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Opinion: Bottom-line changes start with front-line staff

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Here’s a virtually unarguable point: We have little control over competitors and their tactics, including pricing, and we have no control over the economy.

In “Frontline Profit Machine,” author Ziad Khoury emphasizes the opposite, what we do control: the performance of our own teams and our work environments. By working with what can be controlled or created, we are able to boost the bottom line 100 percent, Khoury believes, and he presents research to prove his theory.

The book is written as a blueprint on how a business can significantly improve its bottom line through front-line service or sales associates. If you do not find Khoury’s blueprint applicable to your business – and you may not – you will not like his book.

Another feature you may not like (I didn’t) is the book’s beefy length and jam-packed, visually-busy pages. Too much information from too many contexts made for laborious reading. Most people today are too busy to thoroughly read such books.

Apart from that, one can squeeze a number of helpful points from its pages:

• Have a selling and service process. It is striking to me just how many companies do not have sales or service processes for front-line employees to follow. I agree with Khoury here, because in my 25 years consulting nationally, the vast minority had any form of written selling or service processes for employees to follow. When pressed for those standards, most managers said, “Well, employees should know what we want by now.”

• Work on front-line staff rigorously following the selling and service process. A process is not the point. Execution is the point. This engages managers to train, reinforce, reward, correct and model the process.

• Khoury’s selling and service process is basic but solid. His blueprint is built on six dimensions: greet and build rapport, qualify, offer product/services, overcome objections, offer other services and close positively.

• Hire for fit. Khoury is spot-on about hiring people who fit your culture and what you’re trying to deliver to the customer. He says, “From your customer’s perspective, your front line is your company.” Too little time or thought is given to hiring front-line associates.

• Training the front line is essential. The author presents an approach to training, which is critical, for service and sales performance at front-line positions. I can attest to this. A major quick-serve franchise client had critical levels of turnover a few years ago. I found the major cause was insufficient and ineffectively implemented training. They were throwing employees to the proverbial wolves before they were adequately trained, and people were walking out on the job by the tens of thousands nationwide. The research also revealed that the customer’s experience suffered, too.

• Have clearly communicated standards in place. While Khoury makes the point, he failed to give it sufficient attention, in my view. Without clear standards of performance, especially for front-liners, consistency of performance is impossible – not to mention how improbable it will be for a company to achieve next-level performance when they must improve to stay competitive.

Bottom line
Khoury’s book is a customer service evangelists’ road map. If you are willing to wade through its pages, and your business depends on front-line associates, you will probably benefit from this book. Brevity and better layout would have made it easier for readers to find the ideas most beneficial to them.

Springfield-based consultant Mark Holmes speaks nationally on increasing employee and customer retention and improving employee performance. He is the author of “Wooing Customers Back” and “The People Keeper,” and writes a blog at www.managemyemployees.com. He can be reached at mholmes@managemyemployees.com.[[In-content Ad]]

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