Whether it’s on the battle ground or within the corporate ground, the teams that are on the frontline, have a major role to play in generating results. On the battle ground, the Generals decide the battle strategy, but it is the forward division that faces the toughest challenge of executing the vision. You find them improvising as they go along. Even in businesses, a similar process is often evident. The senior management and the managers work out a broad strategy and the frontline teams such as customer service teams, sales teams, implementation teams, or project teams have the task of interacting with clients and customers and doing the actually work. High performance within these frontline teams paves the way for a better functioning organisation.
Before we study the core areas that define high performance within frontline teams, let’s first take a look at the several ways by which organisations can make the frontline teams functionally more effective. The following approaches are widely used to facilitate better functioning in frontline teams:
- Access to technological resources
- Supportive leadership
- Soft skills training
- Formal systems and procedures
Let’s spend a moment on Formal systems and procedures. The functioning of frontline teams is greatly enhanced by well developed procedures. It helps them go about their jobs in an efficient manner. They also need proper documentation procedures to run a smooth operation and avoid confusion or errors. These are some of the inputs and approaches that can help the frontline teams execute their job effectively.
However, the quest for high performance brings with it a different set of requirements and work ethics. The frontline teams represent the face of the organisation to the outside world and their performance is vital if the organisation wants to project and maintain a good image. One key factor that has a major impact on the performance of frontline teams is ‘Organisation Values’. Frontline teams have to take in these organisation values properly and reflect these values in all their customer interactions.
Organisation Values: Values are different from policies. Values are about principles, beliefs, ethics and ideals. The organisation’s values are an important part of organisation culture. Values define behaviour and they also provide a framework for the manner in which a company wants to deal with its clients or customers. These organisation values have to percolate down to the frontline teams so that their behaviour, attitude and actions reflect the value system and culture of the organisation. They define how the frontline teams should handle customers, deal with problems, deal with requests, deal with complaints, and so on. It’s not good enough for the frontline person to be polite and articulate. Soft-skills training can take care of that and though it is essential, politeness is merely cosmetic. The value system in the organisation is constantly put to the test by customers. The frontline teams have to reflect a positive value system for their customer interactions to be truly effective.
There are many methods that organisations use to communicate values; training programmes, written documentation, and more subtly through top management actions that portray and reinforce the organisation culture.
The following all represent values that stem from organisation culture:
- Putting customer interests first
- Service quality
- Creating a positive customer experience
When teams understand these values it creates a shared allegiance to the corporate culture. It brings uniformity in the approaches of individual team members. While every team member brings different strengths and work styles to a team, it is the common organisational values that serve as a unifier in their shared mission and consequently minimize occasion for conflict on issues such as ‘How to treat customer complaints or how to handle certain work situations’.
The second key factor or core area that helps both the organisation and the team’s performance is the feeling of Mission significance.
Mission Significance: The frontline teams have to be encouraged to approach their job with pride and purpose. It’s not just selling, it’s not just about handling complaints and it’s not just about implementing projects, their role is bigger than that. Being on the frontline, in close contact with clients and customers exposes these teams to the ground realities. It gives them insights into customer needs. It gives them a glimpse into what clients really want. This creates rich experience and understanding of customer related issues and these issues can guide a business and help them serve their customer’s better. Feedback mechanisms are essential for frontline teams to debrief the top management and other functions within the organisation. An organisation has to find ways to take the feedback and use it fruitfully to improve products, systems, processes, or response times. This feedback can prove valuable to the organisation in understanding customers better and designing better strategies.
Mission Significance creates a deep sense of purpose within the frontline and this in itself, as many researchers point out, is an important step in stimulating a better team performance. Encouraging frontline teams to develop customer insights creates a customer orientation within the teams and the need to perform in a manner that meets the standards of customer expectations. Customer orientation and focus on the customer is the logical fallout of Mission Significance and favourably impacts both the frontline performance and the organisation performance.
Click to read an example – Frontline Performance