Robert PenderRobert PenderJuly 3, 2020
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5min1305

The initial interactions candidates have when dealing directly with organisations represent the very first opportunity to demonstrate who you are, your people values and to build a relationship that may live long in the memory, irrespective of the application outcome.

All too often we see and hear of experiences that are bereft of the human touch and do great disservices to some very good organisations.

A digital experience must do its utmost to replicate the same positive emotions and feelings of that of a face to face encounter. Here are just four examples, where improvement opportunities are in abundance:

1. The window of opportunity.

Typically when you talk to organisations, they’re keen to fill positions quickly, yet bizarrely processes are incredibly longwinded. They must capitalise on candidate’s excitement and enthusiasm about the prospect of the opportunity but be under no illusion that with each passing day interest dwindles. Shorten application windows. Make a commitment to review and communicate with incoming candidates daily. Notify them if they’re unsuccessful. Put others on initial shortlists and inform them of such. Send them further content about you and the role. Organisations can get seriously creative about how they maintain interest if they spared it thought.

2. The application process.

Organisations stipulate how candidates must present themselves and showcase their experience, be it CV’s, personal statements, excruciatingly long-winded application forms or even video submissions. As opposed to dictating how candidates must apply, why not empower people to represent and express themselves in a manner they feel most comfortable with? Let them showcase their creativity. Don’t confine and restrict people. You’d learn far more about someone by doing so.

3. “If you’ve not heard from us within xx days/weeks, please assume you’ve been unsuccessful on this occasion” 

How did such a discourteous practice ever become so commonplace? At the very least is it really such an imposition to inform people they’ve been unsuccessful and thank them for the no doubt significant time and trouble they’ve invested into showing an interest in your organisation?

4. “Due to the high volume of applications we are unable to provide individual feedback”

Imagine the scenario. You provide feedback that would help someone secure the next role they applied for. Everyone would jump at the chance to do so. You’d feel great you were able to help someone. So why has a reluctance to provide feedback become another mind-boggling practice that’s such a widely adopted norm? Organisations are not unable to provide feedback. They’re unwilling. They deem their responsibilities to have ended at this point.

All of these things take time, consideration, effort and the appreciation that change is necessary. The treatment of candidates is often inconsistent with the people values organisations profess to have. The fact that very few organisations measure the candidate experience paints its own picture.

Organisations should be crafting a human experience they can be proud of and should never overlook the fact that candidates are often customers too.

When they reach the point of realisation that they exist to serve communities of people, and their responsibilities are far broader, only then will they unlock outcomes that eclipse any previous endeavours.

These examples represent poor starts to a relationship that requires candidates to yield to a process that exists to suit organisations, completely lacking in compassion and empathy. If you likened the current candidate experience to a first date, with everyone striving to make a positive first impression, humankind would have a perilous future.

We must challenge ourselves, our colleagues and our organisations. Whether we build a lasting relationship today with a candidate, in the future or our paths just momentarily cross this once in life organisations can do so much better.

CXM had the opportunity to speak with Robert in January this year.

Robert is a Judge at the upcoming UK Employee Experience Awards 2020.


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJuly 3, 2020
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2min878

According to research collected by Instant Offices, having friends in the workplace can positively affect mood and workflow.

Sixty-six percent of British workers say having a friend increases job satisfaction, while over half of UK employees think that having a ‘work best friend’ ultimately makes the job engaging and more enjoyable.

Some of the benefits of having friends at work are increased trust, strong bonds outside work which can increase a sense of loyalty at work, support, better communication and overall happiness.

For many employees, making friendly relationships with coworkers and managers is already the norm, as the 2020 UK study shows that 76 percent of employees enjoy a positive relationship with their superior and 77 percent states the same with their colleagues.

Lucinda Pullinger, Global Head of HR at the Instant Group says “As a manager, it is important to get to know all your direct reports and show interest, care and concern for all team members equally. There are commercial as well as human reasons for this. Also, in a work environment, it can be the team members who are actually most different to you that are your most valuable, as they provide you with alternative thinking and/or challenge which drives a better outcome. Therefore, valuing, trusting and treating all team members equally is important to enable a team to perform at its true potential.”

Bosses and managers can have friendly connections with their employees by being open about the changing dynamics and staying consistent in the treatment of everyone. It’s just as important to establish a balance between sharing too much information with your work friends and being closed and serious to deserve respect.


Hannah Louise CoxHannah Louise CoxJune 25, 2020
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7min1164

Hannah Louise Cox is Executive Search Consultant at Douglas Jackson and a Judge at the UK Digital Experience Awards 2020.

Read about Hannah’s experience at last year’s UK DXA.

 

Times have certainly changed in these last few months and we are living in an unrecognisable world now for sure. However, some industries and businesses are still functioning as normal, and some are even growing.

I have still been hiring during lockdown and have some tops tips and practises to share of how I have been working with business leaders to do this successfully during the lockdown period.

Video calls and conferences have now become a part of everyday life for us all and have certainly been invaluable in the virtual recruitment process. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, the list is almost endless of the technology available to us to facilitate the virtual world that we find ourselves now living in. Rather than meeting face to face, the majority of businesses are now fully au fait with the use of video calls for internal meetings and external meetings. The virtual interview process has become ‘the norm’ during lockdown.

Video introductions from candidates to accompany CV applications have also been utilised. Some businesses have been using one way video applications with huge success. The technology has always been at our fingertips and for many weeks now it has been the best way to stay in touch with others and continue to do business.

However, please do proceed with some caution as some people are still not comfortable using video, and you wouldn’t want to rule out a super star candidate just because they are not completely confident in using this. Remember that video to the extent that we are now using it is still in its infancy. A lot of people are still learning and practising.

In many instances, there can never be a replacement for face to face contact. However, video communication has been an excellent ‘second best’. I have had some processes conclude purely through video and have candidates waiting to start who have never met their new line managers in person and have not yet visited their new office premises.

In these instances, it is quite critical that close contact is maintained after offer between a client and candidate, so that the candidate feels welcome and engaged with the business, enabling the relationship to flourish before the new employment starts.

As great as video is – and clearly it has been and will be moving forward an absolute necessity – we do have to remember that, although outwardly we are communicating with the world, inwardly we are still isolated in our homes, or wherever else we may have been locked down, and so additional contact and care to build and maintain that client and candidate relationship is often very much appreciated.

The likes of Glassdoor and similar platforms give great insight into organisations’ cultures and have been really helpful. It would be a great idea to keep on top of online reviews because potential candidates will be doing their research before applying for a role within your business.

We have seen a much bigger uptake on our online behavioural profiling tool. This is an extremely useful tool for us to establish desired behaviours from the client and assess culture, and then also to match this against the potential candidate’s core behaviours. Cultural fit is exceptionally important and in the absence of onsite meetings, this has proven to be a great solution for us with many benefits.

Some processes have progressed to preferred candidate status virtually and then have had last stages inviting people into office premises social distancing, with hand gels and temperature monitors on doors. With some of the restrictions being lifted now, we can look at mixing and matching video and face to face to suit the needs of a Hiring Manager and wider business.

I absolutely believe that businesses that are willing to take the leap and be confident enough to join the likes of Amazon, who have been hiring virtually for many years, display innovation and forward thinking and this, in turn, will attract a higher quality of candidate, as well as reducing the time to hire significantly. In fact, there are numerous benefits to running virtual processes.

Effective and efficient recruitment and onboarding has been and will be critical moving forward as we move into a world where Customer Experience is quite likely to be even more important than before.

Candidate care and providing a great Candidate Experience is achieved by giving that extra personal touch, and if this has to be done virtually rather than face to face, then we move with the times and adapt accordingly.

Good luck with finding your business’ ‘new normal’, and I definitely recommend that you join other businesses in at least looking at the benefits of running virtual recruitment processes. The opportunities really are endless and this could be where you begin to attract an even better quality of candidate to your business.


Rebecca BrownRebecca BrownJune 19, 2020
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12min1016

This week many retail businesses are starting to reopen. Shops that were considered non-essential during the initial phases of lockdown are preparing to throw their doors open again in a new era for customer experience.

It’s been 89 days since lockdown was first announced on the 23rd of March, and people were told to work from home where they could. So, the big question is, how much can 89 days change how our customers think, feel and shop, and how can we meet their expectations in this new world?

No doubt you’ve heard about the perspex screens, the one-in / one-out policies and the closure of fitting rooms to try and ensure that both customers and staff are kept as safe as possible. There are plenty of health and safety guidelines available, and businesses offering to help you get your premises up to code popping up daily.

It is of course crucial that any retail business re-opening follows any health and safety measures as issued by the government, but there are plenty of articles out there that deal with that side of things. This is a different sort of Covid related article, and here’s why:

Our customers have just undergone a massive change. It has been thrust upon them with little warning, with no consultation and they have had limited control on what their day to day life has looked like since March. That has been scary, but it’s not the end of the story.

Dr. Larry Richard, a leading expert in the psychology of behaviour when it comes to change management, believes that when dealing with change, there are essentially two types, episodic and continuous. We are able to deal with episodic change easily, a loud noise might distract us, or startle us, but we move on quickly and soon forget about the noise. Continuous change, however, such as the state of change we have been experiencing since March, has the potential to be far more unsettling.

Continuous change is relentless and far more unpredictable. It puts us in a constant state of alert. We remain “off balance” much of the time. Since it has no end point, we’re never fully able to relinquish all of our refocused attention.” – Dr. Larry Richard

Our customers could be suffering from the effects of living in a state of continuous, unpredictable change with no clear end in sight. So, doesn’t it make sense to try to understand what kind of impact that might have had on them, how to help support them through this period and ultimately how to adapt our businesses to their needs?

Change of this nature – unrelenting, sudden, and continuous – can trigger our threat response, setting off anxiety and a heightened sense of constantly being on alert. Alongside the increased anxiety, our customers may:

  • Suffer from mood swings and emotional instability
  • Feel an increase in negative emotions such as irritability, distractibility, sadness, worry, agitation or passivity
  • Have a lower attention span
  • Experience lower levels of trust, and increased cynicism
  • May feel disconnected from others (this is especially true in the current climate)

So, what can you do to help your customers, aside from the more obvious safety measures being put in place?

Look after your staff

Looking after your staff should always be no.1 on your list of priorities.

Staff who feel cared for, and genuinely looked after, will always be happier, more dedicated and more likely to enjoy their work. This impacts your customers.

This isn’t new advice, but what might be new are the measures you may need to take to make your team feel safe and cared for. Ensure they have everything they need to keep them, and their families as safe as possible during their return to work. Ask them what would help them feel safer and ensure you really take this chance to listen and understand their concerns about returning. Don’t just assume that everyone will be happy to get back to work now that the government advice has changed.

It’s the right way to treat your team, but now we know it’s also something that’s important to your consumers.

Ninety-one percent of UK consumers who took part in the Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 felt “brands must do everything they can to protect the well-being and financial security of their employees and their suppliers, even if it means suffering big financial losses until the pandemic ends”

Crucially, the same study also reported that 71 percent of consumers felt that if they saw brands placing profit ahead of people those brands would lose their trust forever.

Be consistent where you possibly can

Ease the impact of all the change where you can by clinging to the things you can be consistent on. If it’s possible:

  • Keep your opening hours the same
  • Keep your usual people on the tills – a familiar face will go a long way to creating a sense of normality and trust
  • Where you can, keep your stock in the same place as normal and don’t make the route around the shop too convoluted
  • If you need to put some stock away to make more room for customers to move around in a socially distanced way, try to anticipate customer needs and have high sales items readily available, clean and ready to replace

Don’t become so distracted by the required changes dictated by government guidelines that you forget your core messages, your core values, and how you communicate with your customers.

Make things clear

Don’t assume that your customers have read the social distancing guidance that you have, or that they will instinctively understand any new ways of moving around your premises.

You will have thought out your opening, and planned a safe route for shoppers to follow. Make sure there are signs available on entry and at every potential point of confusion. Be careful not to remove the human element though, a friendly and reassuring face to help explain to any shoppers what to do on entry is a great way to ensure your returning customers feel more at ease. Don’t forget, it’s a nerve-wracking experience going shopping for the first time since lockdown, and many shoppers will be hesitant, unsure and look to you and your staff for clarification on the new rules.

Another element to consider is how you ask your frontline staff to handle anyone who has misunderstood the new ways of shopping. It might be scary for them if someone steps too close, or picks something up they shouldn’t, but the chances are your customer has simply forgotten, become distracted and slipped back into a lifetime of habit and if your team can politely and firmly but in a friendly way just remind them of the new rules it will help everyone feel safer. Empathy, as always, is key here.

Be kind – you could be the best part of someone’s day

With the heightened level of anxiety and new guidelines for how to go shopping, your customers may not know what to expect.

Showing kindness is a great way to help your customers feel more comfortable and to ensure that their first shopping experience with you cements their brand loyalty.

If you can, be flexible with explaining how things work, extending returns deadlines, allowing vouchers that expired during the lockdown period to still be used. If someone can’t make it to the shop, think outside of the box – could you send them photos of a product, or give them advice over the telephone instead?

Look for ways to add value and be prepared for a little light-hearted conversation from your customers – you might be the first person they’ve had a chance to speak to face-to-face for three months. You could change their whole day by showing some kindness.

Prep your team for the potential of complaints

If we accept that our customers may feel more irritable, experience increased cynicism and generally be experiencing a permanent state of anxiety, it stands to reason that this could materialise in more customer concerns being raised. If this does happen, make sure your team understand the emotional backdrop that your customers might be experiencing, and practise empathy before responding to try to offer a helpful resolution.

We are all in this together, and for the first time in memorable history, almost all staff and customers have something major in common. Build on that to help fuel more understanding customer interactions.


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJune 9, 2020
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2min934

A nationwide study commissioned by tech PR agency Eskenzi PR and carried out by OnePoll, shows that 6 in 10 working individuals of the UK feel less stressed while working from home thanks to using video conferencing tools.

The study was conducted on a thousand individuals to examine the sentiments of the UK workforce towards remote working and the use of video conferencing tools.

Softwares such as Skype, Zoom and Teams helped in overcoming the impact of the unprecedented circumstances, allowing many to feel less stressed or unaffected by the use of these tools. One in three respondents feels more relaxed and comfortable when working from home, while 36 percent believe that they are more productive while remote working.

Over a third (35 percent) of surveyed individuals would prefer to work from home for 2 to 3 days a week after the pandemic restrictions are lifted.

Yvonne Eskenzi, Founder and CEO of Eskenzi PR said: “Coronavirus was our wake-up call. For years, we have ignored signs of global warming, growing economic inequalities and rising mental health issues. Our society has prioritised profit over sustainable and responsible growth.”

“Having now been forced, en masse, to work from home, we might have inadvertently been offered our saving grace. This study has shown that remote working ‘works’ and, more importantly, it can have a positive impact on people’s well-being, the community as a whole as well as the environment.”


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJune 3, 2020
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2min947

The findings of the latest research study by NICE inContact show the views of contact centre agents on their impact on customer experience, being effective brand ambassadors while inspiring brand loyalty and lifetime value.

Contact centre agents have an important role in ensuring long-term growth as they are sitting on the front lines of the customer experience strategy. The study covered 150 agents across 20 different industries to gain a better understanding of how agents feel about their position, including the right tools, job trainings and motivated workforce.

The top motivating factor for 29 percent of the agents is helping customers, while 30 percent states that hard to use systems prevent them from achieving that goal.

When asked about on-the-job training, 50 percent of the agents and 55 percent of supervisors said that they receive just under two hours of additional monthly training. Of the group that does receive the additional training, contact centre processes are the main focus areas for both teams, 52 percent of supervisors and 59 percent of agents.

Sixteen percent of the agents are likely to be engaged more if their performance metrics aligns with those of the overall business. Twenty-two percent say the second highest motivating factor is their impact on the organisation’s goals.

Paul Jarman, NICE inContact CEO said: “Customer expectations are constantly evolving, from the digital-first tools they use to engage with businesses to the types of exceptional experiences they seek on a daily basis.”

“Best-in-class contact centers need to support their agents in the same way, delivering the seamless experiences that enable speedy resolutions. Our study spotlights the very real need agents have for a solution that eliminates bouncing between interfaces and windows and supports solving high-impact issues for customers.”


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiMay 27, 2020
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3min1095

Many organisations were forced to shift their contact centre staff to remote positions during these times, but have they done it the right way? Here’s a guide on making the most out of your remote contact centre team.

In emergency situations where your agents may not be able to get to the contact centre it is critical that you have a business continuity plan to enable your agents to work remotely.

Start from the hardware.

Set up your remote workforce with the right:

1.Equipment, including:

  • Laptops
  • Monitors
  • Mouse
  • Keyboards
  • Dongles
  • Headsets

2.Connectivity, including:

  • Measuring your bandwidth
  • Using a secure VPN connection
  • Meeting performance requirements

3.Support, including:

  • Remote tools for support
  • Ergonomic guidelines for workspaces
  • List of shortcuts to applications
  • Emergency procedures

Apart from providing the team with equipment needed for operating remotely, you may want to offer support for staff experiencing this time of working for the first time, by using conferencing tools or remote desktop support options for additional assistance.

Another valuable tip is to develop a playbook, training guide, or even just a checklist that includes shortcuts to tools and applications required by your remote workforce.

Also include contact information for those individuals or teams supporting your remote agents. An at-a-glance guide for your team is always helpful when they need support.

Emergency situations require quick decisions, which is not always possible if you don’t have procedures in place. As you are thinking about your business continuity plan it’s helpful to think about things like: what if our agents need increased bandwidth, a new modem, or a new headset?

Thinking ahead on the handling for shipping or reimbursement for your remote workers helps avoid having to make it up on the fly when you may have other pressing concerns.

Looking to secure your contact centre services against any unprecedented situation?

Download the full guide with details on setting up your remote workforce with success.


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3min999

An upcoming webinar will discuss the importance of trust in organisations and different ways of adapting to the current climate with reinvented leadership styles.

Hosted by Awards International in partnership with BlueSky and Capita, the free webinar will take place on June 4 at 10.30am BST on Zoom video conferencing platform.

The last decade has been characterised by scandals involving people in influential or senior positions. People in jobs we once respected and looked up to are now regarded with suspicion with only 38% of people saying they trust what their CEO says about their organisation.

Trust is a huge organisational issue and especially relevant in the current climate. Remote working and long-distance leadership are posing a range of challenges most of which are predicated on our confidence or trust in others. Many leaders are having to find new ways of working and for some that has meant adjusting their leadership style, letting go of some elements of control, and empowering their people remotely to ensure that roles and tasks are fulfilled.

The free webinar will cover the latest insight across three pertinent topic areas:

  • Exploring how trust is built and lost and the impact it has on business outcomes, along with tangible actions you can take right now to build and improve trust between the people you work with.
  • Discussing approaches to empowerment and how it is intrinsically linked to accountability, motivation and engagement and a support tool to show you how.
  • The role of leaders in role modelling high trust behaviours because in uncertain times, people look to those in positions of influence for behaviour cues. ways you can demonstrate your intent through meaningful actions

The keynote speaker will be Stu Trevena, who spent over a decade employed within learning and development for some of the most recognisable brands within the UK and has built a sound understanding of what it takes to support behavioural change to deliver results.

To register for the webinar, click here.

Be the leader your employees deserve!

 


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiMay 21, 2020
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2min1088

The findings of research done by MHR reveal that 53 percent of all employees believe their employer is not showing concern about their mental health well-being during the current lockdown.

The research involved 5,000 UK employees, two-thirds of which (66 percent) say they are worried about the effects of the pandemic on their job. More than three-quarters (76 percent) of respondents express a need for increased contact with their managers to discuss their health and wellbeing.

Employees might be in the right as the poll found that only 24 percent of managers make sure to check in with their employees about their mental health regularly.

While the duty of care employers is to check in with their employees about their mental health and wellbeing, 43% percent of employees said that their manager makes no effort to do so.

Anton Roe, CEO at MHR, said: “As we enter Mental Health Awareness Week, our poll clearly highlights the need for more regular communication between managers and employees. Organisations must utilise technology to connect their remote workforce and enable better people engagement. Organisations need to prioritise creating a culture of collaboration, transparency and kindness during this difficult time.”

“Many employees find themselves in isolated situations when working from home, and the physical workplace was an important means of social interaction. It is essential that managers demonstrate to employees that their safety and wellbeing is paramount.”

Roe adds: “Regular check-ins can help managers and employees to stay connected. This gives a useful insight to the line manager about how an employee is faring in the current climate and provide the necessary reassurance and support to aid their mental wellbeing.”


Adrienne GormleyMay 20, 2020
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8min1105

We believed that digital technology would bring seamless collaboration and boost our productivity.

Yet the reality has been markedly different.

Over 80% of companies believe that they still need to improve their collaborative working methods to hit their productivity goals – and many are investing in this goal.

Now that many businesses have found themselves thrust into an extended period of distributed working, there’s a newfound focus on the tools and technology required to nurture effective collaboration and productivity amongst a distributed workforce.

Technological overload

However, merely introducing more technology won’t necessarily facilitate an efficient and focused workplace—in fact, this approach of relying on more tools has created a digital workplace that is overloaded with counter-productive ‘work about work’.

We all know the struggle of sorting through a swamped inbox or the trouble it takes to figure out which notification ‘ping’ came from what platform, and whether it’s a priority. The numbers bare out the strain that this monotonous ‘work about work’ subjects us to—in the UK, a third of all time at work is wasted with valueless admin.

As a result, it’s no longer enough for us to plug away with our assigned tasks, we also have to struggle even harder to stay on top of our extra ‘work about work’. This blurs our clarity, eats at our wellbeing, grinds us down and makes it impossible for us to be focused.

From sales to finance, every day our workplaces, which were designed to maximise businesses productivity, are unintentionally undermining our problem-solving processes.

A smoother approach

So how do we fix this?

With employees facing even more on and off-screen distractions today than ever before, layering technology over technology isn’t making anyone’s work-life easier.

We need to start thinking about a workplace that restores the ability to focus on what really matters: thinking strategically to solve the business challenges we face each day.

There are two distinct elements here. To begin with, interoperability is key: when businesses deploy a variety of tools and applications to get different jobs done, people often find themselves inundated with the busywork of operating across disparate systems.

This can be, for example, the nuisance of making different file formats work together or of struggling to recall where a key component of a project ‘lives’.

Businesses should look for tools that easily bring content and tasks together as much as possible, cutting through the clutter and allowing their people to focus on the work at hand.

But overcoming technological distraction isn’t just about making the pieces fit together more smoothly. It’s also about making the pieces that don’t matter at a given point in time fade into the background.

A functional digital workspace should use smart technology to quiet the constant ping of notifications where and when they are irrelevant, and surface what truly matters—whether that’s using AI to predict which document we need or serving relevant notes ahead of a meeting.

A cultural shift

The right tools are just the beginning when it comes to bridging the digital divide, however. The future of the workplace is an environment where terms such as ‘empowerment’, ‘collaboration’, ‘problem-solving’ and ‘creative thinking’ are valued and not simply the next set of empty buzzwords.

This means intentionally designing a culture where team members can communicate openly, collaborate easily, and feel free to find time for focus work.

For example, teams can’t be expected to use multiple communications channels effectively if they don’t feel safe enough to disagree or share ideas. Everyone needs to be heard and a successful digital workplace is one where every member of the team is included in the conversation, and valued.

This becomes even more critical when you can’t rely on the dynamics of an in-person meeting to bring forward people’s opinions.

Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Professor who studies leadership and psychological safety, says that “Distributed work is making us realise we have to be more deliberately—more proactively—open. We have to be explicit in sharing our ideas, questions, and concerns, because we can’t just overhear what’s happening in the next cubicle.”

The notion of being more open to disagreement might seem simple, but it is central to creating a work environment that brings your teams closer together and boosts performance.

The output-focused mindset

The first step to creating a successful collaborative working environment is a matter of asking the right questions of your team. Instead of constantly questioning how productive they are being and distracting your team with message updates, begin the day by asking what do we want to accomplish today? And how can we achieve it?

This is a shift towards an output-orientated approach, and it is particularly important at this time. When employees aren’t in front of you, it might be tempting to worry that they aren’t being productive, but constant check-ins and box-ticking exercises are simply sapping time for focus work.

This means ruthlessly prioritising for your team and honing in on how you are progressing towards your key goals, then trusting that team to work towards those goals, speak up when necessary, and collaborate effectively without prodding.

Technology will still underpin the future of work that we’re all jumping headlong into at the moment, but without the accompanying cultural change, it’s doomed to fail. Businesses shouldn’t implement increasing numbers of tools without considering how they impact how their teams collaborate and how individuals go about their days.

We need to unlock the potential creativity that keeping things focused, simple, and streamlined can bring. We’ll only be able to truly realise the future of the digital workplace when we move away from micromanagement, and begin to encourage a culture of open collaboration and empowered teams.

 

 


David K. JohnsonDavid K. JohnsonMay 14, 2020
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8min1435

The coronavirus pandemic blindsided every organisation.

It not only disrupted business; it also exposed the vulnerabilities in employee experience (EX) and workforce strategy that executives thought they had plenty of time to address.

For example, when only 10 percent of a company’s workforce is working remotely and the rest are in an office, it’s easy to understand why ensuring that those 10 percent feel both included and enabled has always been less of a priority for leaders. But when 80 or 100 percent are working from home, it can no longer wait.

Astute leaders recognise that while the pandemic presents challenges, it also presents opportunities to make lasting improvements.

So while they’ve scrambled to get people up and running in home offices and offered understanding and latitude for employees who have unique circumstances like kids running around, or at-risk people sharing their space, they haven’t yet addressed the enablers that make remote working what it can be at its best – an engaging and rewarding experience, where deep work can get done.

Now is the time for leaders to develop their “listening” strategy and keep it going long after the pandemic is a memory. A listening strategy has 4 key components, at a minimum:

1. An ongoing employee survey program.

It should include both a comprehensive periodic survey (e.g. once or twice a year), and an ongoing pulse survey with no more than 3 questions taken from a rotating pool of questions, and offered up randomly to revolving groups of employees through various touchpoints, such as when they punch-in or sign in each day, visit the intranet, use a company mobile app, etc.

2. Exercises that reveal what surveys can’t.

Exercises can paint a rich picture of what employees’ daily experiences look and feel like for them, such as employee journey-mapping. With it, you can see things that surveys can’t reveal, such as how metrics impact their behaviour and decisions, where there are gaps in tools and processes that are hindering their effectiveness, or how well they understand how their work fits into the overall organisational goals.

3. Targeted, ongoing conversations to gain a deeper understanding.

These will reveal nuances of things identified by the surveys and exercises. The findings should be summarised for leaders to develop an action plan for addressing each area.

4. Action and follow-up, no exceptions.

Clients often express fears about survey fatigue whenever I suggest that they should either put one in place or expand it, and in my experience, the survey is not the source of their fatigue. Inaction and lack of follow-up are.

For every listening programme there has to be follow-up that shares both what the leaders of the organisation heard, but also what actions they are taking as a result. And this communication stream needs to continue until all actions are complete.

As our clients are moving through the complications of this pandemic on their workforces, I’m often asked what questions they should be asking their employees to keep their hands on the pulse of what matters most. Here are a few areas I’ve been recommending they consider asking questions about:

  • Quality of their home working environment: Specifically whether it’s a good place for them to be productive or not, due to distractions like homeschooling kids, shared spaces with others, poor wi-fi, etc.
  • If they’re a parent who is suddenly burdened with childcare and education demands, what might help them if the company could offer it. Examples: remote tutoring of kids, reducing work demands, etc.
  • How well-connected they feel with their manager and colleagues
  • Quality of the technology environment that the company provides: specifically how satisfied they are that they have easy access to the information they need to do their work, satisfied with their collaboration tools, and that the security controls in place aren’t hindering their ability to be productive, to name just 3.
  • If they have any specific concerns such as feeling less relevant, less productive, or less effective, etc.
  • What they will need to feel safe about returning to work, or if there is anything, such as an at-risk parent living with them, etc. that will make it more difficult for them to feel safe.

All of these areas will provide your leadership team with much greater insights that will allow the company to provide targeted support where and when it’s most needed.

Note that Forrester is also fielding a monthly survey now that we’re calling our PandemicEX survey that’s providing insights into how people’s thoughts about COVID-19 in the context of their working lives is changing and evolving.

For example, we’re finding that with each successive result set, people are feeling more and more ready to get back to working in their offices, as before, but that they’re also feeling afraid.

There are a couple of implications of this that I think are worth paying attention to: One of them is that probably 25 percent of the people who started working remotely for the first time during the pandemic will likely want to stay working that way as much as they can from now on.

The second is that you need to be thinking now about what employees will need to feel safe as they return, understanding that we’re going to be dealing with ongoing ebbs and flows of the virus spreading for at least the next year until a vaccine is widely available.

 

David K. Johnson is Principal Analyst at Forrester.

Learn more about Forrester and the firm’s research on Employee Experience here.

 

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Rebecca BrownRebecca BrownMay 13, 2020
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7min1199

Employee recognition is key to the success of any organisation, but whilst this fact has been well established, it seems there is still a lot of room for interpretation.

For example, a statistic published by World at work states that the no.1 type of recognition that organisations have in place is still recognising years of service, with a whopping 87% of companies still building their recognition schemes around tenure. Compare that to the research produced by York College of Pennsylvania’s centre for professional excellence which found that Millennials require immediate recognition for accomplishments, and you can see where things could go wrong.

Another potential problem area applies specifically to the world we all work within. Whilst it’s an outdated principle, and becoming less and less prominent in organisations where customer experience is a specialist function, some companies still feel that complaint handling is a negative thing, not to be openly acknowledged or shouted about. They feel that admitting they get complaints shows the company in a negative light, and that can mean that anyone working hard to help customers in a complaint handling function, may not get the reward or recognition they deserve.

The chances are that if you spend time reading CXM, you already know how crazy that is. But maybe you’re having trouble getting that message through your whole organisation.

On top of everyday challenges, employee recognition and engaging the workforce has just become harder with the widespread enforced adoption of working from home to keep us all safe. How your company chooses to respond during this period of remote work will not only help you with your current employees, it will help you attract and retain high quality candidates in the future too – now is a great time to look at your employee engagement strategy.

We’ve pulled together just a few quick tips to help any organisation struggling to motivate and retain top customer service talent:

1. Enable your teams to provide peer to peer feedback, publicly and encourage this as much as possible.

Studies have shown that peer to peer feedback can have up to 36% more positive impact than manager praise alone. Looking at a platform that can allow your teams to shout about great work remotely will help them to stay connected and to know their hard work matters.

2. Reward the continued focus and hard work of your teams since the lockdown with a token gesture.

It’s not easy to adjust to working from home, especially for those also balancing child care. Studies show that gift cards mean a lot to staff, so why not invest in your local community at the same time as recognising hard work? You could buy a gift card for a local restaurant for when they open back up or try something a little different – Employee discount schemes such as My Vip Rewards can offer discounts on local independent retailers as well as larger national brands and may help keep the economy going once things start to re-open.

3. Say thank you face to face, and at a deliberate time.

Fitting a rushed thank you in at the end of the working week, or as part of a catch-up call can make it seem like a bit of an afterthought. Contact your team member via video call (if your internet speed allows) and say thank you. Make the call specifically about thanking them and finish the call without adding any other agenda items, so it’s clear that thanking them was your sole driver.

4. Be transparent and communicate regularly about any plans that could impact your workforce.

Share proposed plans on how you will safely manage their re-entry to the office. Staff will appreciate being kept in the loop and it will inspire their confidence that there is significant consideration being given to their safety and welfare. If it’s more serious than that, and there is potential for layoffs, you couldn’t do much better than look to the recent communication from the AirBnB CEO to all of his team. He delivered a heartfelt, and honest address that reassured his team he would do what he could to look after them, even if the worst should happen and he couldn’t keep them on.

 

Cartoon author: Rebecca Brown, CEO and Founder of ThinkWoW.

 


Alon GhelberAlon GhelberMay 4, 2020
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8min1596

Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients. -Richard Branson.

Technology has pushed workforce optimisation forward through the years, and it’s impressive how far businesses have come. What some organisations don’t realise is that optimising business processes and manpower allocation isn’t enough; ensuring that employee morale and engagement is as important, if not more so.

Excellent customer service has always been the main objective of every business, and it’s vital that you know and understand the link between employee experience and customer experience.

A recent study by Frost & Sullivan found that 89% of surveyed companies believed that an improvement in contact center engagement will lead to a significant increase in the overall quality of customer experience. In the current gig economy, employee attrition is a major concern because unhappy and unsatisfied employees are prepared to simply find that happiness elsewhere.

If employees come in and out, it makes it challenging for management and HR to stabilise business processes and transfer knowledge effectively across the organisation. If employees are not properly equipped to do their jobs, this could lead to a deterioration of employee morale that could transfer inadvertently to your customers. Providing employees the proper training and tools is a wise investment that will serve both the business and its customers in the long run.

What is Workforce Engagement Management (WEM)?

Because of the repetitive nature of their jobs, customer-facing employees often find it challenging to maintain an upbeat and positive attitude throughout the day. Fortunately, technology has also stepped in to help address this through Workforce Engagement Management (WEM).

WEM is a suite of products focused on helping companies manage and improve employee engagement. These products encompass all stages of employment, from recruitment and onboarding to management and performance. They also work to supplement an already established set of tools that fall under the Workforce Optimisation (WFO) category.

Compared to WEM products, the focus of WFO products is on the overall efficiency of business operations. They will inevitably overlap in their practical application, but they are fundamentally different.

Is Employee Engagement Important?

If you consider the overall financial and manpower cost of recruitment, it’s easy to see how expensive it is to replace employees. The good thing, though, is that employee attrition can be minimised significantly by focusing on engaging employees and keeping them happy.

After all, employees don’t leave because they found a better opportunity elsewhere; they leave because that opportunity isn’t provided them in their current employment.

The importance of keeping employees engaged is evident in the fact that there are companies that exist solely to promote employee engagement. LinkedIn is one of the best examples of a company focused on the employee experience because it helps companies promote it within their organisation and also does the same with their own employees.

Glassdoor is also becoming a trusted resource when it comes to employee engagement because it goes beyond providing insight into how it is to work for certain companies and plays a major role in the whole recruitment process.

Below are a few tips to help you enhance employee engagement in your company through online reviews.

  • Monitor employee feedback on online review sites and respond accordingly.

If you aren’t keeping track of employee review sites, now is the best time to start. This should be a major part of your employee engagement program because most of your potential and past employees are now online. Companies now even have a strategy when it comes to managing employer profiles on employee review sites—and you should have one, too. Monitor what your employees are saying about your company and your brand and address issues and answer questions if necessary.

  • Encourage employee reviews.

Getting feedback is important if you want to constantly improve your business processes and employee engagement programs. Encourage employees to provide company reviews, especially new hires because they have fresh insight and are enthusiastic to start on their new journey. Ideally, the best times to look for reviews are during the employee onboarding process, when you roll out new benefits or incentives, before a major hiring push, and during the exit interview.

  • Promote your company reviews online.

The reason behind the success of online review sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Indeed is that they focus on user-generated content. Positive reviews on these sites are proof of excellent employee experience straight from the mouths of the employees themselves. Many job seekers rely on these reviews because they are relatable—speaking in the voice of a specific company’s workforce. Put these reviews front and center by posting a link to them on your company social media accounts, on your job postings, and on your careers page.

You could also add the link to your candidate outreach emails to help candidates get a feel for your company and make the decision to accept your offer or look elsewhere.

 

Employee engagement goes beyond the duration of employment; it begins once an employee or candidate first engages with your company and continues through the entire employee lifecycle. Although online reviews can help in the management of employee engagement, the involvement of the business or its stakeholders will ensure that both employees and candidates get a comprehensive, balanced view of how their future looks with your company.

 


Alan WatkinsAlan WatkinsApril 20, 2020
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6min1503

Helping staff manage their fear and anxiety will be essential as we move through the Covid-19 pandemic and for those employees in vital customer facing or frontline roles this is going to be especially important.

Most organisations have recognised their legal and moral responsibility towards their employees. Most have directed employees towards practical advice – hopefully from reputable sources, such as those provided by the NHS and WHO.

So far, the focus has been on physical measures- things like hand washing and keeping space between you and others. But given the profound interaction between a human being’s psychology and immunology such guidance is not enough. In fact, organisations should do much more if they care seriously for their employees.

Fear damages immunity

The thing that impairs human immunity more than anything else is the stress hormone cortisol. And what determines the level of cortisol we have flowing around our body is the level of fear and anxiety we experience. The more we panic the worse our immune system becomes and the more likely we are to become infected if we are exposed to the virus.

In addition, how well we cope with the virus if we do become infected is also significantly influenced by our cortisol levels. The more anxious we feel the more likely the virus will replicate and the more likely we could experience complications such as pneumonia, which is the thing that is killing people. Furthermore, the more anxious we are the more likely the virus will linger and replicate in our bodies and this may actually make us more contagious to others.

Reducing fear should be a top priority

So responsible organisations need to not only offer practical guidance they need to offer emotional guidance too. They have a responsibility not to fuel the panic and anxiety. In fact, reducing fear and anxiety for employees must be a top priority for all organisations.

Employees are being bombarded by scary stories on mainstream and social media. Their anxieties are being fed by this stream of news, rumour and speculation. While there is little control organisations can exert over the news reaching their employees from outside, they should take care not to amplify employee fears in their own internal communications.

The right information helps reduce anxieties, and good internal communication is a start when it comes to addressing this emotional aspect of the current pandemic.

Social distancing

Its worth remembering that some of the practical advice might even directly increase fears and anxieties. Where they are able, many employees are being encouraged to work from home, something not always possible for customer facing employees in essential services.

While absolutely necessary from a physical health perspective this social distancing, is likely to affect our mental health too. It can create feelings of isolation which can increase anxiety levels. Without those social support networks in your office, you may feel less able to deal with the anxieties you face.

All of this means, that the best advice for organisations right now to help them reduce the fear and anxieties of their employees is for them to help their workforce to emotionally self-regulate. In other words, to help them move away from a state of fear and anxiety towards a state of resolve.

 

Effectively embrace the classically British mantra “keep calm and carry on”. Panic will not help you. It will reduce your immunity and make you more likely to make the wrong choices for your situation.

Take a positive breath

Effective emotional regulation starts with stabilising your breathing – breathing rhythmically and evenly through the heart area. Not deep breathing and not abdominal breathing. Such a breathing pattern stabilises your biology. Then try and deliberately experience a state of optimism or resolve or patience. Really try and feel this emotion in your body rather than just thinking it.

Positive thinking won’t cut it. Positive feeling will increase the levels of the vitality hormone DHEA in your system. DHEA is the body’s main antidote to cortisol.

Enabling employees to become masters of their own emotional state is critical to reducing fear and anxiety. It’s clearly very relevant to the current pandemic crisis and it’s my strongest piece of advice for organisations right now, but it’s something that will soon be seen as central to any effective employee wellbeing programme once this present crisis has passed.

 


Katie StablerKatie StablerApril 9, 2020
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6min1952

Have you ever experienced a truly terrible customer experience and felt like the offending organisation just didn’t seem to care? The likelihood is that you didn’t go back for more. But what if they could have turned it around? What if they could have turned your poor experience into an EPIC experience?

You would continue to be their customer right? Despite the problem you first encountered their ability to recover your experience and leave you in an even better position than before would make you feel so impressed by their service, that of course, you would stick around!

And that is exactly why customer experience recovery is so important!

So what exactly is customer experience recovery? Quite simply, it’s the ability to pro-actively remedy a situation, turning bad customer experience into GREAT customer experience, making sure your customer swiftly moves from feeling dissatisfied to feeling you have surpassed their expectations!

And why bother with customer experience recovery? Well, you want to keep your customers right? It’s widely known that it is more profitable to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one, and equally as important, loyal customers are more likely to be your best asset by telling all of their friends and family about you!

Another benefit not to be ignored is that organisations which excel at providing a great customer experience are more likely to have engaged employees, thus creating the much-coveted cycle of ‘Happy employee – Great CX – Happy customer – Returning customer – Happy employee – Great CX’ and so on.

OK, so how do you recover a bad customer experience? Follow these 3 steps to easily implement an effective customer experience recovery process:

1. Plan to fail

I am not a ‘glass half empty’ type person but when it comes to customer experience it is so important to recognise that no matter how much we care, no matter how much we plan, design and cultivate, sometimes things go wrong. Technology may let us down, people may fail us or we could be impacted by an external event completely out of our control and that is why you should have organisation-wide adoption of a customer experience recovery process. The process you design should:

  • Clearly let your team know what they are supported to do
  • Provide guidance on how to recover a poor experience
  • Set expectations on how quickly you want the team to act
  • Support a collaborative approach across your organisation
  • Promote an issue-tolerant culture (A hidden problem isn’t helpful to anyone)

2. Empower employees

Your team are your best asset for amazing customer experience recovery! If they can quickly spot an issue, speedily remedy it epically, leave that customer feeling fantastic and prevent a possible complaint then you have become the master of customer experience recovery. Empower your team to become recovery heroes by:

  • Supporting them with a robust customer experience recovery process. This will:
  • Enable them to act quickly on their own authority, providing creative and personalised experiences

3. Fix it!

You have done it. You have turned a rubbish experience into an epic experience and you now have a happy customer! But your work isn’t done yet, now comes the part where you do everything possible to prevent any other customer experiencing the same, initial poor experience. Now is the time to:

  • Identify the root cause of the problem
  • Understand its impact (is it a one-off or a repeating issue? Has it impacted the few or the many?)
  • Work with your team to fix the problem
  • Throw in some additional quality assurance to ensure your ‘fix’ has worked
  • Where appropriate, tell your customers (you might have only one or two customers that told you about the problem but you may have many more impacted so don’t be afraid to hold your hands up, acknowledge the problem and pro-actively apologise. Customers appreciate honesty and sincerity)

Customer experience recovery looks different for every organisation but as long as you leave your customers feeling happy and satisfied despite any hiccups they faced, you are on the right track to great recovery and customer retention.


Christa HolmborgChrista HolmborgApril 7, 2020
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11min2099

On Monday the 16th of March began the week that turned all of our lives upside down. Coronavirus hit the UK with a force and the circumstances forced entire companies to work, collaborate, and socialise remotely for weeks on end, and we are yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

While there is an unprecedented amount of uncertainty and most industries are suffering (with travel and hospitality in particular), it has also been encouraging to see both kindness and innovation flourish, with humans turning to virtual ways of connecting with others, and companies pivoting their operations in a very agile way, reaching out to their customers in new ways through delivery, technology and virtual connection.

Innovation has always run through the core of Hellon’s operations and that is what we help our clients do – innovate on services, propositions as well as customer and employee experience. However, much of our work has previously required face to face interaction, when conducting research and facilitating workshops and co-creation. For us too, the question on how to conduct these tasks in this new normal arose. Luckily, as a relatively small (45+ employees) and agile company, we took action very quickly, and true to service design logic, started thinking out loud.

On the first day of our remote work setup, we already had a company-wide workshop on the best remote collaboration and meeting tools. By the time of writing, we have already conducted 10+ remote workshops and customer research using digital tools, as well as internal collaboration. Here’s what we learned:

1.    By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail  

Whereas a rough agenda might be fine for face-to-face sessions, “winging it” isn’t an option for online workshops. Detailed planning is crucial, as is the creation of clear and specific instructions for each activity, a timeline of what is done in each phase (and by whom), as well as what tools will be used. Ideally, participants will already have registered for the tools in advance (e.g. day before) to ensure no one has access problems on the day of the session.

A test run with the core project team is also critical, especially if you are new to a platform, to go through the technicalities and potential scenarios that might happen during a workshop (e.g. someone can’t access, how to chat/ raise hand etc.). Our “tests” have ensured that we are well-prepared for a variety of hiccups which might happen in an online environment. Finally, keep in mind that discussions and exercises take longer online, so plan for less activities than you normally would for a face-to-face workshop, and ensure people get enough short breaks from their screen.

 

 

2.    Choose the best tools – for your company

There’s a plethora of digital collaboration tools out there to choose from, which can make the selection of a tool or platform feel daunting. When making your selection, consider things such as; What is the desired outcomes of the exercise I am planning and how do I share them? How many participants are there? Which tools are in line with policies?

At Hellon, we usually use a mix of tools depending on the objective of the exercise. Often, we use a video conferencing platform such as Skype or Teams for communication, and, another platform on which to collaborate or ask for feedback. Miro and Mural are great platforms for post-it-type workshopping, in which all participants can work on one canvas or template simultaneously, which works very well for journey mapping, ideation and analysis.

Howspace is another platform we use, on which you can build your own “page” using various widgets. Thereafter, a variety of functions can be added, such as images, videos, reports, chat, polling, voting etc. This is a good tool for e.g. showcasing concepts and asking clients/ customers to provide feedback in real-time. Finally, at times we also use a specific polling/ voting tool such as Slido or Mentimeter, to gain feedback and spark discussion. This is what works for us, now consider the needs of your company.

 

3.    The importance of facilitation

In online sessions, the facilitator’s role and ability to engage participants is emphasised. It’s important to create an inspiring and engaging online session, minimising participants’ desire to multi-task while on a remote call. Practice facilitation, plan engaging exercises with enough breaks and shorten the monologues to keep people active.

This is also where planning and preparation come into the picture. Ensure that the workshop has a clear structure, and that you are on top of the agenda at all times. Assign clear roles for the team if you have multiple people facilitating. For larger groups, a clear lead facilitator is required as well as supporting facilitators to communicate and assist with smaller – predetermined – groups (e.g. breakout rooms). Also make sure that the exercises are simple and easy to understand, and that there are clear instructions for the participants to follow. Finally, nurture the energy in the “virtual room” and build a connection with the participants, even though they are not face to face with you. Icebreakers can also be added into a virtual workshop, which will create a more relaxed atmosphere, and interactive activities ensure participants are engaged and focused.

4.   Remote research doesn’t have to be boring

If you thought qualitative research was phone interviews and focus groups only, think again. Today, the likes of Google Hangouts and Webex allow us to conduct interviews over video, through which we can observe reactions and feelings towards a topic similar to an in-person interview. There are also multiple other innovative research approaches which do not require face-to-face interaction.

At Hellon, we’ve had many discussions on whether this situation will lead to the rise of design probes, which allow people to self-document their experiences and then share them with the researcher e.g. through a diary, or by taking pictures and completing tasks.

There is also an opportunity to do online listening and online ethnography to understand customers’ online behaviours related to a topic, as well as customer reviews and sentiment online. After all, this is where most of your customers are in these times.

5.    Take care of each other!

While we are definitely trying to find the positive side to the current circumstances and keep our spirits high, many of us are of course struggling with adjusting, which is completely normal. Many of us are working and home-schooling kids simultaneously, we miss having in-person connections, and some of us are going slightly stir-crazy at home. But we check in on each other and we build a social closeness online.

It is important to set daily routines that bring everyone together while being physically apart, and it is crucial to see your colleagues most days and talk about non-work-related things with them to sustain the “normal” office chat.

Our company Slack has been “on fire” in the recent weeks; we share our crazy home outfits and “my kid interrupted the meeting” (or emptied an entire bag of flour – true story) stories, we organise virtual lunches and an after work drink here and there, and we embrace the “humanness” in each other – human-to-human business is our mantra after all. And that, I believe, makes all the difference in these difficult times and brings the light “into the tunnel.” Be kind to one another!

Hopefully these tips are useful for both conducting remote research and collaboration for everyone out there who is experiencing the new normal with us.

 

 

 


Caroline CooperCaroline CooperApril 3, 2020
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6min1148

Have you ever had a good customer experience when served by someone who is completely disengaged with their work or their organisation? Probably not.

Now think of the opposite end of the spectrum. When someone is really proud of what they do.

Being recognised at work so you can be proud of your contribution can have a massive impact on employee engagement, and all the knock-on benefits of staff retention and productivity. And of course, your customers’ experience.

So how can we create an environment where people can feel proud of their work, proud of your business and proud to be of service to your customers?

This stems from the top, so if you are recognising your managers and supervisors so they feel pride in what they do, they are far more likely to do the same with their team members.

As well as leading by example, educate your managers and supervisors on the importance of recognition, and give them ideas, support and resources to do this.

Here are three areas you get you started:

1. Respect

Treat your team with the same courtesy you’d like them to show customers. Failing to give a simple please when asking for something or a thank you when it’s delivered soon gets noted, leaving people feeling unappreciated. A sunny smile and a cheerful “good morning” sets everyone up for the day.

Act with integrity, and demonstrate you are true to your values. What you say about customers or colleagues can be a good indicator.

Show you value their opinion. Involve your team in discussions and ask their advice particularly in areas where they have more involvement than you, e.g. most probably spend more time with customers than you and often spot things you might miss.

Show you care about them, and always have their best interests at heart not just business interests.

 

2. Demonstrate Trust

Play to people’s strengths, rather than making everyone mediocre at everything. We often underestimate people’s capabilities. Give responsibility in areas in which they excel. When individuals have one or two areas to focus on specifically it encourages them to go deeper and develop their expertise. This is not only good for people’s development; it also helps the team respect other’s roles and share the burden.

Give flexibility to adapt and adopt their own style. You’ll be surprised just how resourceful your team can be given the right direction.

Empower your team by delegating some control and ownership. This gives a sense of pride and a desire to get things right.

 

3. Recognition

Give meaningful feedback. The more specific and the sooner you do this after the event the greater the impact. Whenever you get positive feedback from a customer publicise this.

Recognise and celebrate successes – for the individual, for the team or the business as a whole.

Acknowledge contributions: Let everyone know when you’ve had a good month, Recognise those who go beyond the call of duty e.g. changed domestic arrangements to help out, dropped their own work to support a colleague or gone out of their way to help a customer. Acknowledge those who have put effort into a project even if it has just fallen short of the mark. It’s the effort you’re applauding not the result.

Saying thank you and well done in front of the whole team may make some people feel uncomfortable, so be selective. But when done for the whole team it can give a real boost. Put some thought into how you say thank you, make it relate to the individual and something that resonates with them.

Celebrate those important proud moments outside work: arrival of their first grandchild, child’s graduation, a significant contribution to a charity, a personal achievement such as passing their driving test.

Simply remembering personal milestones such as a significant wedding anniversary can make people feel valued, but even better if you do something to mark the occasion even if it’s just something simple.

 

Whatever you do to show you value your team and get them ‘Puffed up with Pride’, make a point today (and every day from now on) of doing at least one thing to show your appreciation to each and every one of your team.


Jonathan SharpJonathan SharpMarch 13, 2020
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9min2553

Companies around the world are telling employees to work from home to protect themselves from catching coronavirus and to stop it spreading.

Business continuity is not the only reason for employees to work from home – remote working increases productivity, results in a happier and healthier workforce, and encourages employees to remain in the business for longer.

The outbreak of coronavirus may change or influence working patterns from now on, with more companies willing to accept the request for remote working.

More than 1.54 million people now work from home for their main job – an increase from 884,000 ten years ago (ONS Labour Force Survey 2018). The Office of National Statistics believes that 50 percent of the UK’s employees will be working remotely by next year and a total of 90 percent of staff will request to work remotely at least part-time.

The workplace has and will continue to change beyond recognition with new technology enabling employees to work remotely and collaborate more effectively.

The younger demographic has turned the traditional office and working practices upside down, with requests that are radically different to previous generations. Coupled with the existing and increasing digital skills gap, companies need to transform themselves and invest in attracting and retaining talent by vanquishing traditional mindsets and processes.

The now and future employees

The European workplace now encompasses 160 million millennials and naturally this is set to increase to 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025. Companies need to shift from ‘this is how we have always worked’ to ‘how can we make changes to attract and retain the younger demographic?’

The desires of millennials and younger generations are very different to previous ones, where the expectation was to be shackled to the same desk every day from nine-to-five and there was very little flexibility on any level. They only want to work for businesses that believe in work-life balance, bringing them flexibility and the ability to work remotely.

A positive work-life balance reduces workplace stress, resulting in a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.

Widen your recruitment pool

By implementing remote working  you can widen your recruitment pool and attract and retain top talent from further afield and even overseas.

You can also work with freelancers, opening up the ‘gig economy’ that now includes approximately 4.8 million people with freelancers comprising 42 percent of that population, and six percent of the UK workforce as a whole (as measured by the Association of Independent Professionals).

Technology the enabler

Companies need to provide employees with the correct technology to enable remote and flexible working.

Cloud based conferencing and collaboration solutions such as Mitel’s MiCollab and Avaya’s Spaces empowers employees to hold audio and video conference calls together over their desktop or via a mobile.

Send instant messages, and share and work on documents and presentations together; it is important to use intuitive technology that is easy to use, set up, and to keep your documents secure to protect data and privacy.

Seeing things differently

Employees need to be trusted from the outset and given autonomy to do their jobs wherever they are.

Trust should be given and not earned. Naturally, this may be more difficult for the baby boomer managers because they are used to traditional methods of working, such as being seen in the office working late at night. Providing them with remote and flexible working that fits into their personal life demonstrates that you trust them to do the job, no matter where they are.

Employees require clear direction of what needs to be done and key performance indicators can be put in place to ensure that employees are achieving. Software such as workforce management tools and collaboration software ensures you can access project progress and knowledge bases.

Time to step up the productivity

Remote working increases productivity because you are enabling your employees to fit work in with their personal lives. Your employee will feel happier, therefore will be willing to work harder and go the extra mile if required.

Airtasker recently issued some research stating that remote workers work an extra 1.4 days a month, which equates to 16.8 days a year more than people work in an office.

Healthier and happier workforce

ConnectSolutions’ survey states that 52 percent were less likely to take time off ill when remote working; 45 percent of remote workers sleep better; 35 percent exercise more; and 42 percent have healthier diets. Mental health is protected, with 53 percent claiming they suffer from less stress.

Implementing remote and flexible working clearly results in healthier and happier employees who will take less time off ill and ultimately be more productive.

Connecting people together

It is important to provide remote and home workers with the correct tools to communicate with so they still feel connected to the team and maintain a social bond with their colleagues. Buffer stated that 19 percent of remote workers get lonely and 17 percent struggle with communication and collaboration.

Conferencing and collaboration tools help combat this, enabling you to conduct phone and video conference calls, share documents, and send instant messages. Some companies schedule virtual coffee breaks into their agendas so they can socialise over video chat or IM.

Downing tools

Home workers will usually worker longer and harder, and are less distracted in the day so it is vital that you set guidelines on switching off from work so they can separate their home and work life.

Suggest no emails after working hours and no working on holidays; this will ensure that your productive remote workers remain happy and healthy and are more likely to stay with you if clear expectations are set.

Future-proof with flexibility

Remote working is much bigger than business continuity issues such as protecting employees from illnesses.

Future-proof your workforce by providing them with the flexibility, trust and autonomy to work at home or remotely within flexible hours if required. Set your employees free and you will have a healthier, happier, more dedicated, productive, and efficient workforce, along with the ability to attract and retain the top talent that you need.


Ben WhitterBen WhitterMarch 12, 2020
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26min1575

The COVID-19 – or coronavirus – outbreak has been named a ‘pandemic’ by the World Health Organization (WHO).

On making the announcement, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also said that he was “deeply concerned” by “alarming levels of inaction” around the world. However, companies that have embraced Employee Experience (EX) are setting themselves apart from the rest and are at the forefront of the global business recovery.

Naturally, we are assuming the “inaction” that the Director-General refers to does not include parts of the world – including the UK and Australia – where people have been proactively and expertly building stockpiles of toilet roll, pasta, and hand sanitiser!

A compelling survival toolkit, but perhaps an indicator that news can frequently travel too far and too fast in the modern world, creating unnecessary panic.

An inconsistent truth

The focus of global attention has moved on now from China as things begin to escalate in Europe and the US, and there is a perception that significant inconsistencies have emerged in the response to the outbreak. It is always great advice to wash hands and maintain good hygiene levels, but the problem has been here for a while and it is only now that serious dialogue begins about stricter measures such as ‘social distancing’ and the banning of large events.

Right or wrong, the experts have some big calls to make!

As an Englishman, I support the NHS and it appears that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, does too with his proclamation that the NHS “will get everything it needs” during the crisis. This is reassuring and I am semi-comfortable with the calm response from Sir Chris Whitty, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, although things are placed firmly into perspective with the news that he is readying colleagues in the NHS to deal with unfamiliar and very different ways of working to deal with the expected and intense pressures on the health system.

Generally, there is much debate about what measures should be introduced and when in society. Being led by experts is acceptable for politicians, but as they well know, society often runs on emotions, not logic. A lack of action can spark fear and unhelpful behaviours.

I fully expect the remote working practices that many employers have already adopted will scale, and schools and universities will soon follow suit.

On the BBC a few weeks ago, I advocated for a global response and appealed for calm heads to emerge. I like facts and evidence as much as the next person, but humans are emotional powerhouses too.

It’s good to read reassuring quotes, but much better to see decisive actions. That’s why, during that discussion, I also stated clearly that the best place to be at that time was China, despite Wuhan being the epicentre of the crisis.

I felt this way simply because I have experienced living in China for three years. I have countless examples in my memory bank of what happens when China, at a central level, decides to do something. In short, stuff gets done and all necessary actions move forward, usually at lightning pace.

From rapidly building new hospitals to restricting movement, the WHO has praised China’s containment of the outbreak and the evidence appears to support this praise with a dramatic decline in new cases. There were only 15 new cases yesterday (March 11) in mainland China. I’m inclined to believe that decisive and massive action makes a big difference.

In business, there has been a mixed response to the outbreak and companies are getting found out. Indeed, there has been an awful lot of talk about “purpose over profit” in business in recent years, and how organisations now need to stand for something more than just money.

Well, now is the perfect test of that rhetoric. Through this pandemic we are watching something else unfold – we are seeing the true colours of employers of all sizes…

Do they really care about people?

Are the values genuine and authentic?

Can they uphold and live their values in a truly human-centred way through a crisis?

Employers are being tested and assessed by their workforces in real-time every day.

The employer response

Actions, based on evidence and data, are ideal to lead the workforce through a crisis, but time-and-time again as I speak to employers and CEO’s, the justification for action has often not been wholly based on data – it’s been based on doing the right thing.

In some areas there are zero cases, but employers have already embraced remote working, for example. People mean everything. The economics of decisions has been cast aside by the very best employers.

They have been proactive in playing their role in society and the community. Because of this, they will prosper in the long-term.

Starbucks China springs to mind. The response on the customer and employee side was exemplary. I’m glad I chose this company as a case study for my book Employee Experience.

Yet again, they have made business decisions through the lens of taking care of their people and upholding their values. This meant store closures and enhanced support (financial and otherwise) for staff alongside extensive and proactive support for people in society. The company made itself part of the solution.

Belinda Wong, Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of Starbucks China, summed up her approach to leading people through crisis, saying: “One of the biggest things I learned was how to handle 58,000 people’s emotions, to really empathise and care for them, and also uplift their spirits in a difficult time.

“It changed how I communicate. I bring them along on every step. If they have a question, I answer it personally, no matter who they are.”

In a more purposeful and experience-driven economy, the race is on. Not to protect the numbers, but to show an extraordinary level of care and concern for people. This is what differentiates and defines high performance in 2020 – the financial and human outcomes, as Wong suggests.

“This whole experience is not a lesson of business disruption, but of leadership and humanity,” she said.

“I’m comforted when I look back and see what we did and know what we mean when we say we are a different kind of company.”

Embracing the ‘experience’ of work

Not every company thinks this way. Unfortunately, this is still not normal.

This outbreak is showing the huge experience gaps that have opened-up between companies that have and have not focused on their people as a priority. The economic impact cannot be understated. This crisis will create long-term consequences for companies worldwide, and it will also hit the pockets of people working in less secure roles as contractors, hourly workers, and across the gig economy.

Technology companies have been leading the way in differentiating themselves as employers that stand apart from the rest by proactively offering enhanced benefits to their workforces, including full pay protection for hourly workers whose jobs may not be required as remote working practices come into effect.

Notably, Microsoft and Amazon have been at the forefront with this, while many from other sectors have already done the same in supporting their workforces. Others have done the groundwork in balancing technology and people to drive business growth, and are in very strong positions to quickly adapt their business models.

Wiktor Schmidt, Executive Chairman at Netguru, detailed how his company has moved fully to online/virtual working to handle the COVID-19 situation, whilst closing offices and suspending business travel. Working remotely was already a key part of its existing EX.

Within this, a long-planned ‘Ask Me Anything’ session with the whole company changed to an online format. In the past, he said, the company “would run each AMA partially onsite, gathering all available core managers in one place (with employees)”.

“This time, we had to do it 100 percent online, with each of us sitting at home. And it was the best AMA session we’d ever had. Working remote has always been at the very core of our culture. Because of that, we’re fully prepared to work online,” he said, emphasising that this was the case whether there was a virus out there or not.

Holistic & human-centred actions

For employers, it’s ‘all-hands-on deck’ to deal with this crisis, and the very best people professionals will be getting out and working directly with staff.

Colleagues like Lisa Dillon Zwerdling, Chief Employee Experience Officer/VP of Internal Care Coordination at Visiting Nurse Association Health Group, based in New Jersey. Lisa is currently working on the COVID-19 taskforce for her organisation, which includes educating all clinical staff who will have contact with patients in their homes through mandatory training, taking part in office cleaning, provision of protective and hygiene products to staff, and the operation of a reverse 911 notification system to keep everyone well informed and connected.

The taskforce is also rolling out new ways of working, including home-working and acts as the liaison between local, regional, national, and global bodies.

The need for holistic thinking and human-centred leadership is never greater than at times of crisis. Lisa, as an HEX Practitioner, demonstrates this by focusing on supporting people in a variety of strategic and operational ways. Indeed, at times of crisis, HEX Practitioners will be constantly thinking and acting with people in mind:

  • How can we support people more?

  • How can we co-create solutions and proactive actions with our teams?

  • How can we leverage the resources we have (including technology) to maintain a healthy connection with staff?

  • How do we exemplify our values within and outside of our organisations?

Those companies that have already embraced a greater emphasis on the EX will be reaping the rewards. Their HR professionals may right now resemble something more akin to an ‘Experience Architect’.

Those ahead of the curve will benefit from years of wise investment in technology, co-creation, and creating the conditions for people to experience their unique Truth (purpose, mission, and values) every day. This crisis offers an opportunity to enhance and deepen this connection. For others, it will not be as straightforward. Years of under-investment and a lack of focus on the things that really matter in work will be hitting them hard.

There will be some real learning coming down the line from the crisis.

Experience is everything

Employee Experience remains the number one business and HR trend because everything is part of our experience in work, whether it is a positive or negative one.

Employers may well be making decisions based on the numbers rather than the people, and harming the employment relationship in a profound way, as Robert Pender, HEX Practitioner, suggests.

“As an HEX Practitioner, while it is encouraging to see some companies take steps to support their people, it appears many organisations still don’t have a plan in place and seem to be waiting on governments to dictate what the appropriate responses should be,” he said.

“Whilst there are potentially huge financial ramifications for organisations, and aspects of legislation may help align how the business world responds, waiting passively for directives does not represent the behaviour of a human-focused organisation.”

Taking part on a virtual panel this week, the discussion focused on how HR will be fundamental in business recovery following the outbreak. I reinforced what many of us are thinking.

As usual, this crisis is all about people and experiences. It’s about creating and maintaining connections. It’s about caring for and demonstrating a deep commitment to people.

Interestingly, at times of crisis, we see the best and worst of humanity, and the destructive power of fear and selfishness. With many employees sharing their real-time experiences online, the commentary offers ample evidence that things need to change. In this context, it’s a time where the influence and impact of our companies (and ourselves) as a force for good in the world becomes crystal clear.

There remain critical issues in the way that companies develop themselves and their relationship with people. Related to this, there are significant challenges in the way that companies set themselves up; research I summarised from The Economist pointed this out last year – a lack of alignment, accountability, and human-centricity is getting in the way of healthy experiences in work.

The yet-to-unfold effects on business and human outcomes during the outbreak will be hard for some to bare. Employees may not be having the experience that they want or need, and it is a huge failing on the part of employers if that is the case.

Living purpose, mission, and values during a crisis

In the long-run, businesses that uphold their Truth during a crisis will come out stronger, richer, and healthier as a result.

A caring, decisive, and proactive approach from employers is required. Leading employers may be asking staff to self-isolate as part of the “biggest remote working experiment of all time”, but what they’re really saying is that they care about the health and wellbeing of their workforce. They will be doing whatever is necessary to support their people. This, and actions like it, will be remembered forever.

This is about creating a positive connection for life, not just through a crisis.

This article was originally published on the World Employee Experience Institute website.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 12, 2020
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16min1958

As innovation in CX technology continues to reshape how brands interact with customers, the tech leaders behind this growth are also envisioning and creating the workplaces of the future.

At Genesys, global leaders in omnichannel CX and call centre tech such as Genesys Cloud, that drive for constant improvement in the brand and customer relationships is matched by their commitment to ensuring your employees remain engaged and that call centres operate as efficiently as possible for those on either end of the telephone line.

That passion for employee experience at Genesys is embodied by the firm’s Vice President of Product Management responsible for Workforce Engagement Management, Cameron Smith (pictured).

His love for AI advancement is all about efficiency and simplifying the working environment, to the benefit of employee, employer, and customer.

Cameron’s remit is all of Genesys’ workforce engagement products, including its Workforce Management package and Agent Assist, and if any person alive knows about where technology can take employees in the coming years, it’s Cameron.

Speaking with Customer Experience Magazine, the US-based tech guru discussed how employee experience systems are on their way to catching up with CX software advancements, and what it will mean for how we work in the coming years.

Cameron: “I look after all of our workforce engagement products. So, basically nearly everything that is touched upon or acted by employees falls into my domain,” Cameron said.

C: “Just as the technology has been trying to improve the consumer side, that tech is a few years ahead of the employee side. It’s about efficiency – how can we simplify the work environment?”

Cameron explains that an increase in self-service and automation can often mean an increase in complexity.

C: “Contact centres are seeing more things like blow-outs in handle time, and labour costs increasing, because of this complexity, so the focus for us on the AI side is – how do we help the employee with that experience that’s now prevalent in interactions they take every single day?”

C: “A couple of different use cases – one of our virtual assistants is about helping the agent and guiding and coaching them through interactions – even doing basic things like understanding the transcription of the call in real-time, or doing things like knowledge-search or searching for documents.”

C: “Or, you may have an insurance company that has lots of different policies and procedures around particular products – having the ability to actually search for that saves the employee a couple of minutes, but more importantly the employee may not even know what they’re trying to search for, so we can apply that tech here.

“Another use case would be the employee’s performance and management, and getting coached and trained.”

Before the rise of AI, Cameron outlines, most organisations utilised a “one-size-fits-all” system for training – an approach that simply won’t cut it in today’s world of personalisation.

C: “Now we realise how important that personalisation is – not everyone’s the same, and there are multiple profiles inside your contact centres that need to be trained, coached and educated in a different way,” he continues.

C: “So, understanding who that employee is, understanding how they feel and applying that recommendation back to either the trainer or the coach, we then ask – how do we make Rachel a better performer? Or help Michael, who is struggling with x, y or z?

C: “Of course, this makes the lives of the team leaders a little easier too, and that contributes greatly to the overall operational efficiency.”

Getting personal: A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach no longer fits the modern contact centre

Meanwhile, one bugbear that Genesys workforce tech aims to eradicate is high churn rates of staff.

C: “It’s very region-specific, country-specific, and even organisation-specific in terms of what brands really want,” Cameron continues.

C: “For us it’s about making sure we’re covering all our bases, pushing the envelope in pushing ever-more capabilities to employees – as much as we can!

C: “For years, contact centre agents have been tightly controlled and managed, and with that comes inflexibility. As a result, contact centres traditionally have high attrition rates. A multitude of studies have shown that if you give more flexibility to employees, the more enablement they have to self-control, then high attrition rates will fall.

“However, not every organisation is ready for that level of self-management – each has their own process of change to go through. In terms of end-goal, we want to create an environment that’s really flexible and that works with the employee and helps balance their life.

“Contact centre work can be very hard after all, and providing tools to help and coach employees to be high performers, potentially without human assistance – that’s where we want to get to.

“Early adopters of our Agent Assist AI system – those agents have told us that not having to remember every single thing, due to the help from the tech, makes their lives easier, and for new-starts it prevents beginning call centre work from being overwhelming, and makes the environment a little less daunting.”

From his vantage point, Cameron sees a future workforce that puts the hours in remotely, and an employment model resembling something closer to Uber than traditional shift-work.

C: “We’re on the cusp of seeing some of our high-tech clients reaching a ‘gig economy’ relationship with their team. This gives their employees the ability, like an Uber driver, to say ‘I’m available between 4 and 10 – give me work for those hours’.

C: “That’s a change in the dynamic of how contact centres will run. It’s not huge yet, but it’s starting to grow. That will be the next big thing, but it will very likely mean some interesting changes in government policy and legislation, as well as in HR departments.

C: “This could mean the end of wasted labour in contact centres. There’s an opportunity to tune requirements. Employers can think about how they pay – should they pay per minute, or per outcome? As a company, you might put out a higher rate on a better outcome at a better peak period. Employees could bid, and go for that work.

C: “So as a contact centre worker, you may end up in a scenario where you don’t have to do 40 hours to get the same money – you just have to pick the right 16 hours.

C: “All these changes are definitely coming. Our high-tech newer customers – companies that have only been around a few years – are thinking along these lines. However, it will be a challenge for those firms that have been around for decades to make that change, as many are very much still stuck in the ’40 hours a week’ mindset.”

Reshaping employee and customer experience: Genesys technology is changing how we interact with, and work for, brands

Overseeing workforce engagement advances means Cameron faces the same challenge as his colleagues revolutionising CX – where does the “human touch” fit into the plan?

Brands fear customers will miss an element of human interaction as they engage with chatbots and virtual assistants, and the same can be said for the employee/employer relationship.

Cameron explains that a full-blown AI HR experience is not on the horizon, with brands likely to take a “light-touch” attitude.

“As it stands today, you’re not going to have a full performance management conversation, for example with an AI. But over time we can build a system that delivers, for instance, selected training that’s been highlighted for you because of things about your performance the AI noticed. We could augment a lot of that.

“However, I think the human touch will always be there, especially from a HR standpoint.”

A vital component of human HR is of course empathy – which some will tell you is beyond the capabilities of today’s AI tech. Yet Cameron suggests that holy grail may not be as mythological as it currently appears.

“I think we are probably closer to AI empathy than many think,” he adds.

“If an organisation applied the software in an empathetic way, we could probably get there today. It comes down to design and process in how we do that. Look at the likes of Amazon Alexa, and how it appears empathetic by randomly telling us to have a good day after we ask it to tell the time.

“That’s pre-programmed empathy, rather than selective empathy, but we will get there one day, for sure.”

So what’s next for employee engagement advances according to Cameron? Where can AI take us and our call centres in the years to come?

“Not here yet but certainly on people’s minds is ‘contact centre operational automation’,” he adds.

“It’s the ability to automate components of the operation. An example is a workforce planner today would stare at a screen at 11am, after everyone has called in sick and think, ‘ok, now what?’.

“In the future, the AI will be able to say, ‘ok, based on everything that’s happening, we should do…’

“You’re going to see those ‘next best action’ type processes go into a whole range of different call centre operations. Depending on how that’s adopted, you could see that automated end-to-end, and in some organisations, that’s what they really want to see.

“So operational resources will see the biggest change automatically, and that’s going to translate into more employee flexibility and a richer environment to operate in.”




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