Employee engagement the hot topic at inaugural customer experience event

12th Feb 2015

The Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) hosted its first UK event this week, with the topic of employee engagement and empowerment high on the agenda.

Taking place at The Landmark London, the UK Insight Exchange brought together customer experience professionals from across the UK to participate in a programme that included workshops and presentations from industry experts.

And a number of the keynotes demonstrated the growing emphasis that is being placed on employee engagement to improve the customer experience management cause, a trend that CXPA chairman Bruce Temkin noted recently when he referred to 2015 as “the year of the employee”.

In his address regarding the current state of customer experience, Temkin made three observations based on research findings:

  1. The general standard of customer experience is mediocre but improving. Only 75% of companies were nominated ‘excellent’ in CX ratings while 25% earned ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ in the 2014 Temkin Experience Ratings.
  2. Customer experience ambitions are high. While only 6% of large companies believe that they are leading their industries in CX today, 58% want to be industry leaders within three years.
  3. Customer experience efforts are immature. Only 10% of large companies that completed the Temkin Group’s CX Competency and Maturity Assessment ended up in the two highest stages of CX maturity. 

Temkin told attendees that to reach the higher levels of maturity, brands would need to develop a stronger focus on their employees – something that he noted was a topic of major discussion at many of the organisations he spoke with.

And many of the major customer experience trends that he believes presently characterise the discipline at the moment are reflected by this.

  1. Executives are increasingly holding conversations about corporate culture. Culture is a topic that goes “hot and cold” said Temkin, but the fact that senior executives are once again recognising the power and hindrance of corporate culture is a massive shift once more.
  2. Customer experience training and engagement is growing in importance. As businesses hire new staff, these companies are bringing new people into the fold who don’t understand the culture. This is pushing training up the agenda.
  3. Voice of the Customer renovations are needed. Today’s market research processes should be thrown away and we should start from scratch, said Temkin. Brands need new approaches, they should revamp how they ask customers questions, and they should be adopting analytics and predictive analytics tools. There are “dramatic opportunities for improvement” he added.
  4. Mobile formulations are coming to the fore. Instead of mobile ‘thinking’ being about creating an app or mobile version of the site, mobile formulation should be about thinking about mobile first of all and then redesigning mobile around that. And this will increasingly become the case going forward.
  5. Brand (r)evaluation is taking place. Every good customer experience organisation has a strong brand. But a lot of companies on the CX journey are now realising that along the way their brand message and meaning has become diluted or lost its way or has become difficult to understand. The brand message at these companies is being called into question and companies are now starting to ask what their brand stands for.
  6. There are customer journey deliberations. Customer journey mapping is an important and valuable tool, and the conversation is moving on from using mapping to identify where to make improvements to something that allows customers to talk about their journey. Temkin endorsed the discipline of ‘customer journey thinking’ – which would enable companies to use customer journey mapping not just as a tool, but as a discussion point.
  7. Contact centre loyalty aspirations are emerging. Companies are evolving their thinking about contact centres. Where in the past they sought to reduce the number of calls that their centres attracted, pushing customers to digital self-service and minimising the length of calls as much as possible, now brands are exploring how to drive loyalty with their contact centres. Companies are starting to realise that call into a contact centre is a ‘moment of truth’ and so by avoiding calls or restricting them, the brand is undermining its customer experience management efforts as a whole.
  8. Human resources participation will increase. Temkin advocated a revamp of HR. While the topic of ‘values’ would appear to be a perfect fit for HR, it is badly equipped to deal with it, he said. Today’s HR departments are too focused on transactional matters such as hiring and firing, so the notion of engaging employees requires a “retooling” of HR. 2015 will be the year that HR professionals will recognise that if they don’t lead this effort they will be replaced, Temkin predicted.

McDonalds finds Fusion

Elsewhere on the agenda, attendees heard how McDonalds is blending the employee and customer experience to create a coherent approach to CEM.

“The biggest strategic challenge we’re facing at UK McDonalds is keeping pace with changing customer expectations,” said Jack Upton, UK director for training, education and customer services at McDonalds UK.

While customers still have the same basic demands – quality, service and cleanliness – there are now emotional components attached: they want to know that the goods are not only quality but are ethically produced; they want to know that staff have rewarding jobs; and whereas cleanliness used to just mean toilets and tables, now it means also the staff taking pride in their appearance.

But it’s not just the customers that have changed, Upton told attendees. The staff have also changed. Whenever employees had been asked what they most liked about working at McDonalds, they had always said the three Fs: Family (feeling like they are part of a team or family; Flexibility (having jobs that they can fit around their lives, not the other way around); and Future, having a job that is not dead end but offers prospects).

And while these have stayed the same, the way they want them delivered has changed. For instance, staff now want schedules accessible online, etc.

In a bid to blend excellent delivery with employee value, McDonalds has created a project called ‘Fusion’, which “unlocks the power of staff to wow customers while at the same time wowing our staff,” said Upton.

This highlighted vital ingredients that customers expect and the qualities that staff should have, such as value and respect, enjoying what you do, the power of a smile, and the importance of being yourself to let your personality shine through.

Having identified these ingredients through conversations with staff and customers, the fast food chain is now in the process of embedding the ingredients. This, Upton acknowledged, could take a few years to impact the business, but they are hard at work: “We onboard with the vital ingredients, we train with ingredients, and at awards we recognise those that go above and beyond.”

Founded in April 2011, the CXPA now has 3,000 members across 60 countries. While its board of directors and members have been predominately based in the US, the not-for-profit’s status is growing in the UK as customer experience becomes a more prominent focus for brands. 

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