Leadership, Employee Engagement and Customer Service

I attended last years IQPC Customer Experience Management Conference in Sydney and thoroughly enjoyed the content. I learned a lot.

There were many great speakers. Many of them focused on the what – meaning that I learned about tools, measurements, successes through data collection and customer platforms, amongst other aspects. I was invited to this year’s conference, including the opportunity to be a guest speaker during the opening day. I wanted to set a challenge to myself and the attendees with a pitch more aligned to the ‘how’:

• How do we achieve improved customer service results?
• How do we establish the right culture to balance employee, customer and business needs?
• How do we use the extensive quantities of data available to real advantage?
• How do we create employee engagement, empowerment and buy-in that means our customers feel the benefit?
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My presentation was titled ‘Customer Experience Management from the Inside-Out‘ The core theme implies that if we want to genuinely positively impact customer experience and service standards, we must build a culture and understanding that the customer matters with all employees. We should view Customer Experience as a culture, not a tool. I imagine everyone in the room knew this. I also believe that most of the attendees, all specialists in their fields, actively focus on internal culture, employee engagement and the relationship to customer service and experience to some degree. Many of them may even measure this.
Ledaership, Employee Engagement and Customer Experience - How Do They See You?
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However, building a culture that is actively and meaningfully engaging both internal customers (your employees) and external customers is more easily said than done. I do not pretend to have all the answers and I recognise that inputs into Customer Experience Management (CEM) are many and varied. What I will say though is that in my experience there is a gap between intent and behaviour when it comes to leadership, development, employee engagement, empowerment and related beliefs and activities in many organisations. According to a report created by the Genesys group titled the Cost of Poor Customer Service, 73% of consumers end a relationship due to poor service. The report highlights various trends and many areas to focus on, along with details regarding statistics and verbatim comments related to CEM. At face value it should be easy to improve upon aspects such as these.
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Accessing more data or modernising software and systems can assist issues such as those highlighted, however it is only part of the story. I have made the mistake previously on trying to improve CEM through the front-line employees – those who have direct contact with our customers. Whereas it is possible to see success at individual employee level, the messages and learning must be reinforced by leaders and through what they were being measured on. I have learned that a bottom-up approach for providing great customer service only takes you so far.

Leadership, Employee Engagement and Customer Experience

Different departments are often siloed and have different leaders with varying skills and agendas along with competing objectives, metrics and motivations. In many organisations, departments do not work together naturally as a team to best serve the customer, yet such teamwork is essential to collaboratively deliver consistent customer experience. The 2011 Customer Experience Impact (CEI) Report explores the relationship between consumers and brands. Based on a survey commissioned by RightNow and conducted by Harris Interactive, the report reveals:

• 86 percent will pay more for a better customer experience.

• 89 percent of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience.

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None of this would be a big surprise to many of you, I am sure. But, they are good reasons for us as business leaders to focus on improving our customer experience.

A genuinely effective customer experience approach requires a top-down strategy based on broad and extensive cultural change.

The CE IQ study found that the most successful companies are those who have senior leadership not only buying into but actively driving a customer centric culture and related set of actions. Intuitively this all makes sense. So, where are the gaps.
Part of the answer can be found through two questions, which when responded to provide insight for any business:
  • What makes a memorable experience that causes consumers to stick with a brand?
  • How do we make our customers feel?
Effective leadership and employee engagement are critical factors in providing a culture where people want to work…and to provide more of what our customers want. Foundation values such as empowerment and employee satisfaction cannot be given to an individual or employee-base, but creating an environment that has a higher propensity towards meeting these needs is possible.
Customers can tell within minutes—even seconds—whether they are dealing with an engaged and committed employee or a dissatisfied employee, which can greatly affect their willingness to engage in business, and ultimately impact a company’s profitability. Studies have shown that, great leaders are able to keep their highest performing employees and have four times the number of highly committed employees, which affects productivity.
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The lesson for any manager is clear: If you want to increase profits and have more satisfied customers, develop your teams, develop your own skills and concentrate on becoming a more effective leader.

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