Three ways to create a culture of employee-centred CX
People are your competitive differentiator. Is it time to take an employee-first, customer-second approach to business?
Companies from the Fortune 25 to the Fortune 1000 have invested heavily in CX technologies in recent years. And yet, too few companies have been able to attribute true ROI from their customer experience projects.
Sure, there are outlier organisations that have created lifetime customers — loyal brand advocates who put Apple stickers on their cars or drive halfway across town to patronise Starbucks.
But by and large, companies are stuck in a commodified world where their products and services are easily interchanged with their competitors.
Why are today’s consumers generally brand agnostic? Because many buyers are having negative-to-neutral customer experiences.
The key to creating lifetime customers lies in transforming these experiences from negative-to-neutral to amazing, and it all starts with your employees. Here’s why.
People are your competitive differentiator
With commoditised products and services, CX is rapidly outstripping other factors in determining what will command a customer’s loyalty. In fact, a Walker study revealed a willingness by 86% of customers to pay more for a better experience.
In an environment where customer experience is more important than product, the employees answering calls and fielding complaints become more important than ever. This also means that making sure they are empowered, actively engaged, and moving toward a common goal becomes critical.
The key to creating lifetime customers lies in transforming these experiences from negative-to-neutral to amazing
Wondering how to get your customer teams supported, motivated, and crushing it, so you can begin to realise the maximum ROI on your current CX initiatives? Here's my three tips.
1. Offer the right leadership
"Managers can do nothing but infuse, enable employees in the value zone to create higher and higher value. That's how the idea of employee-first, customer-second was born."
This quote is from Vineet Nayar, who is widely credited with creating an employee-first culture at the multi-billion dollar HCL Technologies. He also later authored the book Employees First, Customers Second.
Nayar fundamentally understands that business relationships are personal relationships and that executives need to lead, not just manage.
In one example of how leading an employee-focused culture might work, Alex Poon, founder and COO of x.ai, explained to Glassdoor that, “instead of a traditional system with managers on top, ‘We practice servant leadership.’”
While you might not be able to implement a full servant-leadership system, mandating that all executives and managers spend one day every three to six months shadowing the day-to-day activities of your customer-facing teams is an incredibly effective way to get to know their challenges, opportunities, and successes.
It gives leaders a chance to talk less and listen more. It surfaces issues and opportunities. It also demonstrates empathy and an interest in what’s happening on the front lines of your business.
Instead of a traditional system with managers on top, ‘We practice servant leadership"
2. Offer the right training and tools
What helps every customer service, support, and success employee hone their skills and do their job more effectively and confidently? The right training and tools.
Begin with thorough and thoughtful training on the company’s products and services. The process should begin when onboarding, but it shouldn’t stop there. Hold regular mini boot camps: brief, specific training sessions that zero in on key topics.
This helps keep your veteran employees learning while also offering newbies the chance to dive into content not covered during onboarding. You can even record the boot camps and offer them on-demand for those who missed the session.
Beyond training, it’s also essential to provide employees with the right tools. Deploy technologies that allow for inter-team and company-wide communication.
For instance, a service like Slack provides top-notch synchronous and asynchronous messaging. It can be an effective way to share both wins and challenges, as well as a method for surfacing questions and promoting a collaborative culture across the entire company.
In addition, don’t be afraid to re-examine existing problems, even if the team has created a homemade “work-around.” For instance, customer-facing employees are constantly toggling between programs to find the information they need while interacting with a customer.
Sure, many have become fairly adept at doing it, but what if they didn’t have to be? End the incessant tab-jumping with a CX optimisation solution that offers a single “pane of glass” that gathers and analyses all of the discrete customer data stored in different systems across the organisation. By helping agents to resolve issues faster, you’ll boost both employee satisfaction and the customer experience.
3. Offer the right growth opportunities
Customer service was once considered a dead-end job that was underpaid, undervalued, and undersupported. But thanks to the recognition that these professionals are key to business success, today these roles can and should be part of a path toward corporate leadership.
Just as executives should shadow those on the front lines of customer work, service, support, and success employees should be given opportunities to work in other areas of the business.
You can do this by providing internal training resources that anyone can access, offering educational credits and stipends for external training, and creating a cross-functional mentoring program that matches employees in different departments with one another.
Employee-first excellence leads to CX excellence
Like many of us, I’ve been looking ahead to 2020. One of my predictions for next year is that we’ll see employee-focused cultures continue to emerge and flourish within organisations that are serious about CX.
I believe that the organisations that first prioritise the internal teams that directly touch their customers will see an immediate and sustained lift in successful CX. It’s what I call a “triple win” — one that benefits the company, the employees, and the customers.
Jayaram Bhat is co-founder and CEO of Squelch, a technology company that helps customer support and success professionals resolve difficult cases, reduce customer churn, and improve team efficiency. A high-tech veteran with nearly 40 years of experience, Jayaram is a vocal advocate for the customer-facing agents, managers, and executives who are critical to improving customer experience (CX) outcomes.