactions; they are the first point of contact. Based on their interactions with frontline staff, customers form an opinion about the business. The customers then decide whether to come back or to go away never to return. These interactions also determine what the customers will say about the business. What they say could be positive or negative. How is your business treating these staff? What could you improve on?

Frontline staff possess a wealth of information. They know exactly what needs to happen to improve the quality of service and meet customers’ expectations. They are aware of the customers’ pain as well as their source of delight. Have you tapped into this information? In addition, most of the frontline staff have abilities not common with all other staff. They have the ability to maintain a positive attitude and high energy levels throughout the day. Most are able to deal with very difficult situations while remaining calm. Is your business sending out a message to show how important these staff are? Frontline staff need to be valued, listened and respected.

Unfortunately, most of the frontline staff feel unappreciated. They feel that their supervisors and managers do not really care about them and are not concerned about what they go through. Others feel that no one values their suggestions for service improvement. Despite their potentially useful ideas, their voice is rarely sought. During the many interactions that I have had with frontline staff during trainings and at their premises, it has always been evident that they need additional support from their managers. Most managers especially those not in the frontline however, do not seem to be fully aware of the support their frontline teams need to perform better. Managers need to listen more to their frontline teams.

Is your business really concerned about the frontline staff? Is it treating them with dignity? If you want your frontline staff to treat your customers well, treat them well. These staff need to be treated the same way you wish them to treat your customers. Do not treat them in inhumane ways, do not shout at them, and do not keep them in the dark. Instead, make them a core part of your business. Involve them in finding solutions and in steering your business forward. Appreciate what they do, make them feel wanted and important.

Listening to the frontline staff demonstrates that your business really values and respects them. If you have been ignoring your frontline team and taking them for granted, take action today. Start by listening to their point of view. Ask them for suggestions on how to improve service. If all smart businesses took a special focus on their frontline staff, I believe that customer experiences will scale to a new level in this country.

Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy