It’s become a practice in CX to employ empathy to understand and connect with customers. While it is beneficial to put in the effort to satisfy your customers’ needs, what is more important is to have them coming back.
Exceeding customer expectations is one of the ways to retain customers. It’s safe to say that exceeding expectations goes hand in hand with great customer experience, both based on a keen eye and ear for customers needs.
Sandra Thompson, the first certified Goleman Emotional Intelligence coach in the UK and a lecturer at Pearson College London talks about the benefits of Emotional Intelligence in CX and the science behind exceeding expectations (and how to do it correctly).
Read below Sandra’s philosophy of CX improvement, with an interesting twist on empathy and the online course titled Applied Customer Experience and Emotional Intelligence. The course aims to accelerate business results by taking CX to the next level with greater emotional intelligence…
Hi Sandra, tell us about your professional background and how you came into the position you are at now.
I started out my career as a marketeer. I had a number of quite big roles in both commercial and not-for-profit organisations and while I was working I studied. I completed the Chartered Institute of Marketing diploma and a Masters in Strategic Marketing and Communications before I quit my job and took a solo trip around the world.
I came to this position in my life because I realised I was disillusioned with the gap between what I was promising as a marketing message and what was being delivered to the customer. I wanted to have more influence over the operation, to make it as brilliant as we said it would be in our marketing messages but I didn’t know how to do that.
Then I found out about this thing called Customer Experience. It was big in the States. So I went out to the US. I was trained in CX by some guys in New York. It was an intensive week-long programme in New Jersey and I remember thinking “This is it! This is amazing! I love this stuff!”.
At the time I worked for a charity and they wanted me to get involved in a CRM (basically a database) project and I said I would but asked if we could make it more about Patient Experience than CRM? I was so proud when we set up the CX governance and secured the budget for my first ‘experience’ programme and I was so glad when I spent more time on that than marketing. When I was made redundant from the charity I took the opportunity to start my own CX consultancy. That’s 10 years ago now.
I started teaching customer experience and some people management topics to undergraduates at Pearson Business School about 5 years ago and in 2017 I launched my own postgraduate Applied Customer Experience course with accreditation from the Business School. In the last 18 months I’ve become the first Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coach in the UK. That’s why I now run the Applied Customer Experience and Emotional Intelligence course with Pearson Business School support.
Why is emotional intelligence important in CX?
If we think about our own experiences, we are going to remember the ones that are either extremely positive or negative. The things that are ‘vanilla’ we just don’t remember because nothing stands out about them.
The behavioural scientist Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, says that when we experience extremes in emotion we are more likely to remember them. This doesn’t mean that an extreme experience has to happen every time, but the feeling you have about that experience is extreme – maybe it ‘touched a nerve’, it brought back other fond memories or you just felt cared for and supported?
We don’t often remember about the times when someone just did enough or just did what they said they we’re going to do. If we want to create memories, the opportunity to do so is when we can do things that are thoughtful. When you can go beyond what someone is expecting you to do. I’m sure all of us can think of times when we didn’t expect the member of staff to go the extra mile. What they are actually doing is they are displaying emotional intelligence. Those people we encounter who are listening actively, they are really focussing on who we are, and they have the skill to pick up on the emotions that are coming from us as customers. They are delivering something that is hugely meaningful which is what makes things stand out.
Emotional Intelligence is important in Customer Experience because we know that customers are more loyal when they have an emotional connection with the brand and a member of staff displaying the emotional intelligence skill is more likely to create that emotional connection.
The skill influences all staff. That means ‘office-based’ operations, ‘strategic people’ as well as the people on the front line. We talk a lot about this on the course. We all need the skill of emotional intelligence because customers want to feel valued and special and so do our colleagues. When we create an emotional connection with our colleagues they are more likely to want to make the changes customers want.
Is it difficult to constantly exceed customer expectations?
This is going to be ironic given the fact that my business is called ‘Exceed all Expectations’ [laughing]. Countless reports say that you shouldn’t try to exceed people’s expectations because it’s the law of diminishing returns. Which means that the more you do it, the more you have to raise the bar and it becomes too expensive and maybe even a bit ridiculous.
It’s simple. It’s about human connection. I know for a fact that I’ve gone to places repeatedly because they will remember what I really like, they will make things easy for me and they often do things that make my life easier. Now that isn’t exceeding expectations, but that is making me feel good and making me feel valued. And if I have a choice, I will pick them, because of how they make me feel.
First of all, some people join the programme to validate what they know. They feel like they need some external recognition of the work they do. They see a problem in not being recognised as having a truly valuable skill. These participants have been working in CX for a number of years and when they get the certificate, it’s like a rubber stamp! I know what that feels like – I took the Emotional Intelligence course for the same reason. Nothing like getting a rubber stamp from Dr. Goleman!
The second thing is, some people who work in CX don’t always have the language and don’t have the models to be able to change the conversation in their organisations. This is a problem as they sometimes find it hard to connect to some people across the business. I’ve had previous participants on this course who have been promoted because they think they have changed the conversation. They’ve started bringing in neuroscience, behavioural science and psychology to their internal discussion, they started talking a different language and it started to get them more attention and more influence.
And the last problem and I think it’s a big one. I have spoken to a number of CX authors about this. Some of the methods CX professionals use to learn how to do CX prevent them from thinking for themselves. So, we solve that problem by teaching models and techniques and blending this with talks from practitioners so that people can think for themselves, rather than just trying to shoehorn a particular solution from another company which would never work for theirs.
How exactly is the course structured?
There are a number of different learning methods included in this course. The first thing is, every Thursday we have a 90-minute conversation about theories, models and ideas, where all of the participants join in and learn from one another.
The second thing we do is on a Saturday. We have a deeper dive session on the weekend for an hour. We ask more controversial questions here, for example – Is empathy dead? Surely rational compassion is better?”. These are optional sessions.
The third essential part of the course is access to resources. We have our recordings, articles, book references [you get a core text to work from when you join the course too] and papers so there is plenty of supporting evidence to review.
To receive the Professional Certificate, participants should complete a final assessment. How this is completed is completely up to the participant – they can decide exactly what they want to write about. The key reason for this work to ensure that the things they have learned can be joined together and remembered.
Each Thursday we cover a different CX topic. Week one is Psychology in customer experience, we then move onto Business cases and actionable measurement. Employee engagement (and org structures) are critical so we cover this in week three. We’re then ready to go into Emotional Intelligence, memory & self-awareness. EI is a big topic, so we cover Emotional Intelligence in action the following week too. The week after we cover Customer Journey mapping and then Customer Journey mapping as a catalyst for change. Then it’s time for some invaluable advice on Voice of the customer programmes and finally we talk about Setting yourself up for success – (Free personal insight reports and learn how to really Remote Work from an expert!). This is really important to me personally – I think that people in CX are often not heard and so this final topic enables people to think about their presence and how the adoption of emotional intelligence could make them more effective.
How often are your expectations exceeded?
That’s an interesting one! What I’ve found since COVID is that my expectations have been exceeded more often than not. I think that’s because people are listening more, paying more attention to what I have said. They seem to be able to do things they were not able to do before. Make decisions. Send me communications with ease. While people have been forced out of their offices they have found a way to do a 5-year project over 6 months because there was a need and urgency to it. And these projects deliver massive benefits to their customers. Companies have installed new phone lines, they have improved their online communication and equipped people with the tools to make decisions faster! We’ll see what happens to my expectations in the New Year!
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:
Treat your teamwith 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 andask 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 teamby delegating some control and ownership. This gives a sense of pride and a desire to get things right.
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.
The decision by Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle to strive for a more independent life away from the royal family, nicknamed ‘Megxit’, may not seem like the obvious template for launching your next employee initiative.
However, peal back the layers of this family drama and there are some important lessons to learn.
So Harry and Megan have stepped back from their royal duties – you might have seen one or two news stories!
Harry, AKA the ‘cool royal’, is doing what we all strive to do – carve his own direction. Born into royalty in 1984, Harry has had a turbulent time with the media.
He had to deal with the terrible tragedy of his mother’s death at a young age. He was then in the public eye for going to rehab. He joined the army but was spotted at a costume party dressed as a Nazi!
Then years later we saw pictures of him dancing in a Las Vegas hotel, naked.
It’s been a rollercoaster. So, it’s no surprise that he wants to step back. He’s got a wife and a baby now, and the last thing anyone wants after three hours sleep is cameras thrust in your face.
This move is a big change, but this change is one from which we can take some valuable lessons for our employee engagement tool-kit.
Employee engagement, like the royals, is kind of a big deal
The case for engaging employees is a big one. According to Gallup, the cost of a disengaged employee is 34 percent of their salary. Apply that to the UK average (given by the ONS) and that’s £10,413 – for just one disengaged person.
You see, disengaged employees have 37 percent higher absenteeism, 18 percent lower productivity and 15 percent lower profitability. Conversely, engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147 percent in earnings per share, again as stated by Gallup.
So, employee engagement has a big impact on your retention, output, and ultimately your bottom line.
Harry’s lessons for successfully changing employee behaviour
Change is integral to employee engagement. Every business needs to move and adapt, so employees need to move and adapt with it. That’s adopting new initiatives, adhering to company values, and putting the right things in the recycle bin (it happens).
This is where Megxit is our guiding light. Here’s three key ingredients for successful change, as shown by our beloved ex-royal:
Harry decided he wanted to make a change. It was his desire to direct his future that led him to the move – and that is true of all of us. We do things because we want to, not just because we’re told to or expected to.
Just think, do you like to be given orders or involved in decisions? Do you like one route, or an element of choice? Feeling like you’re swept along, or even mechanised, doesn’t make you feel valuable. People need some control. It’s what balances the employee/employer relationship.
So, when you’re enforcing change on the workforce, look for a way to provide choice. Involve them in the decision or offer them options around the rollout, the training, or the measurements of success. The feeling of autonomy is important. Make sure they have some control.
Would Harry have made the change if he was on his own? Without Megan?
Having someone alongside you builds confidence but also determination.
Have you ever taken up running? Or been to the gym? When you do it alone, you have those days when the sofa is so much more appealing. But with a partner, those are the days they are extra keen. They drive you on, and keep momentum, and you do the same in return. Having someone co-dependent on your success makes you much more likely to persevere. You see, we don’t like letting people down.
So, when you launch a new initiative, think about the social connections that can make it succeed. Use team outcomes to drive co-dependency, or buddy people up to share their experience. People with connected outcomes egg each other on. That can be vital for creating the habits you need.
As part of his duties, Harry has gained a wide experience – from launching a charity to starting a new brand – but all with support.
His new direction is a chance to show his own competence.
Everyone likes to be good at something. We typically strive to be better, to achieve, to build our self-worth. Change, though often daunting, provides an opportunity to do that, and the more we can see the results of it, the better.
When you’re updating policies, or shifting responsibilities, look at the ways of showing positive impacts. A healthier diet may seem worth it when you shed a few pounds – that principle works for most actions.
Show people the difference they are making and let them see the positive reinforcement themselves. Evidencing their impact will make it feel worthwhile.
Harry’s decision to take a step back was hard, because change is difficult. But he’s onto a good thing.
Autonomy, relatedness, and competency form the psychological concept of self-determination theory – the idea that change is self-driven, with the right conditions.
With this, Harry looks set to succeed. And you can too!
Build this into your strategy and, who knows, you might not need an incredibly rich family to be crowned the Prince of Employee Engagement.
More staff in customer service roles will seek new employment this month than in any other, with new research showing that almost two-fifths of workers in these positions will seek to leave their post in January.
A seasonal slump in engagement and motivation is believed to be behind the spike in dissatisfied staff, and a survey by quality assurance improvement platform EvaluAgent found that 40 percent of customer service employees are less happy in January than any other month, leading to 39 percent actively searching for a new role.
The financial impact of this employee churn is considerable – based on the average customer service worker’s annual salary of £21,000, each departure costs businesses at least £6,300 due to recruitment expenses and reduced productivity.
The report estimates that around five percent of customer service workers will actually leave their jobs in January, so with 640,500 people currently in customer service roles across the UK, this could mean businesses stand to lose around £201,757,500 in January alone.
The survey also revealed that employers seem to be underestimating the issue, with 70 percent of workplaces not believing that staff are more likely to change jobs in January than in other months.
Fortunately, according to the research there are a number of engagement strategies that would successfully prevent customer service employees from starting their January job hunt.
According to the research, financial incentives such as salary increases and bonuses alone are an ineffective solution, with 47 percent of those surveyed saying that money would not affect their decision as to whether to stay or leave their company in January.
This was especially true for younger workers, with 59 percent of 18-24 year olds saying that money is not an effective motivation.
Instead, the research showed that businesses should be utilising a full spectrum of tools to boost employee engagement, including regular and timely feedback, which was deemed as effective as a cash bonus by 54 percent of employees.
Non-financial reward schemes were almost as popular, with 44 percent of employees saying these would prevent them from looking for a new job at the start of the year, while more than a third (36 percent) said employee benefits such as healthcare and flexitime would encourage them to stay.
Goal-based objectives can be an effective way of improving motivation, by increasing the sense of purpose and pride in a person’s work. Twenty-four percent said that this would be enough to make them reconsider looking for a new role.
Jaime Scott, co-founder and CEO of EvaluAgent, said: “High employee turnover in January is a real problem for many businesses, and can cause significant problems when it comes to productivity and customer satisfaction levels.
“Our research clearly shows there is a direct link between employee engagement and turnover, suggesting that businesses need to be making far more effort to engage their workforce at this time of year if they are to prevent the annual surge in departures.”
New research offers an insight into how employers and employees differ on a range of issues, including being fully engaged in their roles.
A study by HR solutions provider People First found that 93 percent of UK employers think it’s important to be liked, but 90 percent of their staff want their day-to-day experience of work improved.
Exploring the attitudes of 250 bosses and 250 employees in UK firms, the research revealed how employers lack an accurate picture of how staff feel and the way it affects their work.
Eight-four percent of bosses think their staff are happy and 76 percent believe most of their employees are fully engaged in what they do. Howeverr, only 64 percent of staff find work makes them happy, and just 42 percent are fully engaged or absorbed in what they do to earn a living.
Mark Williams, Senior Vice President Product at People First, said: “Likeability is good in a boss. But with so many staff wanting their experience at work improved, you have to ask if employers really understand their workforces. There’s obviously a happiness gap where managers believe morale is better than it really is. They are clearly failing to measure staff engagement regularly.”
The research found men are more likely to say their work really engages them (48 percent) than women (37 percent), reflecting the longstanding difference in support and career development offered to women, as well as the well-publicised gap in pay between the sexes.
Meanwhile, lack of understanding plays a role in another difference between bosses and workers. Whereas 39 percent of employers believe most staff quit a job for emotional reasons, only 17 percent of employees say that’s the main cause of them handing in their notice.
The research also found more than half of UK employees (56 percent) regard being rewarded for excellent work as important to their experience at work, while 51 percent want more opportunities for flexible working.
“Poor productivity is a British disease which we can cure through better understanding of what motivates employees and gets them into the flow where time flies and work is more enjoyable and fulfilling,” added Mark.
“That’s why it’s important to rely on more than gut feeling about how happy or engaged staff are. Regular check-ins must replace the dated annual appraisal as only with regular conversations can an employer see the true picture of their employees.
“There are so many different aspects to any job, such as training, career development and flexible working, that making assumptions about what employees want is misguided. As an employer you need to know what makes your staff happy to work hard and what makes them leave.”
Luxury hotel group Calcot Collection has enlisted a guest experience management firm to help monitor staff happiness through the company’s employee survey function, in order to motivate and retain its team.
The move follows the sacking of a senior chef and launch of an investigation into a scalding incident in the kitchen of one of the group’s venues in Gloucestershire, the Calcot & Spa (pictured).
The agreement with guest experience management firm HGEM serves 575 employees across five venues, and will provide Calcot Collection with in-depth reports to track employee engagement at all stages of the career process, and identify opportunities for development and improvement. The reports will enable Calcot to establish and reinforce best practice, while The Hub (HGEM’s innovative reporting platform) will give the company access to e-learning modules for ongoing improvement.
Pat Sparkes, HR Manager, Calcot Collection said: “We are pleased to be working with HGEM to monitor employee engagement and identify any areas for improvement. The company’s detailed analysis in this area will help to inform our ongoing strategy and ensure we create the best possible culture for our employees.”
Fellow EX visionary, author, and Employee Experience Masterclass leader, Ben Whitter, has offered his seal of approval to Gethin’s book, describing it as “a great read and a great message to the world”.
Gethin, who is Director of Employee Wellbeing at Benefex, spoke with Customer Experience Magazine to discuss A World of Good, his inspirations, and why Employee Experience continues to be of vital importance for business.
Hi Gethin, tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional background
After graduating with a psychology degree, I worked in television for a few years for the BBC, Channel 4, and a stint in local radio (even racking up some production credits on IMDB). Struggling to get work in the media, I got a job working in pensions at Legal and General. Five years later I was managing the key accounts team and had developed some strong pensions knowledge as well as CII and ILM qualifications.
After leaving L&G, I moved to Barclays, where I started working in employee benefits technology for clients like GSK, Coca Cola, and British American Tobacco. Fast forward a few years later and I set up the employee benefits department for (at the time) one of Europe’s largest insurance brokers.
I then moved to Benefex, where I have been for eight years as part of the senior management team. My time at Benefex is when my interest in Employee Experience really took off. As well as working closely with organisations like EY and PwC, I started writing and speaking publicly to share my growing knowledge of ways to improve EX.
Benefex has given me the opportunity to help some of the worlds biggest brands to develop their employee engagement, experience, and wellbeing strategies. It’s also give my own best Employee Experience to date.
What led you towards the world of Employee Experience? Did your own previous experiences influence you positively or negatively?
For years I was passionate about improving engagement at work and was lucky enough to help great employers do amazing things to get their people more engaged. But while all of this was going on, there was a growing trend for employers to take a different view of engagement – that it was a psychological product of how we designed employees’ experiences.
In the same way organisations had focussed on how great Customer Experience led to better sales and loyalty, the most progressive ones had now realised that a carefully designed Employee Experience was the best way to boost employee engagement. At the time, Jacob Morgan’s book, The Employee Experience Advantage, really opened my eyes to how the most experimental organisations were achieving this.
When I started to think about my own experiences, I started to realise that historically, when I had been disengaged at work, it was as a result of lots of things – difficult commutes, poor technology, uncomfortable offices, lack of autonomy, etc. I’ve had some of the best and worst experiences that both had an impact on my wellbeing. I wanted to make sure that I could help as many employees as possible have a great experience at work and this started by writing my thoughts down in a book.
Tell us about the book and your inspirations/influences in writing it.
Aside from my own experiences, I became really taken with the idea that employment in general has a significant effect on humans. Work has become a big part of our lives and rightly or wrongly, plays a part in how we identify ourselves and how we define success. The lines between home and work life rarely exist anymore, which means the way we feel about our experiences at work have a big effect on how we feel about our lives.
The more I read, researched and wrote about people’s experiences at work, the more I found the growing body of evidence for how treating employees well leads to business growth. I also found that the more time I spent with employers, the more I realised that lots of this knowledge wasn’t well known.
In 2017, many employers were still treating employees unfairly. However, what did start to happen at that time was that the media was paying close attention. As whistle-blowers started to expose poor employment practices, we saw well known brands dragged through the mud.
This started to have a big impact on consumer behaviour for those brands and so suddenly, lots of organisations really started to see that they had to treat employees better if they were going to deliver the kind of Customer Experience they needed to. At the time though, the big issue seemed to be that many organisations didn’t know how to improve the Employee Experience. Most organisations couldn’t afford to be as experimental as the likes of Google, so I saw an opportunity to help these employers improve the experience easily and with little investment.
As I started writing the book, I realised that so many of the new and progressive EX practices companies were using were actually really old. In some countries, they were hundreds of years old!
That’s when the format came to me – I could use lessons from different countries and cultures all over the world as a way of telling a story I could then back up with academic research. Where possible, these would be stories that could help organisations take a different view of their employees’ experiences and the impact old ways of thinking were having.
Since its publication, the book has hit the Amazon HR bestseller list and won an award. But the most rewarding achievements come from the messages I receive from the people managers who tell me they’ve changed their EX after reading the book. In some cases, decades old HR policies have been binned in favour of ones that improve the lives of their employees. I never expected that would happen!
Employee Experience is now a deciding factor for job seekers. Can you tell us where many firms are going wrong when it comes to attracting and retaining talent?
One of the most popular reasons employees give for leaving a new job is that the experience didn’t match up with the expectation. Many employers spend huge amounts of effort developing an employer brand and an employee value proposition, but if the reality is that their employees are struggling at work, it becomes wasted effort.
We live in a world where your employment practices can be publicly discussed. Organisations can now analyse your employer brand to see how ex-employees talk about you online. Employees can also rate and review their employers.
We have never had transparency like this before!
Add that to low unemployment and a shortage of talent and suddenly, the job is the product and the employee is the consumer. The employee now has the choice and ease to decide who they want to work with. This means employers have never had to work harder to recruit and retain employees.
Where lots of organisations are now going wrong is that they aren’t thinking about how their experiences are being designed. Your EX shouldn’t be something that just happens; it should be something you have carefully designed.
This begins with empathising with your employees. Take something like changing jobs: when an employee has signed a contract with you and quit their old job, they are an engaged employee in their prime. They are excited, but they are also nervous. Changing jobs is stressful and ridden with anxiety, yet many organisations don’t empathise with these feelings.
We make potential employees wait weeks to hear from us after an interview and then after we’ve signed their contract, we don’t speak to them again until their first day. Then we give them lots of paperwork to do and so rather than a fun, exciting first day, it’s usually full of admin that could have been done weeks before.
On a more positive note, what are your experiences of interacting with organisations that are getting Employee Experience right?
Its probably the question I get asked most: “Who is doing Employee Experience well?”, but it’s not the question employers should be asking.
We are obsessed with wanting to know what other companies are doing in a desire to do it better than them. When it comes to EX, every employee has different wants and needs and what employers should be concentrating on is developing the best experience they can for them. A unique experience that you can deliver will be your USP. A potential employees’ best experience to date will be their benchmark, so you should be focussed on making an experience that is better than that, rather than a competitor. Every company is unique, so the kind of experience you can offer should be too.
Where I see organisations with great employee experiences, there is trust. I believe its at the heart of any great experience at work. When real trust exists, employers can get the employees to design their own experiences. When we trust employees to make the right decisions, great things happen.
Employee Experience naturally leads to better Customer Experience. Can you tell explain why this is the case to any organisations that might not yet realise this?
When I come across organisations that are doing the experience right, I can really feel it. I notice this more as a consumer than I do as someone working in the industry. We can’t expect employees to deliver the best CX unless they are cared for and treated well themselves. You can follow a great Customer Experience backwards and find a great Employee Experience. The best CX will always start with Employee Experience!
There are some really good examples of where great EX has enabled employees to do great things for customers. A UK bank gives employees a discretionary budget each to empower them to make their customers’ day great. I’ve seen them buy pizza for a hungry customer visiting the bank on their lunch break, and deliver flowers to a customer that was having a difficult day. As humans, we love to do things for other people and when we make others happy, it makes us happy.
We are also seeing how some major brands are now using their EX to market themselves. When John Lewis re-branded as ‘John Lewis and Partners’, it was to reflect the key role their staff play in the company’s success. An expensive advert campaign declared ‘When you’re part of it, you put your heart into it’. Brands now know that the way they treat their staff will play a part in whether you want to buy their products or services. When organisations have struggled to realise that, they’ve felt the damage. We’ve seen this with Uber, Amazon, and Sports Direct.
As I write in the preface of the book – more than ever, a company’s front line affects their bottom line. Improving the lives of employees should be a priority for every employer. Nowhere is this more important than with those who deal directly with your customers.
The workplace as we know it is transforming, as digital innovation creates new ways of working and many employees operate across more devices, time zones, and locations than ever before.
The uptake of flexible, off-site, and remote working trends has also shifted the balance in many businesses. Today, decision makers are tasked with building smarter workspaces which mobilise a more dispersed, digital workforce and maintain the level of employee engagement required to keep driving the business forward.
In light of continued efforts to digitise previously manual communication processes, the very definition of engagement itself has also been turned on its head. No longer does employee engagement simply mean ensuring staff are interacting with each other during the days in the office; it now means enabling instant communication at any time and connecting people regardless of their location and type of device available. Designing these experiences therefore requires a shift in attitudes from business leaders, moving away from isolated internal systems and towards a more diverse and far-reaching approach to communication.
The fruits of this labour are plain to see, with research now indicating that organisations with an engaged cohort of staff can exceed those without by more than 200 percent. With the potential return on investment so high, companies must now be looking to integrate communication tools which have the power to transform any place into a smarter workspace, ensuring that staff can collaborate seamlessly and generate new ideas through productive, enjoyable interactions.
Jumping over the hurdles
That said, achieving this is undoubtedly a challenge for modern businesses – particularly for larger organisations with vast workforces which are often siloed into teams based on their different locations around the globe. The changing nature of the workplace itself has created significant roadblocks for many leaders trying to maintain strong and meaningful employee collaboration.
Employees are increasingly in favour of a more versatile and accommodating avenues of communication; meanwhile the need for decision makers to maintain efficiency and minimise expenditure continues to impact the choices made investing in new solutions which are able to facilitate this. Yet with workspaces moving continually towards a digital-only future and the opportunity for improvements clear, most modern businesses are being encouraged to follow suit. Inevitably, the systems needed to overcome these challenges and enable smarter, better exchanges between staff are now in high demand.
For example, the rise in systems which create an intelligent and unified approach to communication can make pivotal changes for companies worldwide. By mobilising employees regardless of device, location or time, leaders can encourage the digital connections staff need to generate new ideas and keep employees happy, flexible and motivated from anywhere.
These sentiments were echoed in a 2018 survey of 7,000 employees globally, in which 73 percent of employees who work in a fully-enabled digital workplace reported a positive impact on their productivity, and 70 percent cited improved collaboration thanks to digital technologies. As a result, the key to success not only lies in digitising traditional communication channels across a business, but selecting the right digital technologies which are capable of enhancing engagement with smart interactions for the end user.
Smart communication in practice
In an effort to future-proof their communications infrastructure and drive productivity, modern businesses are exploring the different technologies now able to create digital workspaces, which ultimately deliver business value and drive employee engagement as workplace culture evolves. However, enabling smarter engagements across an entire workforce cannot be achieved by simply implementing isolated telephony systems or web and audio conferencing for employees to communicate; businesses must now knit together a range of tools, working seamlessly together to create a unified ecosystem which meets the needs of every individual.
No two businesses are the same and this is where unified communication (UC) systems comes into itsown. Not only does it provide employees with a plethora of communication tools, it enables companies to diversify their offerings and build a smart communication network able to both deliver on the demands of a more dynamic, digital workspace and drive employee productivity through easier engagement. Now, this trend looks set to continue, with the UC market forecast to reach an exponential size of $143.49bn by 2024 – an exciting time for businesses globally.
While the premise of creating a network of smart communication systems may sound daunting on paper, implementing UC tools into existing infrastructure can help to subside the expense of completely overhauling the systems already in place. Irrespective of supplier or level of intricacy, integrating a suite of smart communication tools to build one unified network is now the true key for creating the spaces required for keeping employees engaged.
Achieving this on a business-wide scale is now fundamental for driving productivity and better ideas across an entire workforce, in turn maximising business value as we enter the next phase of enterprise innovation.
Customer service is a vital part of obtaining and retaining business.
In fact, 73 percent of buyers indicate that Customer Experience is an important factor in their purchasing decisions. To ensure they are servicing their customers in the best way possible, many brands are looking towards Customer Recovery Loops to prevent customer churn and improve CX.
As with any new initiative, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what success would look like before getting started. As a business, you want to have smart, realistic goals in place that give you something tangible to aim for and continually measure against, to ensure genuine progress is being made.
That said, in the world of CX, some indicators of success are easier to track than others. Measuring the effectiveness of your Customer Recovery Loop may seem tricky, so here are five ways to check if your Customer Recovery Loop is working for you.
1. Repeat customers
Far too often, brands have their data siloed, meaning that they’re not getting the full picture when analysing the success of their Recovery Loop. The technology now exists to enable companies to link their customer feedback with any existing data they hold, including key things like purchase history, to provide a single view of the customer.
If you can establish that your unhappy customers have continued to buy from your business after going through a recovery loop, that’s proof of its success – and a big win for your company! Companies need to ensure they’re using all the information at their disposal when checking if a strategy is working.
2. Reduced customer churn and complaints
It’s no secret that complaints can hit a business hard, particularly those that are escalated to regulatory bodies. It’s vitally important to take preventative measures as soon as possible to stop these problems from escalating further. By intervening and taking action promptly, brands can mitigate the cost of such penalties.
With that in mind, it’s best practice for companies to take note of their typical customer churn rates, complaint numbers and, if applicable, regulatory ratings. From there, it’s possible to set goals for improvements and give yourself targets to aim for. Half the battle with analysing the success of your Customer Recovery Loop is simply understanding the key metrics that represent success and tracking improvement against them. If you can track trends in the data that show customer churn or complaints are decreasing since your Recovery Loop was implemented, that’s a sure-fire sign it’s working.
3. Scoring higher
There are lots of different metrics that companies will use to judge success across different aspects of the business. Often, these will differ depending on the industry or business you’re working in, the people you’re reporting in to or even the stage of the customer journey you’re monitoring. Regardless of what your preferred metric is, what matters is to take note of the numbers when you first decide to deploy a Recovery Loop.
Ultimately, what’s important to everyone in the business is seeing those scores go up – whether they’re Customer Satisfaction or Net Promoter Score matters not; improved scores will positively impact the bottom line.
4. Reducing cost
One of the main considerations when justifying any business decision is cost – companies want to see a return on their investment. While it needn’t be expensive, a Recovery Loop is still an investment, and customer service teams will still want to see the financial benefits of their decision. Cost per contact and call handling times can be significantly reduced by capturing feedback in real-time, proactively keeping customers informed, and putting preventative measures in place for reoccurrence.
By empowering frontline staff with the right information and the tools they need to assist customers effectively, they can reduce the average handling time and cost of each call. Over time, this could lead to fewer calls and greater savings.
5. Better-engaged employees
The key to great customer service is that happy employees lead to happy customers and vice-versa. So much so, that McKinsey & Company has reported that companies that make a concerted effort to improve their CX also see employee engagement rates rise 20 percent on average. Frontline call centre staff will often be who a customer first engages with, so it’s important to get it right. First impressions are everything. If customers are coming to the brand with a problem, they need to be greeted with empathetic and knowledgeable staff to help them – but it’s up to the business to arm them with the tools they need!
At the beginning of your journey, capturing the voice of your employees as well as your customers in real-time can often add meaningful context to your customer feedback. For instance, if a customer complains that their payment was taken late, whilst your employee flags that the billing process is manual and time consuming, you have some context. This information can be used not just to improve the customer experience but to help out staff as well. Measuring employee satisfaction scores, staff retention, and productivity can help to see if the changes you’re making are having the desired impact. If not, you are then in a position to tweak accordingly.
In summary, checking whether or not your Customer Recovery Loop is working comes down to planning and metrics. You need to get a sense of the key metrics that measure the success of a Recovery Loop for your business. From there, you’ll have the base stats to compare and a benchmark to aim for, so that you can confidently say your Customer Recovery Loop is effective.
The recent 2019 UK Employee Experience Awards in London saw one of the country’s most innovative training schemes for medical writers celebrated in a Gold category victory.
Ashfield Healthcare Communications took home the top award in the Employee Engagement – Learning & Development (programme) category, which team members have described as an “incredible achievement”.
Their allegro programme is a 12-month, fast-track training initiative for life sciences graduates, providing a foundation for a long-term career in medical writing. Comprising an eight-week training phase and two five-month agency rotations, at the end of the programme employees join one of Ashfield’s agency teams in the UK as a medical writer.
Ashfield’s Programme Director, Neil Marmont, said: “This is an incredible achievement and shines a spotlight on our bespoke accelerated learning programme for aspiring medical writers. As well as the obvious benefits of allegro in meeting the needs of our business from a resource perspective, the influx of talented individuals into the organisation is encouraging internal networking and the growth of really supportive, dynamic teams, which is impacting positively on the quality of the work we are delivering to our clients.”
At the awards, Ashfield’s team (Neil Marmont, Andrew Davidson, Sarah Jackson, Katie Buxton, and Danny Hawker) delivered a 15-minute presentation, covering the objectives, design, planning, implementation and business impact of the allegro programme, which has been running since January 2018. The presentation was followed by a question and answer session with the judges.
“The judges were particularly impressed with the individual stories of allegro alumni Katie and Danny, and with the collaborative learning environment that allegro has created,” Neil added.
“They were also impressed with the scale of the programme and opportunities it provides for current staff to be involved in training, mentoring, line management and coaching.”
We all understand the importance of employees having a growth mindset and engaging in lifelong learning.
These are essential habits to foster at a cultural level to maximise Customer Experience. What’s interesting is that attitudes among employees, particularly for voluntary learning and building on soft skills, has changed. Having the chance to develop personally and “put my talents to good use” is one of the top five things that employees of all age groups value most in life and we also know that learning is a key driver of workplace happiness and employee engagement.
This was cited as very important by 80 percent of working adults in our recent study at GoodHabitz. It shows that people want the opportunity to keep on learning and challenging themselves, especially when it means they can learn new skills that benefit them personally and professionally. Lifelong learning has finally become accepted as an integral part of working life and this is true across all educational backgrounds.
Interestingly though, in the same way that appetites for learning are increasing, so too is the expectation that employers also need to allow for time off work to facilitate learning. Eighty-six percent of employees in our study thought they should be given time off during working hours to dedicate to learning and development, with 23 percent expecting this as standard – a 10 percent increase on previous years.
One-in-five employees believed that professional learning should only take place during working hours. That might be acceptable for compliance based training, but for life skills like time management, dealing with stress, influence and negotiation, that’s just not feasible.
For employers to free up time and deliver in line with these high expectations requires a shift away from traditional classroom study to online methods. It’s not economically viable otherwise. More significantly, it requires a change in thinking away from expecting employees to complete online courses in one sitting, to being able to dip in and out of their learning, to suit competing time constraints.
We know from experience that if you ask employees – especially the ones in customer facing roles – what stops them from undertaking voluntary training courses, the vast majority will state “a lack of time”. Even the most engaged learners can only dedicate five or 10 minutes a day at best. We need to be facilitating what Josh Bersin describes as “learning in the flow of work”, in which employees have the chance to learn constantly, when it suits them, taking advantage of odd moments.
They might be on the train, waiting for a conference call to start (or maybe even during the call if it’s a dull one), whilst eating lunch at their desks, or as a podcast when sitting in traffic. Provided the training content has been designed to allow for micro-learning, there is no reason why this isn’t equally or even more effective than completing an entire course in a single setting.
Researchers have shown that when information is delivered in small chunks, it’s much easier to retain and the learning process is much more efficient – almost 20 percent higher. It more closely matches the brain’s ability to process information and recall is much higher. This is because learners can work at their own pace, they are not overwhelmed with information and most importantly, they are in the right ‘zone’ to learn. Typically, micro-learning content addresses only one or two learning objectives, but psychologists have measured that it generates, on average, four to five learned takeaways.
For micro-learning to be really successful, it needs a mindset shift at the organisational level. Ten minutes spent learning about presenting for success for example, is much better than nothing. It might have been just enough to give the person the tips they needed to improve performance. That’s learning in the flow of work.
To embed that into an organisations’ culture, we need to stop ticking boxes or measuring completion rates and instead look at the wider ‘diversity of learning’ that’s happening. The ‘completer finisher’ learning attitude has come about as a result of classroom-based training. A person had to be present to get their certificate of completion and from traditional e-learning that was compliance focused. Personal development is different and much less rigid.
Why not simply facilitate the process and adopt an ‘all learning is better than no learning’ approach instead? Let people take responsibility for their own self development and just provide the resources and encouragement. If employees complete part of a course on a topic, they will have benefitted and got what they needed at that time, plus they know where to go when they want to continue and may well come back to finish it. It’s better to think of online learning as a vast resource of learning material, like a library. Irrespective of whether they receive a certificate or not, they have learned something new that they can apply in their working or professional life.
The emergence of new roles such as Chief Employee Experience Officer and Director of Digital Workplace is the clearest indication yet to C-level leaders that a distinctive and noteworthy Employee Experience is a critical factor of business success.
According to Forrester Research’s 2019 predictions, Employee Experience is set to take centre stage this year, fuelled by low unemployment and high quit rates. There is also a single compelling reason why leaders must up their game in this respect: Employee Experience is intrinsically linked to Customer Experience.
The obituary for the psychological contract that once existed between employers and employees was written long ago and the concept of a ‘job for life’ is probably gone forever. Yet while such topics have been the subject of discussion for some time, the intervening years have failed to define a new kind of contract between the leaders and the employee that takes into account seismic changes that have impacted organisations.
Workforces are more remote, disparate, mobile, and in some cases far more contingent. Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing what we do and how we do it and the incoming generations’ expectations of going to work are hugely different.
While employers can no longer rely on seeing employees every day, they must find ways of ensuring their people are highly engaged, motivated, fulfilled, and happy so that they perform to their best ability, are prepared to go the extra mile, and will deliver exceptional Customer Experience.
Hence one of the latest trends in HR is the concept of the “workplace as an experience”, where every aspect of work is carefully designed, arranged, and controlled to energise and inspire employees. The aim is to create a deep, experiential connection between individuals and their workplace that begins with onboarding strategies and continues throughout their employment lifecycle with the organisation – for the benefit of all stakeholders and especially customers.
To achieve this, organisations need to look at their people through the same lens as they do their customers and apply marketing and sales-oriented strategies to improve attraction, motivation, and retention. They must make greater use of data analytics, AI and machine learning, and techniques like gamification to learn more about their preferences and behaviours to create differentiated and high performing Employee Experiences.
Employees expect to use the same mobile and smart technologies in the workplace as they do in their personal lives and AI in the form of chatbots and virtual personal assistants (VPAs) are already being used to help remove distractions and to aid and augment employees’ tasks and productivity.
Employees also have high expectations of the environment in which they work and organisations are enlisting workplace design companies to come up with innovative spaces to simplify work and improve productivity. The Dutch office of professional services firm Deloitte is widely considered to be one of the smartest buildings in the world and allows employees to personalise the lighting and temperature at their individual workspaces using a smartphone app.
The Edge building, based in Amsterdam’s business district, is described as inspirational and fun. It’s no coincidence then that it has become an asset in terms of recruitment. Three fifths of candidates (62 percent) specifically state in their applications that one of the reasons they want to work for Deloitte is the possibility of being posted to The Edge.
It is evident that the Employee Experience is becoming more central to organisational success. If organisations are to attract, retain, and engage the talent needed in 2019 and the years ahead, C-level leaders must develop a new mindset and prioritise a new approach and type of contract and relationship with employees – one where the Employee Experience is viewed holistically and makes an emotional connection to improve engagement and alignment to the organisational purpose – thus improving innovation and the Customer Experience along with other key business metrics.
Article author Richard Chiumento is a judge at the upcoming UK Employee Experience Awards in London. Click here to find out more.
Usually referring to romantic relationships or friendships, when one partner starts to ignore the other without any explanation, the practice of ‘ghosting’ has now hit the workplace.
It refers to situations when employees walk out of their jobs without so much as a goodbye, or when candidates with a job offer simply disappear, never bothering to respond, or – if they do accept – failing to turn up on day one. Some people have even pretended that they’ve died in order to avoid awkward conversations with their would-be employer.
In the US, where unemployment levels are at an all-time low and there are more vacancies than job-seekers, employees seem to feel little remorse about walking away. The term even made it into the US Federal Reserve Bank Beige Book, which reports on changing economic conditions in the US, suggesting that ghosting is a significant trend and not just a flash in the pan.
The trend is catching on in the UK too. According to CV-Library, a somewhat surprising one in ten working professionals in the UK have ghosted their employer, citing reasons such as mistreatment by management, unrealistic workloads, and/or a lack of flexibility in their schedules.
These reasons might be legitimate, but the underlying driver for ghosting is the lack of employee engagement. Staff can easily become frustrated – and have their heads turned by others – when a working culture becomes dysfunctional, when there is a breakdown of communication or when they spend their days on boring and demotivating tasks because they don’t have access to the rights tools and technology
The effect on call centres
This disappearance of employees is a particularly worrying prospect for call centres, where turnover is consistently high due to the challenging nature of the role. Agents are expected to deal with frustrated customers eager for answers they are not always equipped to support, often with clunky software that is years behind the technology they use in their everyday lives.
Working in a contact centre can be hard. If an agent believes they have better career prospects elsewhere, it’s no surprise that they want to leave, and ghosting removes the need to even explain their motivations.
How to tackle ghosting
By focusing on improving employee engagement, contact centre operators can find a solution to this most modern of problems. In essence, this involves providing employees with more reasons to stay than to leave.
Here are just a few ways to keep agents happy:
Audit & upgrade technology: According to Ultimate Software, 92 percent of workers say that having the right technology directly impacts their job satisfaction. Teams may grow frustrated if their call centre tech is lagging behind the apps and gadgets they use outside of work.
Offer well-defined career paths: Agents want to develop their careers. If they feel valued and recognise the benefits in staying in their role with the chance to advance through the ranks, they are less likely to look elsewhere. Technology can help with this career development. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and smartbots stop agents from having to undertake repetitive tasks, freeing up their time so they can concentrate on complex, more rewarding activities. They could even become robot team leaders, overseeing a team of digital workers; a highly sought-after new skill.
Reward everyday achievements: Recognising and rewarding employees who achieve great results is another simple way for employees to feel appreciated. Gamification by, for example, the visualisation of employee KPIs encourages competition and teamwork. A simple wallboard can do this to great effect.
Offer competitive wages: Of course, pay is a highly motivating factor. If people are offered a competitive salary, they are going to see the value in staying put.
The cumulative benefits of improving employee engagement
Boosting employee engagement has many other advantages too.
The loss of talented agents is never a good thing, especially when it affects overall contact centre performance. If agents are motivated, they are more likely to provide exceptional customer service. More often than not, happy staff also means happy customers. What’s more, lowering staff turnover rates also helps reduce costs associated with recruiting, on-boarding, training and IT provisioning.
Employee engagement programmes also help with the retention of the very best talent. The brightest agents tend to be the most alert to better job offers. It is vital to keep the highest achieving – and usually most profitable and valuable – agents focused on, and motivated by, their current roles.
Ghosting is inconvenient and impolite, but it’s not only the wayward employee who is at fault. It’s a warning sign that staff feel demotivated, unhappy, frustrated and under-valued; and the business must take some share of the blame.
To fix this, contact centres should focus on incorporating labour-saving technology that frees up agent time so they can focus on more inspiring tasks. By creating a more positive employee experience, companies will soon find that there are fewer reasons for staff to pull a disappearing act.
Richard Branson is famously quoted as saying: “I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised.”
Although Mr Branson’s well-used pearls of wisdom might not have the caché that they once did, I would suggest that this view is as valid now as it ever was. A more on-trend leadership guru also agrees with this perspective, Simon Sinek says: “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”
Customer Experience has increasingly been touted as the battleground for modern business success. In a world where great product or lowest price are simply not enough for sustainable growth, it’s the CX of a brand or business, at every touchpoint, that is shaping success.
While we’ve been focussed on an outward looking perspective, there are far fewer businesses that have taken all this strategic thinking, creative passion and financial investment through 180 degrees, directing it within their own organisations.
Whatever the North Star ambitions for the Customer Experience, it’s the workforce, the colleagues, and the employees that will either deliver it or derail it. A modern, connected business is only as good as its weakest touchpoint, meaning greatest success will come from a holistic approach that includes a good deal of effort given to communicating with, enabling and empowering staff.
It is also critically important to recognise that the people who will be delivering the total experience are not some generic horde. It’s essential to understand the different needs and motivations of employees.
When communicating with staff, think about how you can effectively adapt communications in order to engage – that includes both the message and the medium. The all-hands email on a Monday morning really doesn’t cut it.It’s also important to consider and develop tools and technologies that recognise context of use and are genuinely empowering.
So many systems and solutions in businesses today are there because of decisions made a very long way away from the people required to use them.
Don’t underestimate what a sense of purpose can do for employee morale. Again, a well-used tale that talks about the power of having a sense of purpose in an organisation. When US president John F. Kennedy visited the NASA space centre during the height of the space race, he saw a janitor working a broom and walked over and asked him what he was doing.
The janitor responded: “Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.” When optimising the Employee Experience look for tools that connect staff, make them really feel part of something bigger and enable the business to leverage their collective power. This might well be through technology, but could equally be driven by a radical change in the format of business meetings. Additionally, consider how all that data you’re gathering (You got the memo about Data, right?) can translate into actionable, valuable insights which will empower the whole workforce to understand what they are a part of and how they can better connect with customers.
“Do not be afraid to empower your employees. Empowerment results in happy employees and happy customers,” says John Cashion, Corporate Director of Culture Transformation at the Ritz-Carlton.
They take employee empowerment to the next level by enabling every employee, irrespective of their level, to spend $2000 on meeting a guest’s unmet needs. This doesn’t require the approval of a senior member of staff, it is absolutely at the discretion of each employee.
Cashion goes on to say that, although that is a lot of money, it’s actually the symbolism of the act that’s really huge. Don’t be distracted by the amount, what’s really important is the trust that this shows. The trust in them to resolve a guest issue brilliantly, and to think of creative and memorable ways to elevate the experience.
This activity ladders back up to the top, to the leadership of a business and how it talks and behaves. Getting Employee Experience right is not a project or a one-off event. It is dependent upon persistent and consistent behaviours. It is also heavily dependent upon the accessibility and visibility of leadership. Just as your employees need tools to help them, look for organisational enablers that support leadership in sustaining a highly engaged and high performing workforce delivering a successful total experience.