Your employees can often be your greatest evangelists by helping to spread the word about your company, and they can often help with client/customer issues. That is, if they know and understand your company’s message and positioning. Here are six questions all employees (from reception all the way to upper management) should be able to answer about your business. We’ll also include strategies for educating your employees in case their knowledge isn’t up to snuff.
1. What does your company do? Oh, it seems like such an innocent question, doesn’t it? But being able to articulately give a 60-second elevator pitch that clearly describes what your company does is an acquired skill.
How to help: The easiest way to make sure employees can accurately describe what your company does is by telling them. Make it fun, not a directive or boring memo. Send a short company-wide email once a quarter with fresh examples of 30-second and 60-second elevator pitches. You could even take it to the next level and let folks know you’ll be randomly stopping people in the hall, and if they can effectively deliver the pitches, they can choose from three envelopes you’re carrying, one of which contains a $50 bill. Hey, a little incentive never hurts, right?
2. Are you guys on Facebook (or Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)? It’s important for employees to know all the places where people can access info on your company. So they should know your website URL and the “handles” for all social media platforms.
How to help: Again, reminders can go a long way in helping people know all the different URLs and handles. Sending out a company-wide email every quarter with an updated list is a smart strategy. Having a standard company signature for all email correspondence will also help employees become familiar with all the social media presences. Encouraging employees to fan, like, and follow your company pages on social media (and to participate in the conversations) also makes sense.
3. I need help with X. Where should I go or who should I call? Not every employee is in customer service. But at some point, most employees may be called upon to help a customer or answer a question. What’s not an OK answer: “Sorry, that’s not my job/department.” What they should say: “I don’t have the answer to that question, but let me find out, and I’ll call you back.” OR “I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’m going to put you in touch with Fellow Awesome Employee because she knows about X.” In both scenarios, the employee should follow up (directly with the customer in the first scenario, as promised, and with the Fellow Awesome Employee in the second scenario to make sure the customer was taken care of).
How to help: This comes down to proper training and creating a corporate culture that invites cooperation among employees in different departments. It’s important to educate employees about the different aspects of your business. In addition to having a customer-centric FAQ page on your website, consider creating an internal FAQ page that people can easily access from their desktops or company intranet. These internal FAQs should highlight common questions and solutions. Rewarding good behavior encourages people to shape up and/or continue with what they’re doing right. Conducting regular customer surveys will reveal weak links and those who go above and beyond to help customers. Both can serve as important learning tools for upper management.
4. I want a refund (or I have a coupon, I want to return something, I’m not happy with the service, Hey, my product broke, what now)? These questions highlight the fact that your employees need to be well versed in company policies.
How to help: Having a clear policies page on your website—and making sure your employees are aware of its existence—is a first step, since employees can alert customers about this page. In addition, just as you did with FAQs, it also makes sense to create an internal document that provides more guidance on dealing with policy issues. For example, if the warranty has expired for a certain product, the internal document could provide suggestions to the employee on how to deal with the situation or who the employee should redirect the call/email to.
5. I read about your company in the news about Issue XYZ…what do you think? Whether your company receives positive press or negative press, the key is that your employees are aware of it so that they’re never blindsided by someone’s question or comment.
How to help: Share all press/news with employees, even the unflattering pieces (and perhaps especially the unflattering pieces). When it comes to positive press, use it as a way to congratulate the employees involved and the entire organization as a whole. In terms of negative press, address it swiftly and directly. If the piece is wrong or unfair, provide a clear explanation why the press is inaccurate (cite sources, if possible). Provide tips and guidelines for how the employee should handle calls from reporters, questions from customers, and even questions from friends and family. If you work with a PR firm, it will likely have a crisis management plan that includes how to guide employees through the crisis.
6. I heard you’re coming out with new X. What’s the scoop? This question has to do with the rumor mill.
How to help: Keep employees in the loop and provide talking points along with clear instructions on what is OK to talk about. Provide timelines as well. So, for example, if you’re unveiling a new product, let employees know what they can talk about and when.
What other questions do you think are important for employees to know how to answer? Share your thoughts in the comments.