The most important relationship in the service industry is the one between employee and customer. And what first appeals can, over time, repel; customer requirements can morph from opportunities to enhance experience into tiresome problems, the desire to please can wane, thus setting off a self-perpetuating chain reaction of less than desirable attitudes and behaviours from both customer and employee. The cause? Long hours, inadequate training for customer facing roles and burnout. The probable result? Relationship breakdown, and either employee or customer walking out of the door, never to return. The solution? Our four E’s for longevity and mutual satisfaction.


You’ve developed the brand story, you may not be the biggest out there but you have individuality, and a narrative that appeals. The right staff have come knocking on the door, and they are keen to become a part of the tale, even creating a few new chapters of their own. A big source of discontent can come when employees realise that the cover doesn’t match the content, and that the story was never written for them, it was just for customers. Ensure employees are as involved as customers in the message, with a congruence exists at all levels, and disillusionment, and even a subconscious friction between customer and staff member is less likely to surface.


In order to deliver a quality service to their customers, staff need to appreciate their critical role which comes from an elevation of importance from within; give employees pride in their positions with requisite respect for the often difficult job that they do. The negative perception often attached to customer facing jobs needs to be broken down, and as staff confidence and self-evaluation rises, customers are more likely to view the relationship as equal, treating them with the respect they deserve. Mutual respect is key to relationship harmony.


Whilst it is certainly true that some employees will naturally be more engaged, they are conscientious, pro-active and optimistic, there are ways of improving engagement. Attempt to instil a sense of self-efficacy through management and coaching, ensuring performance indicators for supervisors include engagement activities. New staff may need socialising into the values of the firm, and existing staff can take on mentoring duties to educate them which in turn can benefit their own engagement. Remember that engagement must be two way, it is not enough for management to issue directives on how engaged an employee should be, true engagement comes from good communication.


It is widely acknowledged that turnover in the service industry outstrips that of other industries, staff not feeling enabled to perform the duties expected of them is a key reason. A considered and consistent training programme can give employees the skills they need to develop positive relationships with their customers. Training focusing on technical aspects of the job is insufficient; proficiencies in communication, negotiation and conflict resolution will be the tools staff draw upon when the going gets tough. Relationship skills are transformed from amateur to professional, customer and employee are able to understand, listen and communicate with each other leading to a long and happy marriage.