Following his presentation at Teleopti’s Americas User Forum, Russell Onofrio, Vice President, Call Centers, at Visit Nurse Service of New York, looks at flipping the corporate scenario and what really matters.
“Most organizations continuously strive to achieve operational excellence, spend less effort understanding the customer experience and even less time on employee engagement. By combining these disciplines – Employee Engagement, Customer Experience and Operational Excellence – it allows companies to create a compelling offer that is needed for a company to be highly successful. It creates the “Trifecta of a Winning Organization”, a great experience for; the Customer, the Employee and the Company.”
The true key to a winning organization is to treat them in sync, collectively and in unison like playing a trifecta. Operations cannot be placed ahead of the customer, nor employees ahead of operations, or even customers greatly ahead of employees. While one area may prove exceptionally strong, if it is the only focus it will lead to critical deficiencies in the two other areas and ultimately to a company’s downfall. They also cannot be looked at in silos. All three areas must be considered at once, but they equally must be approached in the right way. That is to understand the true meaning of each area, not the dictionary definition but how they are tied together, to the company’s foundation (mission, vision and values) and overall success.
I believe that organizations need to flip the pyramid when it comes to power structures, moving from a few powerful people being prioritized (and listened to) over the many. Let’s remember who is really in charge. It is the customer. Leaders of organizations should look to work for their front-line people and everyone should work for the customer. This perspective changes the dynamics of an organization and engages leadership to be more interactive with the entire company. If the front-line staff is not able to do their job or support the customer, it is the Core Management team and Senior Leadership who is responsible or at fault.
Dictionary definition – “An element of organizational leadership that stresses the application of a variety of principles, systems, and tools toward the sustainable improvement of key performance metrics.”
This is a boring definition or old school way of thinking. It should instead read something like: Meeting (or exceeding) customer expectations, every time, at a low operating cost.
I choose this definition because operational excellence is really three things:
- A never-ending journey; it is a culture that continuously seeks out and eliminates waste
- It provides direction to support a leading customer experience and improve a company’s target operating model
- It makes it easier for people to do their job and feel good about contributing
It has components of all three realms; Operational Excellence – running efficiently; Customer Experience – supporting a leading experience; and Employee Engagement – making it easier for people to do their job. The customer and employee have to stay central, even when cost is in the balance. It should be the delivery of your promise to the customer each and every time, by providing your people with the tools to effectively do their job.
The dictionary definition here is closer to the truth: “The sum of all experiences a customer has with a provider.” The idea of a sum is right as under experience comes awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.
Yet what it doesn’t say is that experience is different to design, and you have to adapt to that. Theory is great, in theory, but what about in practice? Companies have to adapt and redesign, based on customer behavior.
Of course, agent efforts and communications are just one part of customer experience, they are not responsible for the overall customer experience.
- “A Great Service engagement DOES NOT Necessarily Lead to a Great Experience”
- “A Poor Service engagement WILL MOSTLY Likely Lead to a Poor Experience”
It is not fair to place the entire responsibility for customer experience on your contact center. If the product does not meet customer expectations, then I do not care how pleasant, knowledgeable, helpful, etc.… an agent in the contact center happens to be, the customer will not be happy with the company. A bad product can’t be fixed by good service. However, here I am dealing with how much organizations can use their contact center communications to nurture customer loyalty – as loyalty is what you’re really trying to build.
It is about creating positive memories for customers with each interaction. It is not just handling the problem or situation, but addressing the customer’s emotions. Customer Experience is a combination of the Head and Heart. The Head is the logical side, it is what the customer expects your organization to be good at: best product; best care; best services; convenient and easy. The Heart is the emotional connection with the organization: it knows, values and listens to me.
Research has shown that a customer who has had a positive memory and scores your company 9 or 10 (0-10 scale) will tell 5 people that they should use your product or service. While those customers that score 6 or below will tell 20 people not to use your product or service.
It is about building advocates, people who are willing to go the extra mile and put their own reputation on the line and recommend you at the possible expense of their reputation if that recommendation goes wrong: “You have to try this” or “I swear they are the best I’ve ever used.” They bring more business your way.
Get customers to buy into your company and brand, but also get buy-in from all in your organization, which leads me to the third part in the trifecta…
This dictionary definition may be right, but it fails to grasp the many dimensions of employee engagement, or the feeling: “a property of the relationship between an organization and its employees. An “engaged employee” is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.
”Employee engagement shouldn’t be used as a tool for control, instead employee engagement is about getting all individuals in your organization to feel:
- A vested interest in the company’s success
- Passionate about their jobs – Advocates, just like with customer experience, they are recommending friends to be employees as well
- Highly productive and giving their best ideas
But how to get there and create these feelings?
- Ensure that the company itself (so, those in management and c-suite) are passionate about the vision, mission and value
- Create a connection between employees and managers – someone to turn to, rather than from
- Align employees with the strategic direction of organization
- Give them the tools for success – create an environment that supports their interactions and offers them training options
All these actions combine to create employees that are advocates of your business, committed to doing the best job.
Let’s flip the corporate scenario and remember who is really in charge. Thinking of the LinkedIn image of the iceberg of ignorance, how can a company prosper if the CEO cannot see the problems that lie beneath? If we flip the iceberg(/pyramid), we can hear, see and know more.
Unite all 3 realms in your organization; Operational Excellence, Customer Experience and Employee Engagement. It is a Win-Win-Win. It is a win for the customers when their experience delights them. It is a win for the front-line employees, who are supported by competent process and systems and engage in more positive encounters with happy customers. And it is a win for the company to save money, while at the same time reaping the revenue benefits of more customer retention, referrals and wallet share. The Trifecta creates a great experience for; the Customer, the Employee and the Company.