Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Key Components of a CX Framework - Part 4

This is the fourth post in a five-part series about the key components of a CX framework.

Engaged Employees
The fourth component of the CX framework is the employee. Employees cannot be forgotten, as they are a crucial part of the success of your CX transformation and this new customer-centric culture!

Remember that the employee experience drives the customer experience; if your employees aren't engaged, it will be very difficult for them to delight your customers; in very simple terms, this describes "the spillover effect."

I've been talking about this concept (not with that specific label) since my days at J.D. Power and Associates 20 years ago, and yet, in the heat of VOC/CX design, employees are forgotten: "Oh, we'll collect feedback from employees later. We'll incorporate employee data later. Let's start with customers." No more; that is just not acceptable. Without your employees, you have no customer experience. Bruce Temkin recently wrote about findings from his latest research in which he took a look at the linkage between CX and employee engagement. It's real, and they matter!

There are a few different ways to look at ensuring employees are a part of the overall customer-centric culture.
  1. Consider the employee experience and plot the employee lifecycle
  2. Gather feedback from your employees, both solicited and unsolicited
  3. Hire the right people
  4. Empower employees by unleashing ownership and accountability
  5. Show appreciation
Employee Lifecycle
I will devote a future blog post to defining the employee lifecycle, but it is important to understand it before you consider what types of surveys you might conduct among your employees and what types of metrics you will want to measure and track.

Employee Feedback
Employee feedback needs to be both solicited (e.g., lifecycle or ad hoc surveys) and unsolicited (e.g., a "suggestion box" or other mechanism for employees to provide feedback). Employees need to feel comfortable that the feedback they provide is anonymous and confidential - and that it comes with no consequences other than corrective actions by the organization to fix the wrongs and praise to recognize the rights.

Outside of these more formal mechanisms, a truly open-door policy for discussions about issues, suggestions, etc. is certainly a great policy. Not only should it be a policy, it needs to be a reality. A lot of organizations talk about this, but it's never really embraced as such. And if it is embraced, it often ends with some sort of retribution for the opinions provided.

Gathering the right feedback from employees will help to ensure that they have the training, tools, and resources to do their jobs and do them effectively. Having an HR steering committee in place to take ownership of the feedback and the employee experience will ensure that no ideas are ignored and all feedback is acted upon in a relevant way. A closed-loop process is as much a part of a VOE as it is for VOC. Communication is key. Employees need to know that their feedback is valued - and used.

HR Practices
This culture is not only about collecting and using employee feedback but also about the people themselves! Regarding hiring practices, you need to make sure to hire the right people for this customer-focused culture. Hire nice people, hire for attitude. Skills can be taught - nice cannot! Hire people with service backgrounds, especially those who have worked for companies best known for their service cultures. (That may not always be possible but great to strive for.) And, once hired, every person in every role must have an understanding of his/her impact on the customer experience.

In addition to hiring, you'll need a solid employee onboarding process to showcase the customer-focused culture of the organization; it will open new employees' eyes to what that means and the freedom they are afforded, which is a good segue into the next topic.

Employee Ownership & Accountability
In order for employees to live this culture, they must be empowered. While "employee empowerment" might be one of those phrases that is over-used in conversation/theory but under-utilized in reality, I am referring specifically to ownership and accountability. I think employees can relate to what that means, but your onboarding process should certainly clarify that for them.
  • If they receive direct feedback about their performance, they need to own it and correct it.
  • If a customer has a bad experience directly related to his/her service, be accountable. Learn from it and  improve.
  • If a customer has an issue, step up and come up with creative solutions to fix it. (The culture of the company must allow for this. Ever heard of Zappos?)
  • If employees have ideas on how to improve the customer experience, they should be encouraged to share with the team - own it and do it.
Employee ownership means that employees are involved in decisions about how to improve the customer experience - and the company culture is such that this is allowed, supported, and applauded. And employees must understand their roles and their impact on the customer experience in order to deliver great experiences and increase loyalty. I'll spend more time on employee ownership in a future blog, but the important takeaway here is that the culture must be there and not a barrier to allowing this to happen.

Show Appreciation
And, last but not least, rewards and recognition for a job well done must be a part of your culture. Praise for delighting customers should always be given. Showing a little love goes a long way toward facilitating and nurturing employee engagement.

The final post in the series is coming soon!

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