Friday, December 12, 2014

Ultimately, your employees define your brand.

Recently I’ve been less than forgiving with a business if I’ve had a bad experience dealing with their employees. Business owners, even modular home factory owners, work hard to make sure that every customer is satisfied and buy from them again. Owners would be amazed just how badly their business looks to the customer when they have bad interactions with their employees.

It's OK. Just ignore that old guy and he'll go away.
Over the past year I’ve visited Best Buy three times and had a bad experience with one of their employees. Being retired and unfortunately, looking like an old guy, means that the just out of college employee on the floor wants nothing to do with me. The first time I wanted to buy a new 50” Smart TV, the second time I was looking to upgrade my 3 year old tablet and the last time I wanted a new stereo. Each time I got a young person that viewed me as a tech-ignorant old fossil that they would have to waste a lot of time on that could be better spent talking with their fellow employees about TikTok or other social media experience. I have vowed I will never darken their door again and bought these items from either a locally owned store or on line.

Not my waitress but you get the picture
Just the other week I stopped at an Applebee’s for lunch. My town has every restaurant known to man except an Applebee’s so this was something I looked forward to. Lunch. How much simpler could it get. Order off the menu, make no special requests, get the food, enjoy it and leave. Oh no, my simple lunch turned into an argument with the 18 year old girl that waited on me. Three simple items should be on my plate but I only got two so I asked for the third. She told me that I must have eaten that after she brought the plate and I just wanted another. What the H***! I ate, left a very small tip and will never visit Applebee’s again, no matter where I am in the United States.

Could this be one of the problems facing the modular home industry? It sure is.

A sales rep avoids calls and emails from an irate builder. The service department manager argues about whose fault the repair is. The Sales Manager tells the builder if he doesn’t like how things work he should try another factory and then he will see just what he is missing.

Employees can make or break an entire factory. 

Make your biggest builder angry enough to leave and go to another factory and within days all your competitors will be calling your remaining builders asking if they heard that XYZ Builder left you and speculating if you are going to close. A single employee with a bad attitude on a single day can bring down your factory.   

When factories focus first on their employees, customers are likely to be satisfied. This results in profitability, which then makes owners happy. Things can go very wrong if employee focus is not at the beginning of this equation.

Modular home factories must encourage employees to be passionate about what they do, to remain laser focused on their organization’s mission and goals, and to be obsessed with customer service excellence.

One of the ways to measure such encouragement and focus is through employee engagement. If employee engagement is high, then you are likely encouraging and focusing on your employees. If it is low, then you are probably not.

Employee engagement can best be described as the level of intellectual and emotional commitment an employee has for accomplishing the work, mission, and vision of the organization. And the level of active engagement or active disengagement can be a game changer in whether an organization succeeds or fails.

84% of senior leaders say disengaged employees are considered one of the biggest threats facing their business. However, only 12% of them reported doing anything about this problem.

Though it may be difficult to attribute costs directly to under-performance, it is estimated employee disengagement costs the overall US economy as much as $350 billion every year! This can break down to more than $2,200 per disengaged employee.

Just what do disengaged employees do or not do to cost companies so much and how can you identify them? 

Disengaged employees:

  • Take more sick days and are late to work more often.
  • Undermine the work of their more engaged colleagues by constantly complaining.
  • Produce less, this can be millions of dollars in lost home sales.
  • Miss deadlines and lose sales opportunities.
  • Use cynicism, which is often passed on to other employees and customers.
  • May be very talented, but leave to join another company.
In many cases, disengaged workers may need to be removed because they cannot be turned around. However, most of your employees are neither engaged nor disengaged, and this is something you can influence.

Before you go on a witch hunt looking for bad employees in your sales, service or production departments, you have to ask yourself if what you do or in most cases, not doing to engage your employees to do a great job when interacting with your builders and even their customers.

Modular home factories are not just isolated islands where ships dock, load up a new home and sail away. If an employee screws up any part of the process and makes the builder question why he/she is still buying from you, it may be too late to save that builder but it should give you an incentive to begin engaging with your employees so it doesn’t happen again.

Gary Fleisher is a housing veteran, editor/writer of the ModcoachNews blog and Modular Construction Industry Observer and Information Gatherer


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Coach,

The culture in some factories is bad and will never be fixed. The modular plants often look at builders as they are doing them a favor by accepting their orders. The plant tell the customers this is how we build and process an order and you the customer need to adapt to how we do things. The plant should remember who the customer is. Unfortunately many plants will never change. That is why half the industries has gone out of business and the other have is being bought and merged.