My work as a business coach and sales and service speaker has me traveling quite a bit. I often have to run errands and take care of family business while on the road. This past week, in between speaking engagements in South Carolina, I needed to pick-up a graduation card for my nephew. Luckily for me, I easily found a CVS pharmacy and pulled right into parking lot and headed in to make a purchase.

As I selected the card and headed to the counter I noticed a long line and one poor service person handling it all. Now I know she was a “poor” service person because of the irritated look on her face and the story she shared with each and every customer in line. Here is what she said: “I am sorry for the long line, CVS says they want to improve customer service but they  keep cutting our staff. They are so greedy.”

So now let’s think about this. Ten customers standing in line, each waiting our turn and listening over and over again that CVS is understaffed and greedy. What kind of impression does that make, and what kind of brand is CVS creating? I dare say not the one they want.

Now imagine how much CVS, and other corporations, are spending on marketing, advertising, sales training, and big customer initiatives. Big money is being spent, big decisions are being made, and big initiatives are being undertaken in the name of improving the customer experience and increasing revenues;  all while overlooking the most critical factor in the customer experience . The element that is going to decide whether the customer service experience improves or falls flat. That element is the employee.

Oh, I don’t mean that employees don’t know, that employees are not sent to training, and that employees are not required to perform these new tasks. I mean that they are not involved, not engaged and not on board. Therefore they are not “really” improving customer service.

So why if we are spending all that money, engaging all the experts, and implementing the right programs are we still getting employees who act like our CVS customer service rep? Because we miss the one critical step that ensures we get our  employees on board.

The one critical step? Get your employees involved right from the start. You can tell your employees what they need to do, but you need to ask them how to do it. Employees support what they help create. If you want your employees to truly implement your customer service strategy then you need to give them a voice in the process. Get them on board early, help them understand why customer service is important and then include their ideas in the strategy.

Getting them involved, giving them a voice gets them motivated, engaged and a reason to take ownership. In addition, they live this day-in and day-out they have great ideas!

All the money in the world, all the the best experts and all the latest ideas and techniques will never do as much to help you improve customer service as taking the one critical step you need to get your employees on board. Customer service begins on the front lines of your company, and taking this one critical step will make sure your front line staff has the same goal in mind as your top Executives.