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3 Best Practices to Engage Your Frontline Employees

Identifying the Problems Your Customers Encounter, Is Only Half the Battle

Knowing how to resolve them, however, is what really matters. Many companies, while committed to improving the customer experience, are not where they want to be with their Voice of the Customer (VoC) initiative. In particular, the frontline managers and employees who directly shape customer experience lack the information and resources they need to take effective action and fully engage with their CX programs.

MaritzCX has conducted extensive research and interviewed employees at a variety of levels and companies who are responsible for translating survey results into action. Our research revealed several common issues for frontline employees:

  • Feeling left out of the design;
  • Not fully understanding the story; and
  • Not knowing what to do even when they do understand

When CX programs fall short in critical areas like these, the front line employees disengage—and that’s a problem. After all, these programs don’t just exist to feed corporate dashboards; they also support and drive actions to improve the customer experience.

So, what’s to be done? It starts with acknowledging the front line as stakeholders in the process.

1. Give Front line Employees Their Own Voice

Front line employees can develop customer loyalty, attract new customers, build your company’s reputation, and drive your company’s profit. It’s important, then, to make the front line an equal partner in the design process and tailor the reporting engines to their needs. Here are some recommendations:

  • Involve Them in Program Design: Include front line managers as active members of the design team to learn their perspectives firsthand—after all, these are the people creating and delivering much of what the customers experience.
  • Give Them What They Crave—the “Real” Voice of the Customer: Verbatim customer comments provide a rich source of information and value to the front line. Sophisticated text analysis tools allow survey designers to shift the balance from 100% close-ended questionnaires to those that actively seek open-ended feedback.
  • Offer Them Questionnaire Real Estate and Flexibility: Mass customization techniques are making it possible for organizations to tailor their customer experience surveys for individual operating units or groups. Smart organizations will also include a “flex” section in their surveys to accommodate topical or time-sensitive issues of interest.
  • Give Them Easy-to-Use Feedback Mechanisms: Consider developing a system that encourages the front line to provide regular feedback on the survey process, e.g. one that is built directly into the reporting system for added convenience.

2. Use the Right Tool for the Right Job

Collecting the right information is only the beginning; you must also make the information easy to access, use, and understand. Today’s customer experience reporting portals can be difficult to use, non-intuitively organized, and full of distracting elements that obscure the message for the end user.

Employees with different responsibilities require fundamentally different information. A retail manager for a bank, for example, does not use the same information as someone in headquarters. Focusing on the front line and their specific needs helps the organization design a more effective reporting system and user interface. Most industries with a retail operation have at least three user roles with different needs:

  • Headquarters/Corporate Users
  • Regional or Area Managers
  • Frontline (Unit) Managers

It is important to design your reporting system with the end users in mind and equip employees with tools that cater to their individual needs.

3. Remember, It’s All About Action

It’s easy to get caught up in the details of sampling and questionnaire design and forget what equally matters: inspiring and motivating people to do something with the information. To do this, you need to deploy a consistent VoC process that aligns the right people and processes to enact meaningful change.

The ideal reporting system will include a “cafeteria plan” of pre-configured tools that support actions at the unit level:

  • Performance Metrics Tools help managers identify and prioritize the areas they need to focus on to improve the customer experience. These tools can be aligned with organizational goals or used to analyze the relationship between customer experience and business outcomes such as loyalty. In either implementation, it encourages unit managers to understand the potential outcomes of their efforts.
  • Employee Coaching Tools, when built directly into customer experience management (CEM) systems, allow front line managers to collaborate with their employees and address areas of concern or opportunity. Alternatively, when linked to the organization’s learning management system (LMS), they can redirect employees who are struggling in a certain area to applicable training courses.
  • Service Recovery Tools, such as unit-level case management systems, allow front line managers to identify at-risk customers and reach out to resolve the problem. Additionally, managers can assign specific tasks to employees, close out concerns, and monitor case aging and incidence rates.
  • Diagnostic Processing Improvement Tools, when implemented at the unit level, allow front line managers to use a gated action planning process to resolve their specific problem areas. A well-designed reporting system should include a section to develop and track unit-level action plans.

Conclusion: Ringing the Cash Register

The investment return on VoC programs has never been in the measurement—it’s what companies do with the information that has the potential to ring the cash register. Getting the right information into the hands of unit managers and other front line employees is critical to improving the customer experience. The best systems:

  • Offer tools that support effective service recovery, employee coaching, and action planning;
  • Link to learning systems; and
  • Contain monitoring tools that drive action-ability and collaboration across all levels of the organization.

Anything less and you risk disengaging your employees and selling your VoC initiative short.