Your core offerings provide a foundation upon which you build your business. To really strengthen your business and bottom line, you must add in other elements that do not relate to your core functions. One of the most important of these elements is customer service. Often customer service is the difference between turning a one-time customer into a regular, or even retaining a long-standing client who is weighing his options or faced with budgeting decisions. The name of the customer service game is pleasing clients, leaving them smiling and thinking fondly of the relationship that you have built with them.
Even in today’s digital environment we still have an intrinsic need for human contact and relationships. This need is the basis of customer service and provides you with multiple means of building your business. Taking the time to get to know your customers and setting some standards within your business, from the management team all the way down to part-time staff, will allow you to build customer relationships that you can capitalize on. This is a necessary focus for any industry, regardless of whether you serve individual patrons at a restaurant or focus your efforts on business-to-business operations.
Factors to Consider
Customer service involves talking to your customers, making sure you solve their problems, planning for future opportunities to serve them, and finding ways to constantly improve your business. You need to consider the value of customer service when:
- Hiring staff- Your employees interact with your customers. You might be the best communicator in the world who leaves everyone you meet with a sense of fulfillment–but if the people who talk to your customers aren’t, then you have a problem. Without friendly and attentive waiters, most restaurants will fail before they can get off the ground, and customers expect to speak with a pleasant and accommodating administrative assistant when they call your office. Come see us if you need well-trained and friendly staff on a temporary basis or even if you need a permanent hire.
- Tip: A well-focused hiring process will bring you good employees. Improve customer service by reinforcing the company’s dedication to satisfying customers; allowing staff to attend seminars or internal training that focuses on customer relations; and giving employees enough autonomy to do whatever it takes to make an upset customer a smiling brand ambassador.
- Using a Head-on Approach- Face customer complaints and problems head on. Talk to the customers immediately to let them know you are addressing their concerns immediately. Then you must actually do it. The most humble apology along with great interaction that leaves the customer happy in the short term is worthless if you do not fix the problem.
- Tip: Collect feedback as often as possible. Doing it face to face allows you to address the issue right away and show customers that you want everything to be perfect for them. Feedback collected after the fact–via surveys, emails or the occasional angry phone call—is also useful. Follow up with customers as soon as possible and let them know that you intend to fix the problem. If you use written surveys, be sure to get contact information.
- Accepting calculated change- Some people are afraid of change, as it may alter the focus or mentality of your staff while taking time and money to retrain your employees. A calculated change, however, is beneficial because the end result is improvement. Anything that makes you better is worth taking the time and maintaining an open mind.
- Tip: Be on the lookout for problem areas within your customer service. If customers aren’t getting food fast enough at a restaurant, evaluate your operations from how quickly servers take and enter orders all the way down to how long it takes to expedite a plate. You know your business better than anyone, so identifying problems should be fairly simple. Once you have grouped several complaints into a problem area, think of the ways to fix it that will make customers the happiest. In these cases, the most cost effective way is not always the best way.
A customer-service oriented business can thrive even in harsh economic times. Yes, sound financial policies and putting out a great product must be addressed also, but customer service helps you to directly maintain your revenue stream. It doesn’t matter how innovative your products and services are if this stream dries up.
Employees expect that they will be duly compensated for their time and efforts. While most immediately think of salaries and wages, any manager or employer can tell you that compensating employees goes far beyond a paycheck. Employee benefits are yet another way that employers “pay” their staff. Many employees and job seekers evaluate benefits along with financial compensation when choosing a place to work.
Popular Employee Benefits
Some Will Cost You
- Paid time off- Who doesn’t like a vacation? That is what you should be asking yourself when deciding whether or not to provide your staff with paid time off. While many wage positions do not receive this benefit, it is a great perk that consistently ranks at the top of the popularity list with employees. You can predetermine your employees’ days off, or you can elect to let employees choose their days, depending on personal preferences and the industry you are in. While it might not make you happy to have staff out, you can always find reasonable ways to cover their absence.
- Paid sick leave- This benefit is also very popular with employees. While you can require that employees use paid time off to cover illness, allowing a conservative number of sick days can be a good way to show labor that management understands real-life situations.
- Health insurance- Currently this issue is up in the air. Our nation may or may not have regulations requiring health insurance for staff in the future. Regardless many employers already offer health benefits. While employees pay for part of this benefit, health insurance represents a considerable expense on your balance sheet. As you provide coverage for more staff, your cost per employee will decrease. Be sure to ask your accountant about the best way to write off this expense and reap any additional tax benefits that might be available.
- Retirement plans- This is possibly the most expensive benefit an employer can offer. There are a lot of diverse retirement plans for employers to choose from, so if you do want to offer this benefit you can find the plan that best meets your goals and keeps your costs in line. Most employers match their employees’ contributions, up to a certain percentage of income. This benefit used to come in the form of a pension, but as we have seen it is financially impossible to pay all of your staff decades after they have retired, no matter how great of a philosophy it is.
Some Benefits are Cost Effective
- Flex Time- This benefit is not for every employer. It allows your staff to choose their own hours. If you can make this concept work for your business, it is a great way to make employees happier that does not cost you very much. In the hospitality industry, you have the opportunity to provide this benefit due to the hours that your business must be open. If you can swing it, then it also works out very well in office environments. Unfortunately this benefit cannot do much for the construction industry, since employees must work together while they have sunlight.
- Telecommute- People hate traffic and the rat race. Some employers can help ease this burden by allowing their full-time staff to perform some of their job functions from home via the internet. This is another cost effective benefit, but bear in mind that you need trustworthy staff and a solid IT department to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Employee benefits are a great way to improve employee relations and show your full-time staff that you care. Considering that they usually represent another cost for you, it might be a good idea to find other means of saving a few bucks when it comes to employee-related expenses.
At Labor Systems Job Center we work diligently to take as many potential compliance and regulatory issues off of the hands of employers as is humanly possible. As many employment-related compliance issues as we can handle for you, we are unfortunately unable to address every piece of regulation on your behalf.
Our partners who operate in the hospitality industry know that any business that serves food is subject to regulation by the Office of Food Safety and Environmental Safety. This governing body inspects and certifies that restaurants and other establishments that serve food and drink adhere to sanitation standards, which ensure that their customers are safe from foodborne illness.
If you would like a comprehensive view of these regulations, they are kind enough to provide a PDF which details standards and compliance issues. If you are running a business and limited on time we will refresh you on some of the main points of compliance.
Compliance Issues Related to Food Safety in Arizona
- Accountability- Your business will need a “Person in Charge” who has been certified by the state. This person–you or a manager–is responsible for knowing all aspects of food safety, from proper storage, to the right food handling techniques, to appropriate employee hygiene. Technically someone with this distinction must be present during all business hours to oversee your staff and operations as they relate to food safety.
- Employee management- This is where prepared temps can really pay off. Your “Person in Charge” is responsible for overseeing the staff and how they interact with food. Technically your staff must be forthcoming about any injuries or illnesses that they suffer from before you can allow them to work around food. Your “Person in Charge” is also responsible for verifying that your staff maintains acceptable levels of personal hygiene both in preparation for and during their shift.
- Storage- Food storage is extremely important. Not only must particular foods be stored on particular shelves (no vegetables below raw meat of course), but you must also label the packages according to food type, date, etc. Food packaging is also an issue, as anything in a tainted or otherwise damaged package must be noted and removed from food storage and obviously not served to customers.
- Contamination- Bacteria spreads fairly easily and invisibly. You are responsible for stopping the spread of bacteria and containing any potential outbreaks through proactive actions and educating your staff. The state breaks down sources of contamination as follows:
- Contamination from hands
- Contamination from tasting
- Contamination while separating, packaging and segregating food products
- Contamination from ice– including proper ice machine setup and drainage
- Contamination from lack of washing (mostly vegetables)
- Contamination from equipment, utensils and linens–you will need to know the different standards and uses for utensils made from different materials as well as proper dishwasher maintenance.
- Contamination by consumer (This applies to food products used as a display and to buffet situations.)
- Presentation- Your health inspector also wants to verify “food shall be offered for human consumption in a way does not mislead or misinform the consumer.” This means that coloring or wraps cannot be used to change the appearance of food and that verbiage is plain and understandable.
- Verbiage- When presenting food to guests, you must use plain and common names to identify the food products. You must also include reminders about food that may be served undercooked or raw and the dangers that might accompany such food.
Being in compliance with the state is not only good for your guests, but necessary to keep your license. We realize that these issues keep you busy on a day to day basis. If you need some more time to cover these compliance issues and are in need of additional staff, visit Labor Systems online to see how we can help you.
The opinion of many economists and business leaders in Arizona seems to be that this year marks a year of economic re-growth. It definitely will not happen overnight, but there should be definable improvements for everyone. The construction industry deserves attention when talking about an improving economy because they have felt the harsh effects of the recession as much or more than anyone else. Building development characterized the economic boom that led up to the recession, and trouble in the real estate markets were the first factors cited when the recession was being defined.
Tens of thousands of workers in Arizona depend upon a healthy real estate market to make a living. What opportunities await this hard working segment of our state economy in 2011?
Optimism in 2011
- Commercial Sector- A recent post by the Phoenix Business Journal cites commercial property as a real opportunity for construction companies in 2011. Favorable corporate tax rates and competitively priced leases are making Phoenix–and other cities in Arizona–a location that cannot be ignored by large businesses. Arizona is geographically located in the West but comes without the price tag that many of our neighboring states have, making Arizona a formidable West Coast distribution point or headquarters. While there probably won’t be a lot of bids taken for new construction next year, you would be advised to look out for all of the remodeling work that will be out there. When large companies move in, they will need offices and manufacturing facilities redesigned to suit their needs. Commercial build-outs should keep a lot of contractors afloat in 2011.
- Home Segment- Opinions are mixed, but many in the real estate market are predicting 2-3% increases in home values in most states, not just Arizona, next year. As this happens people will begin to have a little more faith in the economy and likely some extra disposable income to go with it. Again, new development is less than likely, but contractors will again have the opportunity to get into the renovation market. Many people will probably stay in their homes longer from here on out, making remodeling a very enticing prospect for consumers so long as they can get a line of credit for the renovations.
Coaxing businesses from other states will be instrumental in an upturn for the building industry statewide in Arizona. New companies mean more work, not just for the construction industry, but for everyone else as well, once the local economy starts to churn a little faster. With thoughtful decisions and a focus on growth, 2011 should be a better year for employers from Tucson to Tempe.