How To Protect Your Brand When You’re Counting On Non-Employees To Deliver Service
Everyone names the ride companies, Uber and Lyft, food delivery services, and home health care companies as examples of businesses where the customer-facing work is done by independent contractors. But they’re not the only ones who depend on non-employees to deliver services and to represent the company with customers. Most other businesses use some form of outsourcing in various areas of development, building and maintaining products and services. And many companies that say they rely primarily on employees to work with customers, still have some non-employees in the mix.
Using a blend of employees, contractors, part-time and consultants presents special challenges to presenting a standardized and uniform level of service to customers. It also gives rise to issues like workers with multiple jobs, and even dividing their working time between you and your competition. (See inset photo of actual — not staged — car used for ride service.)
The textbook solution is to make sure everyone who works for the company, in whatever capacity, feels some sort of desire to represent it positively. But workers need more than lofty feelings of affiliation, loyalty and identification.
To make sure everyone’s providing the kind of service you want them to, you have to address very practical and concrete elements like incentives, know-how and information that form a relationship bond between the company and the people you’re counting on to represent it.
- Establish a tangible company identity. Why are you in business? Make sure you communicate about your significant differentiators so everyone — customers and workers alike — know how your product and service is supposed to look and feel.
- Develop tight processes and procedures. Keep your service delivery as standardized as possible, no matter who is providing it. Simple and straightforward. Nobody wants to wade through too many steps or puzzle over how to do this or that.
- Institute initial and ongoing training for all associates. Develop and implement rigorous training on the differentiators, processes and procedures, so everyone knows what they mean in a variety of real-life customer interactions.
- Train customers on how to get the best service from your folks. Let customers know what they should expect and invite them to help your service providers do it the right way. Provide a direct communications and feedback link to get real-time feedback and to let your workers know you’ll be monitoring every interaction. (Think about the simplicity of the McDonald’s menu, which actually serves as a customer-training tool.)
- Head off predictable workplace problems. Get out in front of issues like expected hours of work, workers trying to juggle work for you against other employment, coverage for time away from work for family emergencies. Communicate up front about issues like typical employee benefits — or the lack thereof — and let prospective contractors know the off-setting advantages of the working arrangement you’re proposing. If you believe in your business model, you should have a coherent explanation of the reasons why and be forthcoming in delivering that message to everyone who works for you. Make sure working at your company is so attractive that people coming on board have some solid reasons to want to be there.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. All businesses go through significant, and sometimes sudden, changes. Rumors fly and travel fast over social media. When people don’t know what’s real, they fantasize to fill in the blanks. Lack of information can weaken your ties with the people you need most. Take time to let workers know what’s going on with your company.
If you expect to provide a great customer experience, make sure everyone who works for you — employees, contractors, part-timers and consultants — has the tools, the knowledge and the incentives to deliver it.