Every once in a while we all come upon an outstanding customer-service experience. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it doesn’t happen often enough.

In recent times, I’ve experienced two great customer experiences and one fairly bad one. This got me thinking — again — just what can companies do to build a culture of great teamwork that is driven to deliver the very best customer service every time?

I wrote on this subject not too long ago here in an article called “Creating a showroom team” in the September 2015 issue. I hesitated writing another article on the same subject so close in time, but learning requires repeated practice and effort. Plus, delivering great customer service has become more important than ever.

With more competition on all fronts and the evolution of the internet, you can’t depend on the customer-service experiences of the past to carry you into the future. It takes a team effort to put smiles on the faces of today’s customers. The team you are putting together not only includes your employees who come face to face with your customer (showroom sales consultants, warehouse and delivery staff), but also the backup team of digital experts who present you to the world.


History lesson

I love history so let’s start with two quotes from two famous early 1900s entrepreneurs. First, Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” The second comes from Andrew Carnegie: “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to obtain uncommon results.” Yes, I know this is the 21st century, but those principles still apply.

Here are some principles I believe contribute to building a great team. I started to prioritize them, but as I worked at doing that I realized each one is important. So in no particular order here are some suggestions that will help you create a better team. I’d like to suggest you develop a rating formula and rate your company on every bullet point. This should point out where you’re doing a good job and where there might be room for improvement.

  • The owners and leaders of the company must have a vision on where the company is going and how it’s going to get there. Then they have to share this vision with all the team members. Rick Reviglio of Western Nevada Supply (who I’ve written about before in this space) does a once-a-year 20-minute video that is shared with all his team members.

  • You must develop a culture where good communication is a priority. Employees want to know what is happening in your organization, where you are headed and how you are performing as a company. This needs to be concise and to the point. Remember the acronym TMDL? That means “too much, didn’t listen!”

  • Periodically discuss team dynamics. Encourage open communication in team meetings about the team dynamic. For example, talk specifically about what’s working well and what might work better. Also encourage conversations reflecting on what has enabled positive achievements as a team.

  • Welcome comments, questions and suggestions from all team members. Be open to and encourage input from every team member.

  • Encourage teamwork on projects; develop a protocol that requires team members to work together on projects. For example, reviewing what products to show and sell; how to display them; how to keep the showroom looking fresh and exciting all the time.

  • Facilitate conversation, idea sharing and team brainstorming. Do regularly scheduled staff meetings and make this part of the agenda.

  • Incorporate team-based problem solving into the staff meetings. Ask team members if they are stuck on a project, need help or are having problems on the order or delivery side. Talk it through as a team and come up with solutions together.

  • Set increasingly challenging individual and team goals. Encourage team members to stretch themselves and to build on previous successes. Recognize the individuals and the team for achievements and for reaching their goals.

  • Make every team member feel valued. Success as a team only can come when each team member is aware of the importance of their role in the team’s success.

  • Act as a guide. Every team needs a great leader who’s willing to guide the team in working and making decisions, whether individually or collaboratively.

  • Team leadership starts at the very top of your organization. Each team leader in the ladder of management must be committed to reaching the team’s goals and have strong communication skills to be able to share their passion and vision for success.

  • Provide ongoing coaching, training, mentoring opportunities and support to all team members. Give team members learning opportunities and help in building their individual skills and team skills that will encourage, grow and stretch their capabilities.

  • Recognize and reward good teamwork. Look for ways to acknowledge and consistently reward good teamwork. This can be a genuine verbal “thank-you,” a handwritten note or email, recognition in a team meeting and/or any appropriate monetary reward (money, gift certificate, dinner for two, etc.).

  • Be quick to discipline any team member who engages in gossiping about, bullying or backstabbing other team members. Let it be known your organization will not condone any negative interpersonal behavior.

  • Provide detailed job descriptions. Every team member deserves to know exactly what’s expected of them in their job assignment.

  • Do regular job-performance evaluations. Likewise, every team member deserves and wants to know how they are performing in their jobs.

  • Hire for attitude, train for aptitude and this will increase altitude! I believe a good attitude is the most important attribute that should be considered in hiring a new person. Good attitudes are contagious just like bad attitudes are! You can teach product knowledge, selling skills, systems and procedures, but it’s difficult to teach good attitude. Pretty much people have it or they don’t.

  • Do fun events for the entire team. Things such as a Christmas party, Fourth of July picnic, pizza party, impromptu thank-you notes or words for a great sales month, etc. Every year at The Plumbery we did a “Plumbery Outing.” We did a Friday evening to Sunday getaway for all the employees and their significant others. Yes, we closed the business on a Saturday, but we reaped the benefits all year from the positive attitudes of our employees. We rented houses at the beach or mountains. We rented houseboats on the lake. We always did several fun team-building games (The Plumbery Olympics), but were never perceived as work-related exercises. Everyone had a great time and the team got to know each other better in this non-work environment. Be creative and have fun.

  • Empower team members to make decisions on the fly, especially when a customer is involved. Teach them to do what they feel is right and in the best interest of the customer. Teach and preach that when in doubt always side with the customer.

  • Give back to the communities where your team members and your customers live, work and play. Give back with your time by being active in community and industry organizations, by coaching and mentoring kids, and giving back financially. Encourage career and personal development.

  • Provide an ongoing, never-ending in-house training program. Encourage and consider helping pay for outside educational growth. This can reap big rewards for both the individual and your company.

  • Little things mean a lot! Acknowledging birthdays, new births, weddings, work anniversaries and individual achievements within or outside work will go a long way toward helping build that winning team and company esprit de corps that will set your workplace a cut above your competition.

There you have it. Hopefully these couple-dozen suggestions will help you build a winning culture that will put a smile on every team member’s face and ultimately help put more money on the company’s bottom line.

Good selling!