Cheering leader

How the world's best CX leaders are improving staff wellbeing


Evidence from the CX Leader of the Year applications demonstrates just how much customer experience leaders are involved in employee engagement initiatives. We examine a few of the most successful examples. 

24th Jan 2022

One of the big concerns for organisations as in 2022 is the threat of high levels of employee churn. With record numbers of employees having either quit their jobs or are considering quitting, the phenomenon has even been given its own name - “The Great Resignation”.

The issue is particularly acute for customer service teams. Those at the frontline of service have been some of those most affected by stress - and therefore, most likely to form part of the Great Resignation.

A survey commissioned by Enghouse Interactive revealed that 91% of contact centre professionals say that they are likely to leave their jobs, with 48% of these staff reporting stress or emotional burnout. With customer support resources stretched already, organisations can ill afford to lose employees in their droves. 

So it is perhaps little surprise that during last year’s CX Leader of the Year programme, customer experience leaders told us that they had been working hard to ensure that their service teams were engaged and empowered, despite the challenges associated with the pandemic. 

“I am a senior leader and have a responsibility to ensure our people are well supported and listened to,” noted Elaine Barnes, chief customer officer at Cromwell. “All of this has been linked to our customers’ experience and the way in which each and every one of us should connect. Not easy but vitally important. I know it may seem tediously familiar now, but it is true that happy people really do make happy customers! 

“At the beginning of the pandemic I trained to be a mental health first aider and felt that this was so important that I then proposed that all of our senior and middle leaders undertook the same training – the proposal was accepted. This feeds so clearly into everything we do with CX - if we don’t, as leaders, take care of our people, then we cannot expect them to take care of our customers – by offering guidance and understanding, we provide them with a supportive environment from which to do this.” 

“During the pandemic, how we connected to our people has been really critical. We have held drop-in sessions, lunch and learns, quiz nights…. Just to name a few.”

Maintaining engagement during lockdowns

Engagement and employee care was a particularly strong consideration due to the extreme circumstances created by the pandemic. But this challenging environment has inspired innovative efforts to maintain staff engagement and empowerment. 

Malaysia was one of many countries that went into lockdown, forcing most companies to rely on remote working. Zatina Zakaria, VP/head of customer experience at Etiqa Insurance & Takaful Berha, is a strong believer that employee engagement plays a crucial role in delivering superior customer experiences, and so undertook a series of initiatives to maintain engagement during difficult circumstances. 

Some of these innovations focused on training and development, for instance the launch of a CX Harvard Learning School. Zatina explained: “During the pandemic, we took the opportunity for staff to grow their knowledge by enrolling in elearning conducted by Harvard University in collaboration with Maybank Group, our parent company. The participants successfully completed most of the recommended subjects. This is a Group initiative to give our staff an easy platform to keep learning.” 

Etiqa also used the pandemic as an opportunity to rethink some of its processes and technologies to improve engagement and performance. This included the launch of a CX Virtual Library. “The whole idea of this initiative is to make knowledge of our products more accessible. Before the pandemic, we used to do this by using telegram platform for easy access for our staff nationwide,” said Zatina.

“However during the pandemic we changed the concept by using Zoom platform to engage and we received good feedback not only from our CX staff nationwide but also from all Etiqa staff. The platform proves to be a success in encouraging engagement among Etiqa employees.”

Engagement efforts also focused on physical wellbeing, with the introduction of a CX Mini Virtual Run (a virtual fitness programme, encouraging and measuring activities such as walking, cycling and running in the Etiqa SMILE app) and on mental wellbeing. 

“One of the most detrimental effects of the pandemic on our staff has been the stress from pressure and difficulties while adjusting to the new norm of working from home. There is so much uncertainty in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that people are vulnerable to its impact either emotionally or mentally, including our staff. Keeping them fit and healthy has never been so important while trying to motivate them to be productive, especially those who work from home.

“We have had a few virtual ‘chill sessions’ among ourselves via Zoom by organising karaoke sessions, acapella and games. We believe staying connected socially as a group is paramount in these trying times so nobody feels left out. Emotional support especially from the leaders can boost morale in a way that is unimaginable, helping each other to cope with the situation and keep confidence high.”

Finally, another important consideration was to keep staff informed and up-to-date with company developments, providing transparency and updates through engagement sessions with the senior management committee. 

Zatina explained: “Organised virtually via Zoom, the engagement is a two-way street for everyone involved. The staff can keep abreast of the company’s current situation and future plans while the senior management can feel the beat from the ground crew, especially on issues pertaining to the pandemic.”

Mental and physical health concerns

Financial technology service provider Migo was forced to completely shut down its offices in Nigeria during the pandemic, and move to remote working. With concerns about the mental and physical health of the staff, and particularly those that lived alone, Anwanauyi Henry Ibok, manager, customer experience and insights at Migo, introduced a range of initiatives to aid them. These included: 

  • A customer experience WhatsApp group to allow agents and managers to interact informally after work hours.

  • A monthly customer experience hot seat via WhatsApp where one agent is nominated by his teammates to answer personal questions like best food, etc.

  • Peer training was introduced to give all team members the opportunity to train everyone in the team at least once a month.

  • Competitions. “We introduced the typing test competition which entails that every agent types daily and records their scores,” explained Henry. “The agents with the best three scores for the month get a prize approved by the managing director. The competition has also helped us develop agents who typed as fast as 65 words per minute at 100% accuracy. We also introduced the weekly fastest finger competition. I usually ask the team a random question via our group slack application and the first person to provide the correct answer gets a prize. This has also encouraged the team members to read their slack messages promptly for important customer-related updates.”

  • News sharing. Henry said: “I usually collate and share the newspaper headlines with the team via WhatsApp. This helps them stay abreast of the events in the country as it’s possible that a lot of the team members do not watch the news.”

  • Quarterly awards to stimulate healthy competition between the team, with cash prizes. Awards include the member with the best customer satisfaction rating, the member with the best social media response time and the member with the best quality assurance score. 

The role of communication in engagement

Meanwhile, in the UK, chemical company Brenntag had staff in every kind of different situation, needing to cater to all of their needs. 

Shaun Myers, director of supply chain & service at Brenntag UK & Ireland, explained: “I wanted Brenntag to be great for our people and our customers whilst keeping critical infrastructure supplied with products that keep the nation running - keeping our people engaged throughout was imperative. We needed to build on the already deep feeling of community and purpose and help people feel connected, no matter if they were working virtually at home, or in-person in our yards, on the road delivering products or as part of a much smaller team in our offices.”

This required a huge effort, but communication was to be the crucial component, holding regular covid and business briefings, newsletters, town halls, round tables, mentoring sessions, mental health awareness training, a CX day and participating in world safety day made a significant impact on the engagement and togetherness of the team.

“I made sure that we communicated like crazy so we wrote and published ‘Daily Smiles’ that illustrated the amazing work we were doing that created an immense feeling of pride in our people,” added Shaun. “We’re not always visible but Brenntag was making a terrific impact on keeping people safe and saving lives. Keeping our people informed helped us move as one, with a clear plan by our side that we could turn to guide us in the right direction when we encountered challenges - all designed to captivate the imagination and passion of our people.”

And “fantastic” colleague and customer engagement feedback and scores have vindicated these efforts.


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