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  • Chris Giddings

Want to create an incredible customer experience? Start with your people

With cross-market consolidation of products and services, organisations are looking more and more towards differentiating themselves through customer experience. But what role do employees play in making it a reality?

It’s something we like to talk about all the time here at Synergy. As consumers, we expect a lot. We expect to order now and get it today. We expect an immediate response to our query. And we expect brands to provide a consistent, frictionless experience across all channels and touchpoints.

But it’s gone beyond simply needing to react to consumer demands. Brands are now expected to intuitively know what their customer needs and deliver it, instantly and seamlessly.

How do we ensure customers receive an identical customer experience at any time, across all touchpoints?

Research from Ombudsmen services found bad customer service costs UK companies a whopping £37 billion a year, and almost 80% of customers would stop shopping with a brand if a complaint was treated badly. You’d better get it right then! Hands up who’s tweeted a complaint to get a faster response than the ‘official channels’? *raises hand*

Create a customer-centric culture

Your company mission needs to have the customer at its heart if you’re to create a customer-centric culture. And this needs to be role-modeled from the top. You’ve probably heard that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos always left an empty chair at board meetings, telling the team it was meant for their most important person, the customer. It’s that.

Hire people on attitude / culture fit; those who put the customer at their heart. Again, Amazon is a great example of this. Their 14 leadership principles inform everything they do and are based on how employees need to think and behave in order to ‘be Earth’s most customer-centric company’. Each employee needs to know how their role contributes to the overall purpose of delighting customers. Make sure job descriptions include this.

Don’t confuse ‘consistent’ with ‘identical’

Delivering identical customer experiences don’t match up with what makes us human, that’s when Artificial Intelligence can make a real difference. 67% of CX pros are getting value from AI, not just to create efficiencies, but to create more meaningful relationships with consumers, and freeing up employees to spend more quality time with customers.

Rally teams around a shared vision

Break down silos and encourage teams to collaborate, share ideas and learnings from their own interactions with customers. Does your contact centre employee know about the types of customer queries coming into the social team? Are your employees at the frontline of customer comms aware of any changes in your product or service offering? Can they react to customer demands and are they informed enough to proactively surprise and delight customers? If not, get collaborating. Need some help making that first step? We can help!

Understand your customer journey

Map it out from brand perceptions, through to purchase and beyond. This means analysing every touchpoint to ensure each delivers on your promise to customers and improving them. Getting your employees involved in making suggestions is a great thing to do here too.

Consider coaching for leaders and managers

We believe coaching is set to take over consultancy in the next 10 years because it offers personalised support and training to individuals. Chloe and Jess in our strategy team have accredited qualifications in both one-to-one and one-to-many coaching.

Real-life examples:

  • Virgin leads in many areas of omnichannel marketing – with channels and employees working seamlessly together. Dan, a Customer Services representative, encouraged a customer to contact him directly in the event of any future issues. He didn’t say to ‘call customer service’, or ‘post another tweet’ – he gave a personalised experience. This goes a long way when serving customers.

  • Disney shows consistent CX throughout the customer journey. You book on a beautiful website, use the ‘My Disney’ experience tool to plan your trip, can benefit from ‘Fast Pass’ entrance, use a mobile app to locate attractions you want to see, utilise a ‘Magic Band’ (an NFC-enabled wristband that acts as your hotel room key, photo storage device and food ordering tool). But despite all of these technical advancements Disney never forgets its people. Disney’s ‘cast members’ are trained meticulously across all areas of customer service – they should never say ‘no’ and always have to delight and surprise.

How do we create a culture of empowerment for our employees? And how do we help colleagues exercise this empowerment in the day to day?

Empowerment is not something you can ‘do’. It’s something employees need to ‘be’ or ‘feel’. The Huffington Post says employees are 26% more satisfied with their work when they hold a position of power, but there is a fine balance between empowerment and consistency in CX.

Standardise processes

Outsource or automate those tasks that are a bit more bog standard and mundane so that employees have more time to focus on ‘moments of truth’ with customers.

Give permission and reward empowered behaviour

Ask employees what empowerment means to them and create small interactions fuelled by accountability to bring empowerment gently into the day-to-day. When employees take on this additional empowerment to deliver a better customer experience, make sure their efforts are rewarded and recognised.

Start with managers

It is crucial for managers to understand that factors like trust and experience affect how their behaviours are perceived. Is there a culture of empowerment throughout the organisation? We often hear that issues and suggestions end up on the CEO’s desk when they could and should have been dealt with much further down the business.

Real-life examples:

  • Transport for London has trained their staff to show a personal touch. Rapping, puns and wise proverbs are making even the grumpiest of commuters smile following TfL’s new training push. A development programme was created for staff, which they helped to shape. Five-days in duration, it focussed on customer service skills. A key feature was empowering employees to bring a sense of fun – and their own personalities – to their roles.

  • G Adventures wanted to empower their tour leaders so much they gave them all the title of CEO (Chief Experience Officer). Management also listened when employees argued that keeping a customer’s deposit when they cancel goes against the company's value of ‘doing the right thing’. G Adventures now offers a lifetime deposit which can go towards a new trip or donated to charity.

How do we ensure a consistent, memorable employee experience that’s on par with a brilliant customer experience? We’re still seeing employee engagement and internal communication treated as though it is somehow different to external communications. This means looking at audiences, messaging and channels just like you would for your external comms.

Employees are consumers

Sometimes overlooked by organisations, remember that your people are consumers too! Align your employee experience to what they expect in their life (think media use, channel use, technology use). Although a recent study suggests that 73% of firms are considering mobile in their internal comms campaigns, there is still a long way to go to get internal comms on the same page as external comms. But we’ve got to say hats off to a number of our clients who have embraced new ideas and tech like VR, apps and mobile experiences to really enhance their employee engagement.

Segment and provide for different audiences

Remember that this may differ for different generations/ audiences. With five generations now working together, you'd be mad to assume one size fits all.

Keep it simple

Make it easy to understand, use plain, relatable language. Provide an opportunity for employees to give feedback, acknowledge it and show progress where possible.

A real-life example:

Vodafone has developed their employee experience to align it with the CX strategy. They use ‘Tobi’ - an external CX chatbot - internally for a single point of access to all HR services. Tobi can point employees in the right direction for an agile course, pick up office equipment orders, handle address changes, travel bookings etc (there is lots of AI in the background meaning the employees only have to deal with Tobi - making the process very simple and relatively human).

Some final takeaways - 10 ways to CX success

"To be the best place to buy you must be the best place to work. Treat your employees the way you want your customers to be treated, maybe even better," Shep Hyken

  1. Go out of your way to delight (both your customers and your employees)

  2. Be prepared to be flexible in your communication and engagement strategies for your different audiences

  3. Segment your audience - how do they want to engage with you

  4. Cross-pollinate knowledge - swap and share stories / best practice

  5. Value opinions across all levels

  6. Understand diversity - there are different ways to interpret values for different cultures

  7. Bring people together

  8. Recognise and embrace technology (e.g. AI) leaving humans to do what they do best – empathy/influencing etc

  9. Empower your people and give them permission to deliver great service

  10. Do all of the above, again and again.

Founding partner and Strategy Director of Synergy Creative, Nicky Clark (UK) will be delivering a workshop, "Build employer brand advocacy at the heart of your organisation," at the Pre-Event Workshops Day at World Employer Branding Day 15-17 May 2019 | Lisbon.

This workshop will focus on building and activating an employee ambassador program to support the implementation of the employer brand communications strategy.

For an informal chat about how Synergy can help solve your CX challenges, get in touch by clicking here>

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