Client Retention

Improving Office Morale

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5 Ways a PEO Can Improve Office Morale

Improving Office Morale“The beatings will continue until morale improves!”

Have you ever seen that expression on a plaque in a manager’s office? It’s meant to be funny, but in some companies, it might ring a little truer than anyone would like. When morale is low — due to a recent round of layoffs, an ineffective manager, a toxic work environment or one of many other reasons — taking a beating might sound more pleasurable than going to work.

Managers who sense that morale isn’t where it could or should be often don’t do a lot to help the situation. They might not correctly determine the cause of the low morale and implement changes or programs that either serve as a temporary fix or don’t address the problem at all, which only further discourages employees. Managers could also get defensive and start resorting to blame, coercion or fear tactics (the proverbial beatings we spoke of earlier) to try to turn things around and improve the office environment.

The problem is that those solutions almost never work. Eventually, productivity suffers, employee turnover increases and it becomes harder to attract and retain top talent. Eventually, maybe, morale will improve (often when the offending manager moves on or is fired) but until then, the organization suffers.

While it may be impossible to avoid all of the factors that lead to low morale, you can reduce the likelihood of a depressed and dysfunctional staff — or get the company back on track — by engaging the services of a professional employer organization, or PEO. A PEO is essentially human resources for hire, and can handle all of your HR functions, including payroll, benefits administration, staff recruitment and training and more. But what many managers and business owners fail to see is that outsourcing these functions can actually significantly improve employee morale in several important ways.

PEOs Offer Better Employee Benefits

Many small businesses would like to be able to offer their employees a comprehensive benefits package that includes health coverage (including dental and vision), disability insurance coverage, retirement plans, tuition assistance and more. However, the costs of such benefits add up, and most small businesses cannot afford to offer everything or subsidize more than a small portion of the costs. In some cases, even larger companies can struggle to develop a benefits package that attracts top talent. As a result, employee morale can suffer, as workers may feel shortchanged by their employers or feel frustrated that they work hard only to spend a large portion of their salaries on benefits.

A PEO can help ease this burden because they manage a large number of employees — often several thousand — and have access to better rates and programs. A PEO can leverage the group purchasing power to buy health insurance coverage at a reduced rate, for example, or access additional benefits such as travel or gym membership discounts. These benefits can often go a long way toward keeping employees happy and engaged.

PEOs Offer Improved Training

Remember that manager who had no idea how to improve morale? A PEO can provide him or her with training in more effective techniques that would not only improve morale, but also prevent it from falling in the first place. Most PEOs offer a wide range of training programs for managers and employees alike, which not only help everyone do their jobs better, but also serve as a benefit to employees. When a team has access to training in topics such as conflict resolution, time management or communication, for example, they may feel as if their employer cares about their development and will be more likely to stay positive.

PEOs Improve Job Descriptions

One common reason for low morale is that employees accept positions believing that they will be doing one thing, only to discover that the actual job is much different. Another common problem is the tendency for job descriptions to be vague or focused on minimum requirements instead of establishing the parameters for excellence. As a result, teams might not gel; there could be unmet performance expectations or frustration among employees. When a PEO assists with the development of dynamic and accurate job descriptions, everyone starts on the right foot and there’s little room for the misunderstanding or disappointment that leads to low morale.

PEOs Improve Employee Handbooks

An important aspect of keeping morale high is the establishment of clear expectations and consistent policy enforcement. When the employee handbook is vague — or non-existent — it’s impossible to do either. A PEO will assist with the development of a clear and comprehensive employee handbook that leaves no room for interpretation. It puts everyone on the same page, so to speak, and in the event there is an issue, helps prevent misunderstandings or inequitable solutions.

PEOs Provide Incentive ProgramsOffice Incentive Programs

Employees want recognition, and when they feel ignored or unnoticed, morale falls. However, many small businesses do not have the resources to develop comprehensive incentive programs. PEOS can assist in developing incentives such as birthday or anniversary celebrations, employee recognition programs and gift programs to help employees feel valued and appreciated.

A PEO may not be able to fix everything that ails your company, but the services can help improve employee morale and as a result, improve performance. If your company is struggling to keep employees happy, consider working with a PEO first — before you resort to beatings.

 

The Benefits of Good Benefits

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employee benefits consultantThough rarely stated in such blunt terms, one of the big questions for a small business is, “how well should we treat our employees?” This is particularly true in an age where many of the non-industrial big boys are starting a new trend of increased benefits. The tech industry is famous for benefits packages in the way that airlines and auto-manufacturing used to have. Unfortunately, it seems many of the companies most famous for fair treatment are precisely those that can afford to treat employees well. The benefits to providing quality benefits include employee retention, the as-yet-unquantified benefits of better employee performance and even potentially customer loyalty. In many ways the question appears to more realistically lie along the lines of, “how are we going to afford treating our employees badly?”

Employee Retention

There is evidence to suggest that employee turnover costs a company a net 20 percent of that employee’s salary. These costs will come from everything including loss of productivity, rehire costs, retraining and even client loss. Executives, on the other hand, can cost more than their annual salary. In 2003, of the 100 companies on Forbes’ “America’s Best Companies to Work For” over 40 percent were also on the Fortune 500.

After seeing these numbers, it’s easy to say that employee retention is a large expense, but compare that with employee operating costs that, excluding salary and benefits, includes: space for the employee to do their required work; equipment, like infrastructure and technology; hiring costs in the technological era; and of course, employment taxes. One estimate has the employee sum cost in their metrics at 2.7 times base salary.

The Psychology of Pay and Benefits

Employees who are satisfied with their work environment simply work better. Whether this is due to being motivated to work harder and smarter for a company they’re emotionally invested in or because the more productive employees simply tend to draw more satisfaction from their jobs is eternally up for debate. However, according to the Corporate Leadership Council, high levels of employee productivity can be directly addressed and maintained through a variety of strategies. These strategies do so indirectly by addressing “employee satisfaction, health and morale.” Several of the study’s cited sources are corporations that have seen direct profit increases derived from improved employee satisfaction which drives customer satisfaction, according to the respective corporations’ analytics.

What Does This Mean?

Although this doesn’t prove once and for all that the improved treatment of employees directly yields better earnings reports, it does decidedly link the two. So, small businesses in particular should be rewarding their employees for their labor as a means of keeping up with the big guys. Here’s why.

Customer satisfaction reports show direct links to employee satisfaction reports. Also, small businesses are often seen as being more human than their multinational corporate competitors with significant incomes. By putting a smiling, satisfied, human face in front of the customer, or at worst on the other end of a telephone or email, you are building on a predisposed desire to like you. It’s the David and Goliath syndrome — everyone roots for David, even if they secretly want to be Goliath.

Happy Customers Means Happy Investors

How many reports and articles are in existence concerning the vast benefits of word of mouth? Quite a bit more than a fewbecause word of mouth is the oldest and remains the most powerful tool for gaining or losing customers. You know the old mantra, “it’s better to retain one customer than to have ten one-timers.” employee benefits consultantHappy customers build reliable and continuous revenue. Since happy customers are created and maintained by happy employees, it’s crucial to maintain a happy employee base.

This makes the differential between baseline employee costs that would yield unsatisfied employees and costs of fair treatment — in essence, a marketing strategy. By putting more money into your staff you’re paying to have that moment where the customer tells someone else about your organization. So, the question is, how much is that worth to you?

Think of it as an investment into your company. Many large corporations report their dividend reinvestments. You could, in theory, treat this differential as a potential dividend reinvestment to be reported to whatever shareholders may exist. In the end it’s not about which comes first — better employee treatment or higher stock prices. Rather, it’s about the link of causality of the two. If you’re a growing business that has money to reinvest to chase growth potential, you’re inevitably faced with the decision of potentially rewarding employees who’ve been a direct cause of that success. You can either be the company that these hard-workers got in on the ground floor of, or you can be the company that tries to cut costs at the expense of loyal, happy employees — and loses out on revenue because of it.

How to Entertain Clients Without Breaking the Bank

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Once upon a time, it was common for companies to splurge on lavish entertainment to wine and dine their clients. Today’s tougher economic realities mean that many businesses can’t afford to splurge on client entertainment — and clients often don’t want them to. When you spend a lot of money on lavish gifts and entertainment for your clients — or even when you just seem like you have – you risk sending the wrong message. 

When you spend money on your clients, they’ll assume that they’re paying for it in the form of higher prices for your products or services. Your employees could get upset if extravagant client treatment isn’t matched with raises and bonuses for them. After all, if the company is doing well enough to lavish posh gifts on the clients, it should be doing well enough to reward the employees too. However, you do want to keep your clients engaged and show them you care. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune entertaining your clients well.

Host a Dinner at Your Home

You don’t have to be a French-trained chef in order to host a nice dinner for your clients in your home. If you can’t or don’t want to cook, hire a professional to cook the evening’s meal in your kitchen — a hired cook can even provide the ingredients. Consider bringing a wine expert to recommend the right pairings for your meal and even give a talk on wines.

Exercise Together

Are you good at a sport your client would like to learn? Offer to give him or her some lessons. Alternatively, you could invite your client on a hiking trip or a bike ride. Use your discretion; this is really only a good option for physically active clients. It’s always a good idea to make sure there’s a cafe or coffee shop nearby, in case your client would like to stop for a break.

Use the Same Restaurant Every Time You Entertain

If you do a great deal of client entertaining, choose a restaurant you like and use it every time. This way, you’ll develop strong relationships with the restaurant staff, allowing you more control in the setting. When making arrangements for a meal with the client, it’s always best to work directly with the manager. Don’t make any reservations, event arrangements or table selections with the receptionist. Always speak directly with the manager about the details of your event — this is another reason having a relationship with a particular restaurant is a good idea.

If you have a relationship with a specific restaurant that you always use for client entertaining, you’ll be able to request the servers you like best. Make your arrangements a few days in advance, and call the day before to confirm and order any specialty items your client might want. Having a relationship with a specific restaurant will also make it easier to do things like order off the menu, arrange for more private seating or arrange to have an appetizer waiting at your table when you arrive. Make sure you tip the staff generously. Get to know the owner of the restaurant and don’t be afraid to take the opportunity to introduce your client to him or her.

Take Advantage of Social Media

Social media is an especially cost-effective way to market your business while entertaining clients. Younger clients will appreciate your social media-savvy if you use platforms like MeetUp to organize client entertainment events. Whenever you host group get-togethers, don’t be afraid to encourage your attendees to tweet about the proceedings in real time, using a relevant hashtag. Twitter is an excellent platform for spreading awareness of your corporate events.

Have Snacks Delivered

Save money on client dinners out by skipping the dinners out and simply having snacks delivered to your client’s home or office instead. Send a lunchtime pizza, a box of doughnuts or, during the warmer weather, an ice cream vendor. A box of chocolates, a fruit basket or selections of gourmet coffees are some other great ideas that should fit into any budget.

Organize a Tour

Group tours are an affordable way to get to know your clients and show them your appreciation. Organize a tour of an interesting local attraction, such as a local brewery or historic site. Let your clients’ interests be your guide. Arrange for your clients to receive souvenirs of their trip.

Entertaining your clients does not have to cost an arm and a leg, and in fact, your clients will be more inclined to stick around if it does not — they’ll feel more confident that they’re not being overcharged if you’re not spending a lot of money to shower them with lavish gifts. Think about your clients’ likes, dislikes and interests, and offer entertainment options they will enjoy.

Customer Service Tips to Keep Them Coming Back for More

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No matter what business you’re in or what kind of contact you and your employees have with your customers — whether it’s face-to-face, over the phone, in an office setting or in a retail environment — good customer service skills are essential. Excellent customer service keeps your customers happy and satisfied, and a satisfied customer is a customer who is more likely to bring repeat business. Not only that, but satisfied customers tend to tell their friends and family about the good experiences they’ve had with your business. That kind of word-of-mouth advertising could make all the difference for your success.

Be Cheerful

They say that 93 percent of communication is nonverbal, so when it comes to your customer interactions, your body language and general demeanor are invaluable parts of the customer service you provide. Whether you’re speaking with the customer in person or on the phone, smile. Even if your customer can’t see you, he or she will still notice the difference in your tone of voice if you’re happy, enthusiastic and smiling.

When you interact with the customer in person, make eye contact, relax and wear an easy, natural smile. Maintaining a cheerful demeanor will make you seem approachable and friendly, will set your customer at ease, make him or her feel welcome and set a positive tone for the entire exchange.

Begin each customer interaction with a welcoming greeting. A simple “Good morning,” or “Hello, and welcome to…” followed up with a “What can I do for you today?” is enough to make your customer feel welcomed and communicate that you’re ready and willing to help. Be polite, and let the interaction unfold naturally. While you may want to eventually direct the conversation around to the product or service you’re offering, you don’t want to turn the customer off by being too pushy.

Honor Special Requests

When a customer wants something special, try to go out of your way to give it to him or her. You don’t have to make a whole new policy, just make one exception to help that customer feel valued. That customer will remember that you cared enough to make an exception for him or her when he or she asked. In the future, you’ll enjoy that customer’s loyalty and praise.

Set the Example for Your Employees

Your employees will take their customer service cues from you, the manager. Treat your employees the way you want them to treat your customers. Greet them politely and enthusiastically every day, and make them feel welcome. Be cheerful with them, as you would like them to be cheerful with your customers. Listen to them when they talk, and try to accommodate their requests and meet their needs. When you interact with your customers, model the customer service you would like to see from your employees.

Identify Yourself

Giving your customers the opportunity to learn your name is just as crucial to forming a lasting relationship as learning theirs. Make yourself visible as the manager — put your title on your name tag, and put the titles of your employees on their name tags. Remain accessible to your customers. In many businesses, the manager’s office is accessible to the public, so customers who wish to speak to the person in charge can easily do so.

Call Your Customers by Name

Calling your customers by name makes them feel important, and everyone wants to feel important. Learn your customers’ names and use them. Learn your customers’ names by looking at their credit cards, putting out a sign-in sheet or asking them to sign up for a mailing list. If all else fails simply ask their names when you introduce yourself.

Express Your Gratitude

Small gestures of gratitude let your customers know that you appreciate what they do for you and your business. In the digital age, a handwritten note delivered through the postal system or included in the customer’s package can go a long way toward showing your appreciation. Send your customers birthday and holiday cards; write congratulatory cards or notes for your customers when appropriate. Show your appreciation for your customers with small perks and benefits.

Solicit Feedback

Don’t be afraid to ask your customers what they think of your business and your customer service. Solicit customer feedback via a postage-paid “How Are We Doing?” card left near the register, near the exit or included in your customer’s package or statement. Keep the form short and sweet. Ask them to specify what they like, what they don’t like, how you can improve your customer service and what they would change about your business, product or service. Leave space for the customer to describe his or her most recent experience with your company.

When it comes to the overall profitability of your business, the money isn’t in attracting customers — it’s in keeping customers. The extent to which our customers are loyal to your business will depend on the quality of customer service you can offer them. The better your customer service, the more repeat business — and new business — you can expect to see.