You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that recognising hard work and individual achievement is a huge motivator for employees to ‘go the extra mile’. It’s also entirely logical that a public accolade provides a unique opportunity to recognise and applaud the efforts of the entire company.
As part of the Judging Panel for this year’s UK Employee Experience Awards, I have had the rare opportunity to see how a wide variety of organisations are embracing employee engagement as they strive to deliver an excellent customer experience and drive their businesses forward at the same time. It’s enabled me to re-examine and re-confirm what it takes to develop and deploy a winning employee engagement programme.
In my view, the highest marks continue to go to those organisations that take a ‘joined up’ approach to employee engagement across the business, operating beyond the boundaries of HR and extending more broadly into Voice of the Customer initiatives.
It’s true that tapping into the wealth of knowledge that the most conscientious frontline staff have about what pleases or frustrates customers is common sense. Employees are often the only ones to speak to ‘hard to reach’ customers; those that have not provided an email address, and even those that browse in-store but are ‘non-buyers’.
It’s also fair to say that encouraging employees to gather feedback from customers when a purchase or interaction is top of mind is often the best way to identify glitches in customer-facing processes or problems in product or service design. Especially if the customer in question does not like responding to direct requests for formal or structured customer feedback.
As a result, choosing the right channels to communicate with employees and at a time when it’s most convenient for them is essential. In the retail and hospitality sector, for example, this means using mobile to encourage employees to get involved, possibly carrying out short surveys with customers as they leave the premises empty handed or providing a facility to upload a photo as a record of disappointment caused byproduct shortage.
However, as organisations strive to take a more customer-centric approach to business, it’s becoming more and more important that feedback from employees is measured and reported alongside direct customer feedback in the form of a combined Voice of the Customer and Employee (VoCE) programme. Some might say that it’s all different views of the same subject but I’d argue that bringing all the data together in one place will help to uncover new ways to drive change across an organisation.
In other words, by moving beyond ‘root-cause’ analysis and combining what employees hear and what customers say in a VoCE programme, it will make it easier to recognise good and bad patterns of customer behaviour so that they can be considered, addressed and potentially resolved more swiftly.Better still, it might mean that minor issues can be averted before they become business critical.
Employees are critical not only in helping to identify the root cause of customer issues, but also in identifying the best course of action to resolve the issues. Their experience on the frontline can give them the ability to suggest a resolution that simply wouldn’t be considered by a separate team, regardless of the level of insight available to them. This means it’s vital to share details of root-cause analysis with employees and to provide them with a mechanism to suggest suitable next steps. Again, this also keeps employees involved in the process and making a contribution which is vital in maintaining their engagement in the longer term.
Obviously listening to what employees have to say,and making sure that you have told them exactly what you’ve done with the feedback they’ve provided, proves that they are valued and that they can ‘make a difference’ to the company. And being recognised for a ‘job well done’ will undoubtedly motivate individuals and teams to continue to be proactive. However, I believe that the ultimate benefit to the business of empowering employees lies in the very real opportunity to improve problem resolution, reduce churn and the cost of complaints handling which in the long run makes financial sense. Now that’s what I call ‘really making a difference’.