Any brand looking to build a customer focused culture will find themselves fighting an uphill battle if employee engagement is at an all-time low. The good news is, your employees can actually help you to become more customer-centric. You just need to build the right culture and mindset that allows your employees to flourish. In short, it's a mindset where serving the customer is the responsibility of all and doing the right thing for the customer is key to everyone’s role, regardless of department, job title or level of seniority.
"A highly engaged workforce can increase innovation, productivity, and bottom-line performance while reducing costs related to hiring and retention in highly competitive talent markets.”
- Harvard Business Review, The Impact of Employee Engagement
Everybody in the business needs to believe in the ethos that "customers come first", with no exceptions. The problem is that embedding this mindset into a company isn’t easy, it has to be rooted in your culture and backed by strong support from the Executive team. It can't be something that you ignore when put under short-term or reactive pressures, it's also about recruiting the right people – the ones who understand what you’re trying to achieve for your customers.
Want to connect the dots between CX and EX? Grab our latest Infographic with expert advice from Sage, Dunelm, Forrester, Temkin Group, plus many more!
Behind every business is a network of people who make things happen. As individuals we actively seek purpose, we want to leave work at the end of the day knowing that we've made a positive difference. It's these intrinsic human traits that brands should help amplify each and every day, once a business recognises this, they can start to understand how and why their own people can make or break the customer experience.
Employees don't want to work for a business that displays a lack of care towards their customers, or their people. Instead, businesses have to understand that their role is to build a framework that enables employees to do the right thing for the customer. When businesses get this wrong, they build pessimism within their employees and this caring trait can be lost, instead they start to amplify the more negative traits, which ultimately reach the customer one way or another.
So, let's take a look at 5 tips to build customer-centricity through your employees!
Recruit On The Right Skills & Traits
To grow as a customer-centric organisation, you have to recruit colleagues who understand your ethos and philosophy. Those joining your business have to understand the values, belief and culture driving the business. If you hire the wrong people who display the wrong behaviours, you risk diluting the brand and diluting your promise to your customers.
The recruitment process should be designed to make sure only candidates who understand the brand and what you're trying to do for customers will make it through.
Short on time? Skip down to the key takeaways... and don’t forget to come back later for the full story.
A business is only the sum of its employees, and those that know it are fully utilising it. For example, one brand that understood this exceptionally well decided to conduct a key driver analysis to pull out the top three agent-led topics behind customer satisfaction. They then took these key drivers and built a training and hiring programme around them, informing their candidates and employees that if they want to truly satisfy customers, these are the three drivers that matter.
Whilst training is a perfect vehicle to drive customer focused behaviour, it’s also about supporting and empowering current colleagues. They need to have the freedom to deliver truly great customer service, resulting in a high degree of loyalty from customers, which in turn builds a level of trust and leads to advocacy.
There are also particular skills that brands need to look for, for example, a hiring process may begin with a telephone interview to identify these skills. If a candidate struggles to build a rapport with someone on the phone and build empathy, then they may not be fit well into a customer focused business. Candidates need to demonstrate the right mindset, a mindset which ties in with the values of the business and serves the needs of the customer.
Embed A Philosophy Of Self-Improvement
Customer feedback is invaluable for self-improvement and employee motivation. It allows your people to identify what they’re good at, or what they need to do better. It might be difficult to hear negative feedback, but it also gives employees the opportunity to learn. Knowing how customers feel can also empower employees to take responsibility for issues that have been raised, another benefit is that real-time customer feedback can enable in the moment coaching. When you've built a culture around self-improvement it means when a customer scores a colleague 10 out of 10, you can shout about the success, so it becomes a real moment of pride for everyone.
You can also collate this feedback in a fun way to really engage colleagues. Build gamification by having real-time leader boards and scores which show where employees rank against each other. This creates healthy competition and a buzz in the department, as colleagues share their results and learn from each other about how they've achieved their scores. Then, at the end of the week, with the colleague who has the highest score, you should recognise this and reward them. It could be a voucher to go for some fine dining, or a pair of Beats by Dre – it’s an accolade for them.
It’s about celebrating success and reinforcing the positives of self-improvement. This doesn’t always mean giving away loads of money or freebies, employees can feel rewarded on an emotional level when they're recognised by their Manager or employer. Actually, it's all about giving a little bit of recognition and saying well done, it makes them feel proud, and pride is a thing that drives success in the business.
Keep Your People In The Know
Nobody likes being left out or put in a position where they feel uncertain about what's happening in their team or department. It can create an atmosphere of suspicion, gossip and unease – definitely not what you’re looking for if you want to empower employees and engage them.
Actively involving your employees in your key decision-making can be a huge booster for engagement, this because it shows that as a business you make decisions collectively and with input from all levels. When people feel included, they're more likely to work harder for the things they believe in because they're also bought into the process or decision.
Remember, keeping your employees informed and up-to-date doesn’t have to be complicated. Businesses can raise engagement by just being proactive about communication - this means sharing news and announcements with employees to keep them in the loop. This could be the CEO feeding back to employees around issues raised in the business or from your quarterly engagement survey, this shows that their voice truly counts and that the executive team are listening and taking action. Whilst this may sound incredibly simple, it's amazing how many brands fail to adopt an approach like this, and as a result, suffer with lower levels of engagement.
Use Emotional Motivators to Engage Employees
Motivation doesn’t always have to come from grand gestures or expensive incentive programmes. What we're referring to is the true power of emotional motivators and the impact they have, an example of an emotional motivator would be a line manager saying a kind word or a heartfelt thank you for a job well done. After all, people work for people, it's all about establishing respect, trust and a bond within a team which can elevate a team to high engagement and high performance.
It might not always be a thank you either, a reassuring word after a tricky call can make all the difference to a contact centre agent who's having a bad day. Likewise, letting your employees know what your customers have to say can have a real impact too, these snippets of feedback can act as their very own emotional motivators. When an agent goes above and beyond for the customer and this comes through in their feedback, these kind words help inspire and motivate employees to repeat their actions. Don't forget that when you share your Voice of the Customer feedback, include the negatives as well as the positives - this allows employees to see where their strengths lie and celebrate but also keep the culture of self-improvement living and breathing.
Support Employees And Feed Them The Right Data
After hiring the right colleagues, support them by showing exactly how you're a customer focused organisation. Give them the evidence, tools and freedom (within a supportive framework) that they need to make informed decisions and deliver great individual customer service. It's no use hiring the right employees with the right values for them to then struggle with processes which don't allow them to do the right thing for the customer.
This also means it's important to deliver the right data to them, we've spoken all about the value of real-time feedback and how it's huge for employees, but this is only when it comes in unfiltered and directly from the customer about their experience or interaction. When a customer calls in or sends an email, a business will typically pose the NPS question on the back of the transaction, saying, "please can you give us a score out of 10". Whilst this may give you some indication in terms of bench-marking there's nothing in the question to tell you what went well if it was a high score, or what went wrong, if it was a low score.
The customer needs to be given the freedom to speak in their own words, this is why the second part of this feedback request is so important, allow them to enter free flow verbatim in a text box so they can share exactly what they thought and felt about their experience.
We can then look at the data in real time and immediately share it with colleagues. If a customer called in and left a score of three out of ten, you would know within a minute or two how the customer felt. With the addition of the free flow verbatim, you could then drill down and say, "here’s why the customer isn’t happy”.
Based on this evidence, you can then do something about it. You can call the customer back and say, "I want to start by making an apology, I've checked the conversation and it's clear you weren't happy with the result of our interaction and I want to put this right, let's see what we can do." From a customer's perspective, they’re probably now thinking, "Wow! You've listened to me and you've called me back”, instead of feeling frustrated or disappointed with their experience.
- There's a symbiotic relationship between businesses and their employees: Your people want to feel that they have a clear purpose and that they're making a difference. It's the businesses responsibility to ensure they amplify these positive human traits, empowering employees to do the right thing for their customers!
- Recruit the right traits and skills for a customer-centric business: A business is only the sum of its people. It's vital that businesses understand what their customers want and what makes them happy, it's these key drivers behind customer satisfaction that'll help inform the way you hire and train employees.
- Build a culture that prides itself on continual self-improvement: Receiving feedback is critical to improving performance. Whilst this is true, critique isn't always easy to hear, so it's imperative to coach emotional intelligence into your business so that it can be constructively given and received. When you've built a culture that believes in continual self-improvement you'll be able to use customer feedback to help identify training requirements for employees and gaps in your business offering that need improvement.
- Keep employees in the know and involved in your decision-making: Your employees have expectations too, it's no secret that happy employees = happy customers, so make sure that you're actively keeping them informed around business activity and performance. Employees will feel much more in control of their day if they are actively involved in decisions which impact them,
- Use emotional motivators to engage your employees: There are times where businesses reward employees for their performance across a quarter or identify an exceptional case where an agent has gone the extra mile for the customer. But it's easy to forget how your people are actively doing things every day which are above and beyond their call of duty. Employees aren't asking for you to shout their names from the rooftop, instead, a small gesture or a word saying thank you can go a long way to show that you appreciate their efforts and they don't go unnoticed.
Capture the right data to empower your people: If employees are to understand customers on a deeper level, then it's critical that customer feedback is collected in the right way. Brands often think they're capturing the voice of the customer but actually they're surveying them based on their own view of what's important, rather than the customer's view. You want your customers to tell you what they think and feel in their own words, giving employees an unfiltered view into the customer's mind, there are no limits as to how you can use this data to understand and improve the customer experience.