Family Matters

Keep the Customer Satisfied

We are trying to make a shift in our small company toward more customer satisfaction. How can we best motivate our employees to see this as a priority?

Psychologist William Miller has been writing for decades about the types of communication that make people motivated for positive change. Miller realizes that motivation isn't just an internal quality — it's largely a product of being around people who encourage and trigger positive change.

So how do we motivate others to change and grow? The process is rather complicated, but it boils down to what Fats Domino said about rocking and rolling all night: You have to be ready, willing and able.

We have to be ready to change and we have to want to do it now, not later. The proposed change has to be a priority. I'll visit the client in the fall, but not now. Or I want high-speed access to improve service, but I can't afford the cost.

This is ambivalence about priorities. A leader may have to frequently reinforce the fact that customer contact and satisfaction are worth the cost and of sufficient importance to be addressed — now.

We are willing to change if we see a need for change and if the change is important enough. St. Thomas said that we're more powerful when we go after things than we are when we resist things. We get more bang for the will-buck by encouraging it to attack than to stop.

Is customer satisfaction important enough and is it not currently in our grasp? Then we need to will to attain it.

The ability to make the change is important as well. If we are confident that we have found a way to make a change, then we are able to change. When we don't feel we are able to change, then the classic defense mechanisms make an appearance. We either blame others (Why are our customers so fickle?), deny the importance of the change (They won't really care anyhow) or rationalize the status quo (things are n 't so bad now, so why bother?).

A leader has to convince his staff that he and they have what it takes to make the change. Encouragement is important here.

Miller stresses that ambivalence about the proposed change is what keeps people stuck. So leaders have to create an accepting, enthusiastic atmosphere that encourages exploration.

As Christians we shouldn't be surprised that motivating is an interpersonal activity, for it is through our relationship with Christ that we are able to be transformed, sometimes radically, through grace.

Just so, in our relationships with the members of our staff, we are able to transform the culture of our workplace into one not only of self-motivation but also of a certain kind of mass transformation.

Art Bennett is director of Alpha

Omega Clinic and Consultation Services in Vienna, Virginia, and Bethesda, Maryland.

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