Director Customer Service
BSH Huishoudapparaten B.V.
Sonja Hild is one of six finalists to be commended by our expert judging panel.
As Director of Customer Service at BSH Huishoudapparaten B.V, a global supplier of white goods and home appliances, Sonja Hild had a vision of transforming the company's repair department, and its 250 staff, into a premium service division. The key to this has been creating a culture in which service staff are proud of their daily jobs.
With consumer and employee satisfaction levels perceived as "disappointing", the organisation decided change was required, subsequently setting itself the ambitious goal of delivering the best service for home appliances in the Netherlands. Having conducted several months of collaboration sessions involving contact centre agents, field service engineers and other colleagues, "best service" was defined as: fast, knowledgeable, reliable, proactive and committed. A set of behavioural anchors was attributed to each of these values, not only for the frontline workforce, but also for the leadership team, defining the behaviour required to reach the goal.
A new set of metrics aligned with these values were also implemented to refinforce a commitment to KPIs: contact centre availability and appliance downtime (fast); first visit completion rate (reliable); productivity of engineers (proactive); repeated repairs (knowledgeable); and amount of repairs/day (committed).
Additionally, detailed data analysis (based on NPS verbatims) was carried out to complete the "perceived temperature" of the frontline workforce with data and consumer insights. These findings supported the creation of a "Service Excellence" programme, boasting 12 projects with specific goals, tackled by volunteer project groups for a full year alongside their daily jobs. This activity has been transformative.
To complement this activity, Sonja decided it would be necessary to revise the managerial approach, too. This focused on three strategic pillars. The first of these was implementing consumer-centricity in incentive and bonus schemes and management reporting. Personal bonus schemes were simplified so that operational KPIs were removed from management bonus schemes to prevent managers only working on their own turn, and making the common Service-NPS the most important KPI for everyone. Meanwhile, management reporting was overhauled with the introduction of a Monday morning operational weekly stand-up meeting for service managers to report on KPI developments, ensuring that consumer experience metrics were assigned and owned.
The second pillar focused on reviewing staff authority guidelines, to encourage greater employee empowerment. With employees frustrated by bureaucracy, the initiative launched a new escalation procedure enabling contact centre agents to put a customers in a 'fast lane' if required, and introducing a system empowering agents to send customers complimentary gifts if something went wrong or to congratulate then in the event of special occasions. For the fieldservice teams, an initiative was launched to enable them to provide goodwill to customers in certain scenarios if they deemed appropriate, such as reducing a customer bill if they felt it was necessary - again, empowering staff to use their initiative without having to involve a line manager.
The final pillar focused on increasing and modernising direct and regular communication with the workforce to quickly increase their understanding and commitment. Arguably the biggest contributor to delivering premium service, the fast and clear communication has been instrumental in improving customer experiences, with screens set up on office floors showing rolling updates of the last 10 feedbacks and verbatims and progress on NPS goals. Elsewhere, the introduction of service update videos allows different staff and management members to inform the organisation about current developments and projects, connecting the different parts of the division and keeping fieldservice updated.
Finally, Get-In-Touch sessions were launched to invite groups of 5-10 non-service colleagues to join a "customer experience" themselves, listening in on contact centre agents, watching the planning and dispatching process, having a lunch with a presentation on facts and figures, and closing with a drive-along with an engineer to consumer's house. This has proved to be highly popular with the business, and they are booked out for months to come - and crucially they have increased the self-awareness of the service team and built up their pride in the division.
Taken together, the measures have had a demonstrable impact, with NPS rising 26 points in 18 months, and employee loyalty metrics also leaping up in the same period.
I believe that my role is to activate the best in people: their best ideas, their best leadership, their best solutions and their best energy.
Judges' praise for Sonja:
"Sonja’s proactive approach to breaking siloes, communication, getting people involved and empowering staff to quickly act on issues demonstrated true leadership qualities that stood out in her application." - Mosun Shasore
"Sonja is someone who has truly understood that in order to be customer centric, one first needs to be employee centric. Her initiatives were holistic and not only focussed on customers but also on employees which in turn had a compounding effect on customer experience. Initiatives like incentives and bonus schemes for customer centricity and improving staff authority are perfect examples of how she elevated the employee experience to new heights." - Sandra de Zoysa
"I am really impressed with Sonja. The approach is people-centric and engaged the entire organisation. I have always supported the concept of people volunteering their time to initiatives that are important to them. Her work is authentic, brave and from the heart!" - Chantel Botha