Over Christmas I had a Tesco delivery scheduled to come in the evening but my toddler was sick and I needed to take him to A&E. I called Tesco to cancel delivery and the man I spoke to was very helpful. He said it was ok to postpone the order (even though it was due in about an hour) and that he would rearrange it for when I needed it, also giving me the option to cancel. He said he hoped my son would get better soon, not to worry about the order and that he would contact the delivery driver.
He wasn’t following a script. He seemed very personable, hoping that everything would be ok and assuring me that he would rearrange the delivery slot with no additional cost or cancellation fees. The way that he handled my call left me feeling very positive about Tesco and my experience with their company.
We know from our clients that personal is best. Wesleyan started their customer experience programme with us in 2011 and have seen improvements in customer feedback year on year. A big part of this has been that the less structured call script is going across well with customers.
Being able to react to individual customer needs without waiting for the approval of management is not only great for employee engagement, it’s also great for the customer experience. A call that could have gone through various departments may become resolved with the first person, and that person’s sense of job satisfaction will increase through creating a positive ending. In turn, customer feedback is more positive.
When choosing to operate in this empowering way, it’s important to set out how employees are able to react to different needs and enquiries, as well as giving the wider view of how those fit within the priorities of the organisation. This also gives employees a bigger sense of place within the company, making them feel trusted and really part of something. Hotel employees at the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton chains are great examples of how autonomy works to meet customer needs and improve employee engagement.
But empowerment isn’t for everyone. Some people do really need the back up of their managers, and may need further coaching and training to take the small steps toward delivering this type of service to customers. Managers also need to let go. They may be used to delegating and having the final say on projects, but they need to be trained to be able to pass a certain amount of responsibility to their staff, while also showing employees that this trust comes with accountability, which will not fall with the manager anymore. It can be a culture shock all round if not handled in the right way.
Key benefits for employees include:
- They feel they have been given the opportunity to do their best every day
- Their opinion feels valued
- Teamwork and a sense of commitment to quality
- A connection between the company’s mission and their role
Sounds great, where do we start?
Define your customer strategy and connect it to the front line
It’s all about teamwork and there’s no way to really empower the people delivering the customer service without senior leaders getting behind the initiative, delivering ways in which people can react to situations, and keeping the conversation going to improve and develop.
Reprogram your people
Ok, it’s not quite as drastic as intense conditioning, but in some organisations it may seem such a culture shock that going from relying on (or having the security of) a script. But employees still work within certain parameters, so it’s important to develop frameworks for different situations so people know how they can react, but they can still incorporate their own style and initiative.
It’s a two-way process
Your employees have a wealth of information on what your customers want and how the experience could be improved. Improving productivity and reducing costs will be a big part of this. While you might be empowering them, it’s important that they are also able to inform the process.
Restructure your thinking
Change can be hard and it’s important to remember that it’s ongoing. With a process such as this, it can be difficult for managers to take that step back to encourage and empower where they would once have been having final say and sign off. Ensure that you’re also paying attention to your managements’ needs during the process.
Put your money where your brand’s mouth is
Empowerment won’t work without training, so it’s important to invest in the people who will be delivering your organisation’s approach to customer issues. While they will also need training for the new approach, this may mean moving some of the investment that would have traditionally gone to managers.
If you would like to read more about creating a customer-centric culture, download our whitepaper.
If you’re wondering how to start the conversation internally and keep it going, join our webinar.