Nicolle ParadiseNicolle ParadiseMarch 19, 2019
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9min224

This article by Nicolle Paradise was written in conjunction with Dr Kristin Walle, Division Vice President of Global Money Movement & Compliance/Shared Services Compliance Solutions at ADP.

 

Too sensitive? Just suck it up, buttercup. Too abrasive? Bull in a china shop.

And somewhere in-between these extremes, there’s us: you and me. We’re leaders, we’re employees, and we understand that at the most basic level, those who don’t know what is expected of them seldom perform to their potential. 

Astonishingly, Gallup research suggests that nearly 70 percent of all US employees aren’t working to their full potential in a given business day. 

To communicate what’s expected, is it as binary as: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” versus “You Can’t Handle The Truth!” (thanks, Jack Nicholson)? No, we disagree with this positioning and what lies in-between is what we will explore.

We believe leaders have a fundamental responsibility to create value through direct communication. This communication style benefits the Employee Experience and is good for business. Direct communication, defined as the ability to consume, interpret, and mirror back, leaves very little room for interpretation of the employee’s value, their value to the business, and value to customers. This process also subtly communicates the message of “you care about me”, from leader to employee.

With so much to gain then, why do leaders resist direct communication? According to a 2016 study published in Harvard Business Review, “69 percent of managers reported being uncomfortable communicating in general with employees”. If two out of three of leaders are uncomfortable with general communication, we begin to understand just how uncomfortable most leaders would be with direct communication.

To help bridge this communication gap between what makes most of us uncomfortable with what employees need to achieve their full potential, let’s examine a case study between Jack (SVP, Customer Success) and Oliver (VP, Customer Success), a direct report of Jack’s. 

Jack was frustrated with the number of escalations he was receiving from Oliver. He believed he had clearly addressed Oliver’s concerns around how to manage escalations and when that volume did not decrease, but instead the escalations increased, it caused several related outputs:

  • From a leadership perspective, Jack believed that Oliver was choosing to not follow the appropriate direction.
  • Through that lens, Jack interpreted the escalations from employees who were bypassing Oliver as being directly caused by Oliver’s choice to not follow directions.
  • Customers expressed concern at the increased amount of time it was taking to address their issues.

Observing the impact to both employees and customers, Jack decided to confront Oliver as to why he chose to ignore the provided guidance.

Oliver, however, was confused and himself, frustrated. He was a proven, competent VP within the organisation and asked his manager, Jack: “What specifically are you asking me to do differently? I thought I was following your exact direction this entire time.”

Why did this stark miscommunication happen? To answer that, we leveraged an Ishikawa diagram to uncover the potential cause and effect.

We first identified what specific areas, either internal (e.g: ‘personality’) or external (‘HR policies’) may be perceived obstacles. Then within each category we identified several potential reasons ( e.g: ‘I prefer…’) why this prevented the desired outcomes.

This diagram helped Jack get to the root cause of the disconnect. Jack, unintentionally, had concluded the root cause of the escalations solely through his own perceptions, not via direct communication with Oliver. By broadening his perspective and asking direct questions of Oliver, Jack was then able to provide clear, consumable feedback related to Oliver’s performance, goals, and associated metrics. This renewed clarity of communication benefited Oliver, Oliver’s team, and ultimately, the 10,000 customers that the organisation supports.

This diagram also helped Oliver contemplate his own obstacles. He realised that his assumptions prevented him from asking specific, clarifying questions to Jack. Understanding that Jack may not be skilled or may have his own bias around the interaction, Oliver learned to probe and paraphrase back to Jack in a manner so that clarity was achieved. 

Several iterations of the diagram are commonly needed to yield the desired clarity, so patience from both leaders and employees is needed until the skills have been developed. 

Additionally, we recommend the organisation ask itself a few proactive questions with a focus toward driving direct communication:

  1. How are we ensuring that the root cause issue is actually the root cause?
  2. What is the result we are looking for as an organisation?  Why it this important and how is it measured? 
  3. How does this connect to the overall organisational benefits? 

This feedback loop – comprised of the above proactive questions and the Ishikawa diagram analysis – position organisations to communicate directly regarding behaviours that contribute to achieving specific goals as well as identify which behaviours contribute to creating obstacles. From a communication perspective, this feedback loop helps balance the extremes of “too sensitive: suck it up, buttercup” and “too abrasive: bull in a china shop”.

Today’s leaders are investing in the leaders of tomorrow, ultimately yielding a richer and more developed employee, an improved experience, and thus higher employee retention rates. The stability that this feedback loop provides an organisation has a direct, positive impact on development, collaboration and creativity, delivering value for both employees and customers.

When we know what is expected of us, we can perform to our full potential. How might leveraging this feedback loop help your team reach their full potential?


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 8, 2019
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4min314

Over half (52 percent) of financial services customers feel firms treat consumers unfairly, according to new research.

A new report by Voice of the Customer (VoC) pioneers Maru/edr is based on a study into customer treatment in the financial services industry, which interviewed 1,000 independent customers who held at least once financial product in the UK in the last 12 months.

 The study tested key components of the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) policy by questioning respondents about their perceptions and experiences of financial service providers. The TCF initiative requires brands to consistently demonstrate that fair treatment is part of their business culture – and suggests customer feedback is one of the most effective and efficient ways of doing this.

The study reveals that 62 percent of finance customers were aware of the FCA’s fair treatment policy. Despite this, findings illustrate that financial services firms are failing to capture feedback – and therefore demonstrate fair treatment – from 17 million customers every year. The report found:

  • 84 percent of customers who hold at least one finance product would willing to give feedback to their bank or financial services provider if given the opportunity – yet less half (45 percent) had been invited to partake in research within the past twelve months.
  • Just 30 percent of UK consumers currently rate the communications they receive from their financial services provider as highly with under half (48 percent) stating that they felt communication held a relevant, personal appeal to them. Under half (47 percent) of financial services customers also believed they currently receive the right amount of communication from their financial service provider(s).
  • Encouragingly however, almost three quarters of respondents (70 percent) felt communication from their existing finance provider was at least clear. It marks a significant shift for the industry – just three years ago, the FCA urged finance firms to stop using excessively complicated language in a bid to reduce customer complaints.

Steve Brockway, Chief Research Officer at Maru/edr, said: “Customer feedback is vital for brands looking to protect and grow their market share. Yet for financial brands, customer feedback holds even more value in both improving services and demonstrating FCA compliance.

“There’s clearly an appetite from customers to have their voices heard – the growth of review sites is testament to the expanding feedback culture we now live in. But financial services brands are clearly currently missing a huge opportunity leaving customers feeling unfairly treated.”


Jamie ThorpeJamie ThorpeFebruary 15, 2019
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10min530

There’s no doubt about it – we’re seeing an epidemic of survey fatigue, and consumers and businesses are both suffering.    

A third of people will walk away from a brand they love after one bad experience – and that includes any follow up research.  There’s so much we want to know from our customers, but with requests for feedback constantly increasing, we risk turning off consumers with research that feels onerous and ‘old school’.

Brands need to stay focused. It’s not good enough to simply migrate old questionnaires onto newer platforms like mobile and hope for the best. Instead, brands should be thinking leaner and lighter. Here’s how:

Put yourself in the right shoes

Not yours – your customers’. Surveys shouldn’t overstretch your audience, bore them, or make them wonder what the point was.  A survey is part of their overall Customer Experience. With that in mind, make it feel right for the moment. Don’t ask everything at once – make the questions relevant and sensible. 

Get on with it

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Focus on a single aspect of their experience – one that is still fresh in their minds. By respecting the customer’s time and keeping things short and easy you’ll reduce drop-out rates, meaning you’ve got more insight to work with.

Look for the nuance

Shorter doesn’t mean multiple choice. Think about text analysis, and where written responses (and increasingly, feedback relayed via voice, video, photos, and even emoji) could help you identify key themes, pinch points, or barriers for your customers. If you’re worried about this making your survey more difficult to complete, especially if users are on mobile devices, even asking for descriptive words will help – you’re not looking for chapter and verse. 

Some companies are even moving back to interactive voice response (IVR) technology, because they understand that it’s easier for the customer to talk than to type – and that this often generates a more honest response. 

Technique matters

A series of questions measured against the same scale makes it easy for respondents to lose focus. That’s when they start simply answering ‘agree’ to everything or scoring all questions the same, because it saves thinking effort and gets them to the end of the survey faster. It’s a sure-fire way to get poor quality results. Shake things up to avoid it happening.

Make it personal

If someone’s a regular customer they don’t want to see the same old survey over and over again – survey fatigue is bad enough already. If you can, use transactional information to make your questions relevant to your customers’ experiences: dates, locations, money spent – anything that shows that you know them, and that you want to learn something specific from their feedback. Don’t show you know them too much though. Privacy is important, so don’t go against GDPR and the MRS Code of Conduct.

Give it energy

Ask a dull question and get a dull response. Instead, be creative and challenge consumers to be different. Try asking questions like: “What would you change if you were our CEO for the day?”, “If we were in a customer service competition, what medal would you give us?”, or “Would you employ one of our staff in your business?”.  

Don’t do it for the sake of differentiation or frivolity though – remember your resulting responses still need to be valuable and actionable. 

Stay on brand

Every survey is a golden opportunity to get people to engage with your brand. It’s a chance to strengthen relationships with customers and show you value them. Work closely with your marketing team to make sure that your surveys reflect your brand values and are true to its tone of voice. It might feel like you’re relinquishing control but these experts know what works, and when it comes to Customer Experience no organisation should be operating in silos.

Remember, the last impression you leave is often the most enduring, so the way you deliver your survey is going to be the way people will recall your brand.

Test it till it hurts

Test everything: your ideas, your subject lines, and your questions. Will they give you varied, insightful responses? Make every element of your survey work as hard as possible. Repeat to yourself: there’s huge benefit in marginal gains. 

Appreciate the limitations

There’s no doubt that surveys can deliver value, but they’re not the only way to gather feedback. Even when designed well, you’ll only ever receive responses from a small proportion of the survey field, and those customers who do complete them may naturally share common characteristics and preferences – something frustrated CX teams would be quick to confirm.

Think about what surveys are not giving you – are you trying to validate existing data, or fill in gaps in information? Or are you trying to gauge the opinion of a hard-to-reach group, or tap into unsolicited feedback?

Consider harvesting social data, using text or voice analysis or predictive analytics. Remember: the average NPS score of a company which integrates feedback from four or more different channels is 14 points higher than the baseline. Not convinced?  One airline we worked with saw a one percent increase in NPS translate to more than 100,000 extra bookings a year, so there’s a lot to gain from getting it right. 

And if you’re still thinking “But…!”

Relax. As a first step, concentrate on in-the-moment feedback – there’s never a better moment than now. Capturing live responses means better quality answers, higher response rates, and the chance to fix any immediate problems your customers are flagging. Once you’ve got that down, you can start joining the dots and creating a bigger picture later.




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