What "empowering the frontline" really means for your brand

Posted by Yiannis Maos

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July 6, 2016

What-empowering-the-frontline-really-means-for-your-brand.jpgWe’re big fans of storytelling – it’s one of the best ways to get to the true heart of the matter.

Earlier this year, at our Year of Emotion event, Tim Wade shared a story about empowering the frontline that is too good to keep to ourselves. It centred around insurance firm Liverpool Victoria (LV) and a mighty storm at Dover’s ferry port. The storm was vicious - it had breached a wall and flooded the car park, rendering the cars of weary travellers heading back from France submerged.

Worse still, the storm was having a significant impact on the ferry itself, making the crossing treacherous and longer than it would otherwise be.

A member of LV’s frontline staff spotted the story on the news and recognised that there was a very real chance a number of LV customers would be present on the ferry. Without asking permission, she called an engineer and asked them to head to the port to assess the damage. The engineer did so and reported back that the cars were no longer roadworthy.

What the LV staff member did next neatly shows what it really means to empower the frontline.

She recognised LV’s culture of emotion

Emotion is driven by a sense of human connection. At LV, they create a culture of emotion internally by focusing on becoming Britain’s ‘best loved insurance company’. No mean feat in an industry which is, let’s be honest, not the most exciting.

The fact that this particular employee saw the news story and immediately recognised an opportunity to create a great customer experience is testament to LV’s desire to create an emotional connection with its customers and just how deeply that ethos runs through the ranks.

She didn’t turn to a handbook or guide

How do you deal with the above situation? There’s no guide or handbook you can turn to, which is why its a good job this employee felt empowered enough to think on her feet.

Having learned of the impact to the cars of LV customers (as it turned out, there were 22 on the returning ferry), the employee decided to begin the process of filling out claim forms - an often laborious process few people in such a situation would have the inclination or desire to go through.

She went one step further, though, and also arranged hire cars for the people affected. This mean that as soon as the travellers stepped off the ferry, they’d be met with bad news about their car, but great news that the paperwork had already been taken care of and their transport home arranged.

As a result, those customers would probably return home with a smile on their face and a priceless emotional connection with their insurance company, all thanks to the actions of an empowered frontline team member.

She demonstrated the power of a loose/tight ethos

Empowering frontline staff is all about being loose with the rules surrounding what they can do yet tight with the definition of why and how they do those things.

In this example, the LV employee fed on her company’s loose/tight mentality by feeling empowered to go above and beyond for those 22 customers. In doing so, an emotional connection was established without the employee ever feeling like they were overstepping the mark or putting themselves in danger of receiving a ticking-off from management.

But this is just one example – there are plenty of other brands empowering their frontline

During his talk, Wade also noted Metro Bank’s philosophy which was to go against the grain of an industry whose ‘computer says no’ mentality would regularly result in a poor customer experience.

Banking sector staff are usually empowered to say “no”, but at Metro Bank, they flipped this ethos on its head; their staff are empowered to say “yes” and must seek authorisation from those above them if they think a “no” is required.

So, what does “empower the frontline” really mean? It’s all about giving your employees a sense of purpose around which every business decision is made, and reminding them that they can tread their own path towards delivering a great customer experience. 

Want more? If you really want to take the next steps to empower your frontline then click below to checkout how we teamed up with ContactBabel to craft the latest UK contact centre decision makers guide on Agent Engagement and Gamification. 




Topics: Contact Centre Customer Experience

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