How to make your technical teams more customer-friendly

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Having clearly defined roles, processes and procedures is great, but what happens when a focus on internal processes and procedures begins to impact the customer experience?

ABB, the global power and automation company, discovered from its Net Promoter Score that although its customers continued to rate the company’s products and services as best in class there was still room for improvement when it came to managing customer relationships.  

There were concerns about how long the division’s 300 highly-skilled individuals, ranging from scientists and engineers to technical sales and customer support representatives, were taking to reply to emails and the tendency to pass the customer onto someone else if the enquiry wasn’t directly related to their particular part of the business.

Changing behaviour

Critical to bringing about the required improvements was not only simplifying internal processes but also changing employee behaviour to encourage employees to choose, in real time, the most helpful customer-focused behaviour.

In response, we helped them to design a bespoke development programme for managers to deliver internally. By enabling them to deliver it themselves, the plan was to empower ABB managers to make it as relevant as possible to create real behaviour change.

Branded ‘We Care’ the bespoke programme was based on the following three principles:

  • Responsibility: taking ownership and not pushing customers away if it’s not your area.
  • Respect: celebrating differences and diversity and earning respect by showing respect.
  • Determination: seeing things through and striving to deliver a ‘win-win’ for everyone.

It consisted of five half-day modules, featuring different learning methodologies, behaviour profiles, action-based learning exercises and facilitator input. The creative bit was the use of professional actors to create a ‘soap opera’ following the frustrations of a fictional customer as she tries to get a broken piece of equipment fixed, without a service agreement in place.

Although the characters we created were deliberately flawed and very exaggerated, we also introduced an element of humour to ensure they were likeable and believable, as well as exemplifying the behaviour that needed to change – without pointing the finger at any one part of the business.

With emailed teasers and an ongoing storyline, the approach managed to draw in 95% of staff to take part. In fact employees became so engaged with the fates of the fictional customer and the ABB employees that she encounters that they demanded a concluding episode.

Although it would have been easy to contrive a happy ending, ABB decided to end the story with a large sales opportunity being lost but the customer relationship saved and final reflections from the characters.

Focusing on customers

Discussing the subsequent impact of the initiative, Mike Sonley, UK learning and development manager for ABB, said, “It’s been incredibly impactful. It’s created real behaviour change, improving customer satisfaction to help us substantially increase revenue. Everyone’s become mindful of how their words and actions affect the business. It also gave us the opportunity to consider and correct internal processes that were damaging customer service.”

ABB is now planning the roll out the programme across ABB globally and working with us to develop a leadership development programme to embed the principles of respect, responsibility and determination even further.

How to put the focus back on your customers

Most people development initiatives designed to enhance the customer experience inevitably fail to generate any long-term behaviour change because employees simply don’t understand what the organisations brand values mean for them in practice and what it is they need to do differently going forward.

If you genuinely want to change the way that employees behave towards customers it’s worth bearing in mind the following tips:

  • Make it relevant. Rather than explaining how you want customers to feel, or how you want employees to behave, it’s essential to spell out how this means they need to behave in everyday real-life situations.
  • Involve managers. Rather than paying an external consultant to tell employees what they should be doing or thinking, it’s far more impactful if you can work with a specialist to develop managers to facilitate discussion about what needs to change and why
  • Provoke change. By using actors or role-play to dramatise day-to-day situations you can powerfully illustrate what it feels like to be a customer and just how much this impacts on the business in a way that provokes real behaviour change
  • Keep it fun. Even though you might find it necessary to exaggerate undesirable behaviour to make a point, it’s also essential to retain an element of humour and keep it light. If the process starts to feel like a ‘blame game’ it won’t work.
  • Review your processes. Critical to creating a really customer-centric organisation is ensuring that the systems and processes are also refined to allow employees to put the customer first, instead of letting the internal stuff get in the way of this.
     
Susy Roberts is managing director of  Hunter Roberts.

About Susy Roberts

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