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Marrying employee engagement with customer satisfaction

18th Oct 2010
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The need to understand the impact of employee engagement on customer satisfaction is more important than ever. So what needs to be considered?

It’s almost trite to quote statistics on employee churn within contact centres. However, high agent churn is a well established if not completely well understood fact of contact centre operation. Employee engagement has been shown to be a key driver in reduction of attrition.
But how do you get staff to be more involved in the business? What do you need to do to increase job satisfaction and encourage employees to deliver consistently high performance levels and reduce absenteeism and defection?
The obvious answer is to find out what motivates each employee. Forward thinking companies are now moving beyond that, also asking how they can link employee engagement and customer satisfaction. The obvious linkage is from increased satisfaction to increased customer retention to increased revenue.
Can HR help businesses to find out who is producing happy customers and which employees need more training in order to feel ‘empowered’ to cross-sell and up-sell. Perhaps more importantly, can HR identify which staff are at risk of defecting to the competition which would result in costly replacement?
It is possible to track employee attitude towards the company with pulse checks at key moments of truth during the employee lifecycle – following recruitment, immediately upon onboarding, at a three month pulse check, and before/after training courses, after promotion for example – which enables HR to find out what motivates an individual throughout their tenure.
But in the current climate, marrying employee engagement with customer satisfaction could be the key to survival.
As frontline employees, contact centre agents are often the only people speaking to customers and generating the greatest impact to customers’ interaction with the business. Their motivation, sense of empowerment, comfort with products and their levels of training determine the quality of the experience they produce. Understanding these from their perspective can help companies make appropriate decisions about further training and even how they continue in their roles.
Answers to questions such as "do you have a degree of product knowledge sufficient to handle your customers’ questions?" or "are you empowered to solve your customers’ problems?" in aggregate provide insight into the agent’s attitude towards their job and their company. Combined with data regarding satisfaction of customers handled by that agent provides increased insight that helps contact centre managers make the best decisions.
360 degree view of the business
Companies have long used technology to identify and analyse customer buying habits, aspirations and concerns but it is only now that the results of employee engagement and customer satisfaction surveys can be combined to provide a 360 degree view of the business.
The chart below shows a mapping of agent engagement and customer satisfaction. In this case each point in the chart represents one agent, and you can see their motivation and the satisfaction levels of the customers they serve.
Managers want all their agents to be highly motivated and producing high customer satisfaction, in the top right corner of the chart. It’s those agents who demonstrate a mix of levels of engagement and customer satisfaction who require the highest focus. 
For example, one might hope that those agents who are disengaged and whose customers are dissatisfied, in the bottom left corner, defect to the competition. But what of those agents in the top left corner who are disengaged and whose customers are very satisfied? What if they defected instead? Would those customers move with them?
And do those agents in the bottom right who are motivated but whose customers are unhappy simply need additional training?
The ability to measure and understand employee attitude in relation to their ability to efficiently and effectively produce happy, satisfied customers will enable companies to identify which personnel are contributing most effectively to the business and to appropriately handle those who aren’t.
Creating an ‘employee engagement’ score and correlating it directly to the customer satisfaction score on the same chart could provide managers with an invaluable tool to manage its two most important relationships – with its staff and its customers.
Ultimately, the contact centre is the frontline of many organisations today and as such the need to understand the impact of employee engagement on customer satisfaction is more important here than in many other areas of the company. In order to reduce churn, improve relationship management, increase performance and reduce costs, businesses must identify trends that link the quality of service provided with training, motivation and experience of agents staffing the contact centre.
Businesses must consider:
  • Are agents equipped to support our new product?
  • Do high value customers feel they are receiving the level of service they deserve?
  • What is the relationship between agent engagement and customer satisfaction?
  • How has a recent training programme affected customer satisfaction in a high-churn product group?

Gary Schwartz is SVP of product marketing at Confirmit.

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