Part three: skills building, performance and rewards

30th Mar 2007

By Jennifer Kirkby, consulting editor

A key concept of the ‘narrative school’ is that cultural energy is the responsibility of every individual in an organisation – we create our own beds to lie in. If you constantly moan about the company’s service, the company’s service will be poor. Furthermore, you will have most likely distanced yourself from the problem and created the myth that you are powerless to do anything about it.

This idea aligns with the research of Holgar Nauhermer of The Change Management Toolbook who has found that businesses improve the delivery of what they promise when individuals purposefully learn from their actions. When they own up to mistakes, and see them as opportunities to change ‘the way things are done around here’.

The key to unlocking this learning is to give people the time and facilities to think and upskill. Gaining ‘personal mastery’ of your profession is a great motivator and professional people seek out excellence, act responsibly and deliver promises (see the interview with Sanity Group here).

However, CRM has a skills problem. Research by Francis Buttle (Professor of Management at Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Sydney) has found that few universities or business schools dedicate much time to the subject. The reason, interestingly, is the same one that causes difficulty in sowing the CRM ethos in any organisation – functional silos.

“CRM, is a cross-functional business discipline,” he says. “It sits nowhere, but belongs everywhere. It could be claimed by marketing, IT, operations or strategy subject-matter experts, but it is generally owned by no one. These rigid structural stovepipes in universities inhibit the development of cross-functional educational offerings.” He adds: “Furthermore, there are no professional bodies for CRM. We wouldn't educate our finance people or engineers this way, let alone doctors and lawyers.”

That being said, off-site training is less effective at developing skills than on-the-job coaching according to business psychology firm Kaisen, which has just completed extensive research on business training. If you want to upskill staff on delivering CRM promises do it in situ with a combination of internal brand ambassadors and external CRM coaches.

Performance management

All of which brings us to the stick of performance management. Brand promises have to be kept by external partners as well as internal employees. Foremost amongst these must be the call centre staff who ‘people’ so many front lines. How do they keep promises made by others? Why should they care when so many organisations buy telephone calls and not the consequences of interactions?

Keith Russell, CEO of Transcom, is a passionate and extraordinarily business focussed advocate of a twin pronged approach to this issue. His service centres find appropriate staff and manage them by outputs, within an encompassing risk and reward client contract that firmly teaches customers that its promise delivery they should care about. To enhance performance, Transcom staff are supported by integrated systems from IT to incentives, whilst clients are constantly provided with insight on how they can improve their business.

Transcom delivers its own promise by cascading goals from the top level customer proposition all the way down through the organisation. Every employee can see how their goals meets company objectives. Mutual goals grow organisational collaboration through a common purpose – and that ultimately means happy customers.

Hand in hand with customer-focussed performance management goes rewards. Money is always a factor, naturally, but after that comes respect, and a cause. Enterprising organisations are therefore rewarding staff with special project assignments, achievement awards and paid sabbaticals.

Divided by a common language, united by common values

Alison Bond of The Halo Works carried out a year long research project a few years ago to find out why customer satisfaction scores seemed to be high, yet customers were getting unhappier and churn rising. Her conclusion was that companies did not have measures in place to ensure they were delivering what why promised.

They measured sales, leads, hits on the website, response times – process and end results - not the KPIs that would say they met promises. Her work led her to conclude that “people prefer working with and buying from people who share the same values and motivations. The more aligned these are across an organisation the better the organisation will be and the more successful it will become.”

It is the alignment of values between company, employees and customers that should be encouraged and measured - and then even if IT and marketing do talk a different language, promises will still be kept.

Further Reading

Change management

Forget leaders we need inspiration

We don’t need another hero by Alison Bond

For some views by experts go to In my view .....


This month's stories:

Brand coaching

Translating brands for frontline staff

Case study: "What have the Romans ever done for us?"

Are your staff damaging your brand?

Performance management and incentives

Channel tuning

The brand has left the building: maintaining consistency in an outsourced world

Double trouble

Building customer management skills

How to turn your staff into customer champions

University challenge – why can’t you graduate in customer management?

Don’t miss the train

Translating from IT to business

CRM: a C-level conflict

Is internal CRM the key to a harmonious organisation?

IT vs customer care: the departmental divide



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