In the first part of story about Autoglass® we looked at how they had embraced the digital world to complement their customer experience strategy and meet the demands of today’s fast moving business environment. In Part 2 we’ll look at how their innovation and investment in employee engagement has resulted in the creation of a truly enviable working environment, where people who are emotionally connected and passionately engaged truly do come first, and where customers are the big winners.
Trust and Respect fuels Employee Experience
A key component to the company’s success is the culture of excellence that has grown over the last few years. A big part of this is the way that employees feel respected and trusted and know they have some influence over decisions that affect them in feeling successful and competent. Autoglass® has given the sales and service centre the guidance, tools and authority to make timely decisions. They are clearly proud of what they do and the role they play in rescuing customers in need. When they physically or metaphorically pull on that “uniform” for Autoglass®, it’s clearly a big contributor to the high quality, and friendly confident approach to customers shown by the contact centre, branch and mobile technician workforce.
Powered by People – Driven by Passion
As with other successful businesses where great customer experience is rooted in their DNA, much of this is down to the people. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Just hire the right people and they’ll crawl over broken glass for you. Well, very few organizations that I’ve known over the years get this right. It’s clear that Autoglass® has recognized that engaged employees really do make a difference, and, along with their people, has co-created an occupationally fulfilling environment where passionate, motivated and contented employees thrive and prosper. They know that great customer experience and a living, breathing employee experience are inextricably linked. As a result, they measure their employees on the things that make a difference and matter to customers, not just the company.
While Autoglass® do deploy some standard contact centre metrics, their focus is mainly on positive outcomes for the customer, and one call resolution. The advisors are measured on the value delivered and are fully empowered and encouraged to do the right thing for the customer. This isn’t always that easy, as often the level of the customer’s insurance cover can lead to disappointment, as some policies do not have glass cover and the customer may need to pay for the service themselves. Despite this, and as I heard from the conversations, the advisors are able to deliver a message that is empathetic and reasoned regardless of the customer’s insurance cover.
Their ability to do this consistently is evidenced by the fact that the majority of the advisors on the front line dealing with and resolving the initial inquiry are effectively making a “sale.” With over 300 people employed in the sales and service centre, only a small number of these are dedicated to customer recovery, typically getting involved when things don’t go according to plan. This doesn’t happen that often, but as Head of Sales and Service, Bill Kalyan is quick to note, “When things do go wrong, it’s how you recover and delight the customer that truly sets you apart from other companies.”
Making sure customers come first ensures that employees last
At any one time there are usually around 150 people in the contact centre, and one of the first things I noticed was the discernible but pleasant hum of positive activity throughout the centre. This was strangely comforting, having witnessed escalating frustration, visible mayhem and a joltingly high decibel count in many other contact centres that I’ve visited. This seemed to reflect the fact that while the customers on the other end of the phone were all having a “bad experience” with their windscreens, the team was quietly and confidently bringing empathy, clarity and relief to the customer.
Many contact centres have pretty high turnover rates, due in part to unpleasant working conditions and unrealistic metrics forced on them by unsympathetic management teams driven only by the mantra of “adding shareholder value”. Autoglass® has only 15% attrition, with an average tenure of 6 years, and many of their staff celebrating over 20 years’ service. But it’s not just the people in customer service. The whole company gets involved, especially when call volumes increase on cold winter mornings. Dependent on how busy they are, almost anyone, from the Directors on down, man the phones to ensure customers’ calls are quickly answered. As a result, complacency doesn’t get a look-in at Autoglass®, as all employees get a regular reminder of how important their role is and how appreciative and supportive customers are when they come through in a crisis.
Togetherness is more than just a feeling
A clear signal of the importance of building an inclusive and innovative culture was the high-impact program begun in 2011 and aimed at developing a true company- wide transformation. Working closely with HR, Bill Kalyan engaged with the wider team at Autoglass® to share ideas, operational procedures, challenges and successes that could bring all divisions closer together and create the right climate of cooperation for teams across the business.
One of the most successful people programs has been the focus on enhanced flexible working practices, where employees willingly put in additional hours during the busy periods but are then able to benefit from more time off at other times of the year. This innovation has also led to industry recognition. Autoglass® was the winner of the Customer Contact Innovation award from the Professional Planning Forum in 2011.
Coaching is also a prominent part of the cultural mix. All of the customer service team participate in regular sessions that continue to build their company and product knowledge, as well as their communication and life skills that enable continually enhanced customer conversations and interactions.
Autoglass® has also fostered a tremendous culture of quality, and this is exemplified by the development of their National Skills Centre (NSC), further improving the technicians’ skill sets to excel the company’s promise for a world class service.
Another big cultural change Bill has overseen, and contributed to, is the cross-functional alignment of the business, which is a key element of a successful customer experience strategy. The senior management team meet every Monday to review strategic, tactical and operational initiatives and to ensure that there is visibility, understanding and agreement of various departmental activities that affect the whole business.
The importance of family values permeates the business and shows that employee engagement is not just a trite phrase, but is a vibrant and inspiringly creative influence that many other organizations would do well to emulate. To amplify this further, in their latest employee survey, they nailed their highest ever scores of 83.4% engaged employees with a 90% response rate. Employee feedback from the survey also demonstrated the strong emotional bond that the employees have with the business. These include:
“My line managers are highly approachable and engaging.”
“In my day to day dealings with my manager, I find him to be innovative and creative with his ideas.”
“Autoglass® is a fantastic company to work for. They have time and patience for their employees and I feel privileged to be part of the company.”
Reflecting this strong cultural commitment to employees and their authentic desire to make a difference, Bill told me that he regularly hosts visits from other customer service teams that want to discover the intoxicating blend of ingredients that helps his people gel into a team delivering consistently reliable and quantifiable results.
Community spirit pays long term dividends
Businesses that give back to the community, especially through the participation of their employees, generally end up with a far stronger sense of purpose, beyond simply making a profit. Autoglass® is no exception, and is an active and involved member of the community where engaged and like-minded employees demonstrate their willingness to help others less fortunate than themselves. The company has regularly provided its contact centre facilities and volunteers for Children in Need donation lines, as well as putting on employee-sponsored events supporting a number of local charities.
Autoglass® is also a voice for change. In association with the road safety charity Brake, it is helping to drive down the number of road crashes caused by poor visibility by highlighting the importance of a clean and safe windscreen. In March 2013 they launched a three week initiative to give away free Bosch wipers with windscreen repair and replacement services, raising awareness of the dangers of ill-fitting, worn or faulty wipers.
Bill knows how important it is to keep this momentum going and realizes that the customer journey is a continually changing one. He knows that they can’t rest on their laurels and is continually looking for new ways to inspire and motivate his team. But you just need to spend a few hours there to see that the people, culture and community spirit are very much self-motivating and all contribute to improve employee wellbeing and drive a sense of value and pride in the company.
As a parting gift Bill shared with me his top 5 tips on establishing and maintaining true employee engagement and generating great employee experiences.
- Focus your leaders at levels making people their highest priority
- Engagement is a living a breathing organism that stimulates your business every day and not just an exercise that is carried out once or twice year to tick a box.
- Make people feel part of, rather than feeling done to. Get their involvement/participation
- Ensure that people’s opinions count and are acted upon (wherever possible), to demonstrate that you are listening and taking action
- Make sure your people feel connected to the business and know that their behaviour makes a difference. Focus on the attitude and mindset and not just their KPi’s
What Bill and his senior team at Autoglass® recognized long ago is that it’s everyone’s company and they all have a vested interest in its success. They believe that if you can involve and engage employees to help unleash imagination, encourage innovation and build trust based on simple human behaviour and principles, then people will come together in a common purpose: To deliver superior customer experience and become the UK’s natural choice for Vehicle Glass Repair and Replacement.
Anyone who’s dealt with Autoglass® knows they’re on the right road to success and that employees will continue to play a huge part in driving the company forward.
The Customer Lifeguard
Gerry has had key management roles in the UK and Canada, advising business on their transformation strategy and change management processes. He has been involved in the growth of many of the larger customer service operations and contact centre deployments in both countries. In his current role as a speaker, workshop trainer and consultant, his focus is now on helping businesses create a memorable and lasting customer experience that will drive loyalty, reduce attrition and bring profitable customers back again and again.
Building on three decades of business experience, and as a vocal customer himself, Gerry is fiercely committed to paying more than lip service to customers, and is rolling up his sleeves to help companies to better align the key building blocks of people, process and technology, to bring a successful and sustainable customer experience strategy to life.
Gerry is a member of the Professional Speaking Association (PSA) and the Global Speakers Federation (GSF) and speaks authoritatively and passionately about the practical, proven, customer service strategies that produce lasting, memorable and measurable results
Field of Expertise:
Development of business strategies & operational technology deployment specializing in:
– Customer experience strategy design, deployment and measurement
– Multi-channel/Omni-Channel customer service technology sourcing, design and
– Mobile, digital marketing and the value and integration of Big, and not so big, Data
– Making sense of, and deriving value from, leading CRM solutions such as
Salesforce.com, to align sales processes, operational and other complementary
technologies to truly deliver a single customer view
LinkedIn Profile: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/gerryhbrown/