Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the MyCustomer blog. You can read it here.
Companies often focus solely on customer experience, forgetting the actual driver for an excellent customer journey – their employees.
According to the 2016 CXEvolution study by MaritzCX, “customer-centric companies are three times more successful at driving significant financial improvement and customer retention than companies that are not customer-centric”.
Engaged employees are key. They are committed to success, emotionally attached and they promote the brand, products and services – which are essential factors for achieving customer experience targets.
However, The Temkin Group estimates that only 33% of employees are highly engaged. Worse, only 26% of those who are 18 to 24 years old are highly engaged. Yet these are the people most likely to be at the frontline servicing customers, either in your call centres or in other customer-facing roles. Until you can engage staff, the customer experience suffers.
So how can you get your employees to go the extra mile? Having a rigorous process for employee feedback is critical. Here are five best practices.
1. Listening to Your Employees
Every customer experience project is a culture project. However, 93% HR and employees are not engaged in such efforts. Not including employees means losing critical insights. As an employer, you need to understand why your employees are emotionally connected to your business – and it’s generally much more than salaries, training, or benefits.
In addition, employees hold a vast amount of knowledge when it comes to how customers react to product and services. At the same time, employees are often the best and most critical customers of their company’s product or service.
Engaging with employees, listening and incorporating their feedback will help companies realise improved employee retention, increased productivity, happier employees who willingly promote the business, improve the customer journey and eventually, greater profits and other positive business outcomes.
Utilise technology to help you understand the heart and mind of your employees. Don’t try to figure it all out in a single annual survey, or through a feedback email link you put on the company intranet.
You need to collect feedback regularly, and through as many collection points as possible. Keep it simple, ask open-ended questions on a few key topic areas such as workload, ease of getting things done, customer focus, managerial support, etc. Ask what to keep doing, start doing, and stop doing. Analyse and then tell employees what you heard and what you are going to do. Then DO IT. Nothing improves employee engagement more than seeing feedback acted upon.
2. Closing the Training Gap
Gaining feedback from employees will also help you to identify training gaps. While not practical in all industries, customer experience metrics can help inform which employees are struggling and which are excelling in their work with customers on relevant issues in their line-of-sight.
Within the reporting system employees and their managers can co-create a plan to address areas of opportunity and set a date to do so. This can also be linked directly to your company’s own learning management system (LMS).
When an employee is struggling in a certain area, they can be redirected through the reporting system to the LMS, which will guide them in signing up for training courses. Another benefit of connecting the two systems is that after training, you can monitor whether learning has been applied to the job, a key aspect of training efficacy.
3. Involve Your Employees in the Survey and Process Design
Companies devote considerable time and resources to designing customer experience programmes. The effort is usually led by corporate stakeholders and almost always involves primary research with customers. However, less frequently do companies formally involve their frontline staff.
Including frontline employees as active members of the survey design team will give you access to first-hand perspectives on the aspects of the customer experience that are being measured.
Organisations can use different methods to obtain the frontline’s inputs to survey content, programme operations and customer journey processes. It is likely that your frontline employees will have useful input to operational decisions that directly affect them (such as a “hot alert” process), and they will also have unique reporting needs.
Gaining their involvement in the feedback programmes and closed loop processeswill also help to embed customer-centricity into the operational DNA of your organisation. When this is done, employees will act faster to rescue faltering customers, and will better predict when a customer, or groups of customers, are liable to leave.
4. Giving Employees the Flexibility to Respond
To be truly customer obsessed, employees must be empowered to use the company’s customer data – especially feedback or operational data – to act in a spontaneous, individual and entirely human way, enabling them to make a difference and a positive contribution.
Insight-generating technology simplifies the analysis and reporting on customer data, often including filtering by sentiment and emotions and providing push notifications. Employees will value not having to go outside the reporting system to track down information and there is a higher probability that things will get done in a timely fashion.
It gives employees the power to react faster, enabling them to personalise their responses according to what pains and excites a customer. As a result, they can proactively drive a better customer experience, switching detractors to promoters and winning repeat business and positive word of mouth.
In addition, knowledge management resource tools can be made available to unit level employees to help them address system-wide issues, which may surface. For instance, frequently asked questions can be linked together to form a knowledge database that can be continuously updated so the entire network benefits. This type of information can be especially powerful when encountering repeated technical questions.
Getting the right information into the hands of unit managers and other frontline employees is critical to improving the customer experience. The reporting portals and tools we provide must be attractive and designed in ways so that people will engage with the information. Once engaged, managers must be given the freedom to decide on how to react to these in order to make a difference.
5. Recognise and Reward your Employees
Recognition programmes let employees know when they have done well, create an atmosphere to reinforce desired behaviour, and promote the visible outcome to inspire other employees. After all, employees won’t often treat customers better than they are treated.
If you haven’t already done so create an employee peer-to-peer recognition programme, where employees can nominate others for great customer service, or just for being helpful and collaborative, providing a small award of, for instance, a £10 gift voucher and a monthly award of £100 to the nominees. Studies show that this fosters great camaraderie, trust and higher employee engagement.
Winning the hearts and minds of customers, means engaging the hearts and minds of all employees. If you focus exclusively on the customer experience, you are missing half the equation. Adding a focus on the employee experience is the best way to ensure you create great experiences as engaged employees bring a competitive advantage to a business for several reasons.
An employee with succinct and clear feedback processes is an engaged employee less likely to leave, leading to substantial cost savings for your organisation in terms of recruitment and training.
Furthermore, engagement increases the consistency in team performance from day-to-day and month-to-month and substantially improving the end-result – customer experience.