Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

How to Empower Employees to Make Good Customer Decisions

Empowered EmployeesCustomer Focused

Empowered employees have the ability to make customer-focused decisions. They are trained well and then given permission to do what’s right for both the customer and the company.

I’ve preached this before, but this time I have a new spin on it. First, a review.

One of my favorite tools from my recent book Amaze Every Customer Every Time is that it takes one to say “yes” and two to say “no.” What that means is the employee has the ability to do what is necessary to take care of the customer without the typical manager’s approval. No more, “I’ll have to check with my manager to get this approved.” Instead, the employee has to check with a manager to say, “No” to the customer. The employees have been trained on what they can and can’t do for their customers.

There are obvious reasons one might have to say, “No” to a customer. Some of them don’t need management approval. It’s just common sense. For example, you may not carry an item the customer is asking for. That doesn’t preclude you from helping the customer find it elsewhere, but it is obvious that you and your company won’t be providing it. Perhaps what they are asking for is illegal. That’s pretty obvious.

More important than what employees can’t do, is what they can do. Sometimes customers will ask for something different. Or they have a complaint that may take a creative solution to resolve. It takes training for employees to understand what they can and can’t do. Once employees make good customer-focused decisions, they need positive feedback to reinforce that what they did was right. This creates confidence for the next opportunity. And a bad decision should become a teaching opportunity versus a belittling reprimand.

All this brings me to a conversation I recently had with Randi Busse, who wrote the book Turning Rants into Raves. In her book, she talks about four business drivers, which are revenue, retention, reputation, and referrals.

I thought these were the perfect “drivers” to help employees make good decisions, especially when the customer is making a special request. Knowing the answers to the following questions puts it all into perspective.

  1. Revenue: Will a decision I’m making for the customer cost the company extra money? Most of the time, the correct answer is no. That said, sometimes it’s okay for it to cost extra. The employee needs to know how far they can go.
  1. Retention: Will a decision I’m making for the customer cause them to want to continue to do business with us? Obviously, the correct answer is yes.
  1. Reputation: Will a decision I’m making for the customer enhance the reputation of the company? The answer is yes.
  1. Referrals: Will a decision I’m making for the customer make them want to refer the company? I hope so! Of course the answer should be yes.

These questions are a great start to help employees learn the secret to making good customer-focused decisions. I would add one more: Is it legal? The answer may be obvious, but some of our clients in the financial world deal with compliance issues that seem more of a nuisance than a law. Laws are laws.

Sure, there may be other questions to think about. Randi Busse’s four drivers set up four questions that help empower any employee to make good decisions and provide a better customer service experience.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314)692-2200 or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

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  1. I like how you incorporated the “drivers” and how they would impact employee empowerment. I’d also like to say that empowering employees can also improve morale, help retain the employee, have THEM refer the company, improve their opinion of the company and improve revenue (through improved productivity).

    • Thanks for your comment. The best driver is people. Starts with great leadership with the vision and ability to communicate and live the vision. Followed up by good people. The right people have to be hired and trained properly. Combine good leadership with the right people and you’re on your way.

  2. Christine Dufour says:

    Hi Steph, very interesting article. I worked in the customers service for more than 13 years. I would like to know who are the world leaders in customer focus service. Which companies are the example for others. What success stories companies can any enterprise look up to. I worked for a telecom company at the complaint department and the fact that our supervisor was trusting our judgement was a big plus. I can totally rely on everything that you said. Even if we have the power to spend money to resolve situations, most of the situations are resolved at no cost. Clients want the company to be fair and show them that they valued them. Fidelity is both ways.

  3. Marius @ Worktops Co says:

    One of the most frustrating things in previous roles has been when I’ve been unsure of what I should do with a customer because I was more worried about what the employer would say! After a while, I begin to use my instinct which generally meant I had to ask for forgiveness later BUT I tried to do the right thing.

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