When it comes to your customers, everyone in the organization knows they're supposed to be delivering the goods on customer experience.
At least, they should know that whatever their connection to the customer, it matters more than ever and it’s on every trend list, but employees don't always know why.
The perspective and priorities of call center employees and other customer-facing staff may be quite different from those of the CMO, and communicating a shared goal for delighting the customer isn’t always elevated to the sense of corporate mission that, in today’s marketplace, it really needs to be.
Despite all those trend lists, the Customer Experience (CX) is not a trend and reflects both the history and future of your firm, so putting the value of customer experience and the people who create it first isn’t just window dressing.
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There’s a real irony in the mismatch between what leadership knows about the customer journey in the marketing department, or in sales and IT, and whatever sense of mission is happening among call-center staff who actually do it.
Part of the problem is that we’re getting the answers wrong to a fundamental question:
What Does Customer Satisfaction Look Like?
Business tends to think the answers lie only in the data delivered by sophisticated econometric models or customer-review algorithms, or in the ROI they were promised from a call center IT vendor.
Their answers are filtered through their expectations of the investments they made in technical solutions, without the same careful attention to their employees.
Yes, there are top-notch products available for delivering the metrics, think the American Customer Satisfaction Index and its comprehensive industry statistics, or the emerging technologies that support the sophisticated algorithms used by review sites like CrowdReviews.com and similar options in the B2B and B2C environments, but these are based on the description of CX that already happened, on the reputation and the impressions that you’ve already created with people.
Customers are what grow the enterprise and increase its profitability and prestige, but supporting the people expected to serve them is the real answer to what customer satisfaction looks like.
When it comes to enhancing CX, there are three spheres in which companies can build brand strategically by building a better experience through their own employees.
In our work with clients, we identify these interdependent spheres as: liberating structures, data-driven technology and empowered people.
As a software developer of a voice-recognition product designed specifically for call center operations, I support the innovations.
They seek to keep pace with the mobility and instant connectivity of customers who expect personal and meaningful attention, in real time and at the tap of a finger.
It’s the power of data that’s making it possible to create CX and cultivate it in impressive ways, and still, according to yet more reliable data, customer satisfaction has been hitting some new lows.
If data-driven technology was the simple solution, the unifying theory of CX everything, we’d see that in retail, in financial services, in health care and government and other sectors that are seeing some of the lowest customer satisfaction numbers in a decade.
We’re not, and while there are other variables apart from the empowerment of your people and the structure in which they work, it’s a place to look first.
In fact, tech is delivering one of the more intriguing new possibilities for empowering the call center staff.
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CEO Larry Schwartz, speaking in a January interview with CEOCFO, heads up the WorkFlex Solutions firm.
The company has created a mobile app to empower call center employees to self-manage their schedules while maintaining optimal staffing levels within the organization.
Schwartz points out that there are about four million people who work in call centers across the United States, with an average age of 24.
As Millennials, they want to feel a sense of purpose in their work, and they want to know it makes a real contribution, and in that sense, they’re no different from generations of workers before them.
But when 75 percent of them are saying they value more flexibility in their scheduling, and that’s in an industry with annual turnover of 50 percent, it makes sense to empower them to do so.
The mobile app and work-life balance features make business more efficient and call center employees happier, but the idea and the ethos behind the app, and the problem it seeks to solve, is what matters to all of us.
The real value of the technology, and other CX tech, is in the app’s ability to support and motivate an employee who believes they are valued, that their needs are respected, that their sense of autonomy and agency has been engaged instead of stifled.
That’s also an employee who is easier to retain and reward, which pretty well describes the exact same experience you want them to create for customers.
As businesses continue to grasp that employee empowerment isn’t just a soft-skill buzzword but rather a smart strategic investment in reducing both kinds of churn, your disappointed employees and their disappointed customers.
They’re moving to an entirely new understanding of value. In our work with clients, we emphasize that the commitment to liberating structures and empowered employees within them isn’t a quixotic little topic that always gets the eye roll in the back row at the annual board retreat.
Rather, and I make this point throughout my 2015 book, “The Curated Experience,” the customer isn’t your inconvenient means to a profitable end, ever.
Neither are your customer-facing employees in the call center, in sales, in public relations or at any of the touchpoints that make up your customer’s unique journey.
Customers are the reason for your business and they’ve always had the power to insist on the experience they want.
What’s different now is that they know that, and so do your employees.
Their understanding of community in CX already defines their expectations of your business in that community, too.
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When your customers see a disconnect and your employees feel that ironic mismatch, it’s time to fix it in the knowledge that you can do better with the structures, the people, and the data-driven technology that delivers the bottom line.