One of the critical factors that distinguish an organization from its competitors is the quality of service – the customer experience. Let’s take banks for example, basically they all offer exactly the same products, and at the same interest rates. So why do customers choose to deal with one bank over another and how can you be sure that your people will deliver the customer experience that keeps them coming back and recommends your organization to others.
Innovation: The smart companies during this economic downturn are using this time to engage employees in coming up with innovative ideas to set them apart from competitors when times turn good again. The key here it to examine customer satisfaction feedback and determine exactly which attributes customers value the most – for the banking sector it may well be convenience, friendly and helpful employees and ambiance of the branch. If this is the case then the focus is on how to think outside the square and offer convenience in banking over and above what competitors do, which may not be about hours but might be about location. Similarly with friendly and helpful employees – how well do you staff understand what the customer experience is like, have they tested it as a customer? And with regard to ambiance, are employees encouraged to become involved in design and facilities and comment on those little things that they have noticed would improve the customer experience?
It goes without saying that if you want to create a service culture you need to engage employees in the design of that culture. So how can you do this for the least cost but highest impact? One way is to form teams across divisions and levels, communities of interest that come up with innovative suggestions for improvements. Tap into employees’ collective knowledge about the customer experience, what they have noticed, what customers have complained about to them, some of the best research is not the survey that researches customer satisfaction but the comments made to employees during their actual encounters with the organization. If you take this information, divide it up into segments, pilot, evaluate and implement and then reward employees for their contribution you are well on the way to creating a culture focussed on service and not just focussed on turning up to work and not contributing.
An organizational culture will only change when you set up systemic practices that support the change. So you need to ensure the following is in place for to achieve optimum outcomes:
1. That managers and team leaders have specific accountabilities in encouraging new ideas from their teams and understand the concept of communities.
2. That a process is developed for selecting those ideas to improve the customer experience that can be implemented as a pilot.
3. The evaluation process is determined against business results and that successful ideas ARE implemented.
4. Employees are rewarded for those innovative ideas that customers truly value - the reward system may not be about money – it might be about dinner with the Executive team – therefore again reinforcing the culture of having access to people who make the final decisions and that innovation in customer service is valued.
5. Finally the communication strategy needs to focus on the success of the program and continually reinforce the positive impact on the customer experience and business outcomes.
So something to think about, how are your strategies in employee engagement and change management encouraging employees to make a positive impact on the customer experience and create a service culture?
Looking forward to hearing about the strategies you are implementing.