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How a Human Centred Approach Pays Dividends in Business

How a Human Centred Approach Pays Dividends in Business

Dealing with businesses that don’t care makes for an unsatisfying customer experience. But being customer centered is the ground where smaller businesses can beat the bigger players, hands down, and it involves dividends.  

Larger organisations have so many customers each one is a faceless individual, another problem to be processed.  And it often feels as if they don’t mind about losing your custom.  For smaller businesses, where each customer accounts for a significant chunk of revenue, giving each person the attention they deserve makes good business sense.

As an independent HR specialist, I recognise the importance of being customer centered and place the people I look after at the heart of my business. Here, I share my top customer care tips.    

Stand Out by Standing Back

In an era of continuous sharing on social media, we’ve all been trained to talk about ourselves and promote what we do.  But when everyone else is doing the same, customers can feel like you’re more interested in self-promotion than helping them.  

Address this by ensuring your customer centered employees are trained to actively listen to your customers. Of course, it’s important to build rapport but you can do this by asking probing questions that show you’re interested in understanding their problem or business. This also means you will uncover your clients’ needs and can sympathise with their frustrations.  

Listening to learn will also mean you’re focussed on what is being said rather than what you’re going to say next. Open-ended questions – that encourage your customer to share more about their challenges, plans and goals – will reveal everything you need to be able to provide them with top service.

Keep In Touch

With the whirlwind of business life, keeping in touch with your customers can fall by the wayside.  If you have a large number of customers, sending out feedback questionnaires is a great way to show them you’re interested in their views.   

For smaller customer numbers, sign up to key clients’ social media feeds or company newsletters to keep up-to-date with changes in their world.

Mountain or Molehill?

What seems like an insignificant problem to you could feel like the end of the world for your customer.  No matter how small the problem they bring to you, show compassion and provide your usual excellent level of professional insight.  This will build a relationship of trust and, when they face other problems, they’ll be far more likely to come to you again.

Ensure You’re Being Customer Centered

Following up with your clients to see how your services are working out for them is a good way to keep in touch and deal with any issues before they arise.  

In this instance, generic emails won’t cut it.  Personal follow-ups that reference particular goals and seek feedback will leave your clients with a warm glow.  Where possible, holding regular face-to-face catch-ups are an even better way to cement your relationship.

There’s no need to limit the conversation to the services you are providing.  Broaden your meeting to make it a more general catch-up and you could uncover hidden opportunities to provide more support helping both your client and your business.

Also, ensure that you give clients the opportunity to raise issues with you; this is extremely important to ensure your relationship is a long-term one as we discuss in the next section.

When Things Go Bad Exceed Expectations

Research from Harvard Business Review shows that it’s how businesses deal with problems that can make or break the customer relationship:

“When it comes to service, companies create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily.”

When things go wrong, the best way to put it right is to make it easy for your customers to get what they want by removing obstacles.  

Ensure customers don’t have to contact your business multiple times to put a problem right; remove the need for them to repeat the same information; make sure they don’t need to be transferred.  Basically, solve the problem right the first time.  

Empowering your people to take ownership of customer problems and ensuring they have the training to correct them is the key to secure customer loyalty.

How To Be Customer Centered

It’s easy to forget that your customers don’t exist solely between the hours of 9am and 5pm.  Like you, they have lives, families, friends and important events outside of work.  

As Shep Hyken, Customer Service Expert, Author and Keynote Speaker says:

“The greatest technology in the world hasn’t replaced the ultimate relationship building tool between a customer and a business; the human touch.”

Keep an eye out for opportunities to deepen your relationship with your clients.  There’s no need to pry;  as you get to know them it’s likely they’ll mention a special trip or major life event.  Simply remember to ask them about it when you next speak to them.

This kind of care goes beyond the customer/provider relationship and demonstrates genuine human interest that goes beyond business.  

As an independent consultant, I pride myself on combining in-depth HR expertise with a personal touch for being customer centered.

If you’re looking to develop a strong working relationship with an HR specialist who cares, get in touch on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk.

Fit For Work? – Uncovering Sick Note Storytelling

Fit For Work? – Uncovering Sick Note Storytelling

137.3 million. That’s the number of working days UK businesses lost to sick note or injury in 2016. The government recognised the challenge that managing long term absenteeism posed to businesses. And, in 2013, they replaced sick notes with fit notes to help employers reduce sickness absence costs and minimise the disruption caused by employees being off sick unnecessarily.

However, several years on, the fit note is plagued by misconceptions. This article clears up the myths so you can make best use of the system for your business.

Myth 1 – Employees Can Get a Fit Note from Day One of Being Ill

Contrary to popular opinion, employees are not able to obtain a fit note until they have been absent from work for seven calendar days. Demonstrating they are ill or injured for this initial period should be covered by a self-certification form.

Myth 2 – Sick Note Can Carry a Cost

Fit notes are issued free of charge on the NHS by a GP.  However, if an employer requests medical evidence that an employee is unfit to work before they have been absent for seven consecutive days, this will incur a cost.  Which is where the confusion can come about.  In this case, it is up to employers to foot the bill.

Myth 3 – Employees Can Only Return to Work Once Completely Fit

In most cases, people don’t need to be completely fit to return to work. Fit notes are issued on the premise that appropriate work is usually good for people’s physical and mental well-being. Which means employers can support recovery by giving people alternative work to do.  This should be appropriate and within the limits that the individual’s health condition imposes.

Myth 4 – Fit Notes Are Specific to the Individual’s Job

Fit notes tell you whether an employee’s doctor considers them to be fit for work in general and is not in reference to the individual’s specific job. This gives you the option to discuss alternative work with your employee that could be outside their usual remit. A temporary change to duties can often support people in returning to work.

Myth 5 – Fit Notes Are Legally Enforceable

The advice contained in a fit note is for the employee and is not binding on the company. It is ultimately down to you as the employer to decide how to act on the advice, taking into account your wider legal obligations.

If the fit note contains work adjustment suggestions you are unable to implement you can explain this to your employee and behave as if the fit note had said the employee is not fit to work. Alternatively, request that your employee returns to the doctor for alternative suggestions.

Consider involving a HR consultant to navigate your legal responsibilities and bring in specialist occupational health expertise if required.

Myth 6 – Only a Fit Note Will Do

It’s up to you what form of evidence you are prepared to accept from your employees regarding their long-term sickness absence.  You can choose to accept other proof, like a hospital letter detailing in-patient dates or a letter from chiropractor, if you choose to.  Judge each piece of evidence on its own merits and, if in doubt, request the employee provides a fit note if you feel their evidence is insufficient.

Myth 7 – Employers Can Revoke Sick Pay if a Sick Note is Not Provided

This myth is half true, half false.  If an employee fails to provide a fit note you cannot withhold statutory sick pay (SSP) even if the fit note is not received on day eight of their absence.   This is because the employee may have been too ill to get to the doctor or they have been unable to secure an appointment.

However, if you offer sick pay over SSP, you are entitled to apply your own rules to this remuneration element.  You can choose to revoke payment from day eight onwards until evidence is provided and then backdate the payment or even fail to pay it at all if evidence is not provided.  Ensure your rules are applied fairly, consistently and non-discriminatorily to keep your feet legally dry.

Myth 8 – Sick Notes Can Roll on Forever

A sick note will have a specified end date.  If the employee believes they are still not well enough to return to work or full duties, they can apply to their doctor to extend the sick note.

To prevent this from continuing indefinitely, if your employee has been off work sick for four weeks, you can make a referral to the government’s Occupational Health Service.  The Fit for Work assessment provides the employee with advice on interventions and steps to help them return to work.  Subject to the employee’s consent, the Return to Work Plan will be shared with you and the employee’s GP.

If you need some pragmatic HR support to help with a sickness absence case, get in touch on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk.