We have had the pleasure of working with Caterpillar for a while, and recently I was asked to judge their ‘Excellence in Customer Experience Awards for 2014.’ I am pleased to say Carter Machinery, one of the leading Caterpillar dealers in the U.S., won the award, and I thought I would share with you what they did well. One of the most important things they learned, however, was that improving Customer Experience starts with improving your Employee Experience and managing the pain of change for them.
What Was the Catalyst for Change?
One of the several drivers of change for Carter Machinery was the realization their business model is changing as the result of more expansive product lines and an increasingly diverse customer base. However, with a very tenured workforce, (employees with 30 to 40 years of experience not being unusual) they needed a strategy for evolving the customer experience that started from the inside-out. It was dubbed: On Brand, All Day, Every Day .
“The way we did business years ago with a small base of customers was one-on-one, face-to-face, and we knew them intimately. Today, we have a much larger customer base, and we can’t keep doing things the ways we have always done them. I mean there are only 24 hours in a day,” explained Kelly McAteer, Customer Experience Manager for Carter Machinery, in a recent phone call about the award. “We have to approach it differently but not lose sight of what got us to this point.”
Three Important Considerations for Employees When Improving Customer Experience
The biggest thing McAteer emphasized that they learned so far was that a change, even a seemingly trivial item, is difficult and disruptive to employees. If he had the process to do over, he might have approached some things differently. As it stands, he said the following three considerations should play a big role in the process of changing the process for Employees to deliver a better Customer Experience.
- Communicate Often and Clearly. It’s important to explain both the big picture and the small picture for your team. They should see the high-level ideas and how their actions day-to-day contribute to this idea’s success.
- Make It Manageable. Like all things, balance is needed when it comes to sharing the vision. If you do a complete information dump, it can be too much to process, and you lose your audience. If you hold back too many details, the motivation to endure the inconvenience of change is lost. If you are tasked with information dissemination, you should deliver it in manageable chunks to the team.
- Don’t Underestimate the Impact of Change on Employees. People have a natural resistance to change, particularly when it comes to changing the way things have always been done. It’s difficult to accept the pain of change. So when you make changes to how employees are doing things, you cannot overlook how much affect even the most trivial things can have on the customer-facing employees. Listen to their concerns and work with them to deliver solutions.
McAteer is the first to say that they are early in their Customer Experience Improvement journey and have a lot to figure out yet. Regardless of that, however, the award was an effective motivator.
“People out there think we are headed in the right direction. It validates that we at least have a good plan and sense of direction. It’s an honor to be recognized amongst all the excellent dealers out there,” he said.
Changing your Customer Experience is hard work and takes commitment from your senior management on down. For Carter Machinery, the brand vision, “Enabling every customer to achieve their highest level of success,” was the foundation for their efforts. What they learned was that to enable the Customers to achieve success they first had to enable their team. When they did that, they improved their experience considerably to award-winning standards.
What can you do to enable your employees to deliver an award winning experience to your Customers today?