CSP Happenings





Tagged: internal culture

Transforming your business’s perception of customer experience

August 15, 2017

If you’re a business executive, director or manager, you know customer experience should belong at the center of your daily activities. However, many organizations focus more on their operations, products and internal work environment than on their customers. How can businesses improve? Creating lasting structural change within an organization isn’t easy. However, executives can encourage their companies to transition toward customer-centricity by focusing on customer experience. Here are four major transitions in mindset and attitude executives can encourage:

As highlighted in this Forbes article, many companies are structured around products instead of customers. This is a symptom of a company being too self-involved to take a step back and understand its customers. When a business focuses too much on itself, it looks at the products it provides, how they can be improved and what new products they can bring to the table. Conversely, a customer-centric business understands who it serves, what their needs are and how the business can delight these individuals. Businesses must switch to customer-centric thinking by letting customers define their business, constantly soliciting feedback and putting their experiences at the forefront of the business.

Business helper to business differentiator

In financial services, most providers think they are relationship-focused above all else. However, according to the Bank Administration Institute, consumers rarely think of financial service providers as being relationship-focused. The reality is that the various responsibilities business face (marketing, sales, project administration, IT, etc.), while important, have the capacity to distract from the central goal of a business to make its customers happy. Businesses must move from a model that likes strong relationships with customers to a model that prioritizes strong customer relationships above all else.

Nice-to-have to must-have

Many businesses fail to regularly solicit feedback from customers. More commonly, businesses solicit feedback, but fail to analyze or act appropriately on their customers’ requests. Businesses tend to prioritize daily operations and revenue goals above trainings and meetings regarding customer experience because the day-to-day items feel more urgent. However, this designation of what is important is based on the perspective of the business professional, rather than the customer. Back-of-the-house work helps the business itself function, but does little to contribute to customer satisfaction. If a company’s priorities stay out-of-whack for too long, hundreds or thousands of customers are left with an underwhelming or mediocre perception of the company due to faltering customer experience. This underwhelming experience risks losing customers, and makes the brand’s/company’s value rely solely on the products it offers, which is a hugely risky strategy, as products are constantly changing and innovating among competitors. Making customers excited about the brands they do business with is a must-have.

General effort to specific behaviors

Almost all business care about customer experience, but they don’t know how to improve. Here is a typical, and poor, format for acting on customer feedback: Negative customer feedback comes in through dissatisfied customers reaching out to management, management calls together a meeting to highlight the issue and demand improvement, and employees make efforts to improve, masking over the underlying causes of poor customer experience for long enough that the issue slips from everyone’s mind. Sound familiar? This failed effort happens due to lack of ongoing coaching and training. The reality is that customer experience relies on a practiced set of behaviors and actions. CSP strives to utilize Voice of the Customer research to guide ongoing coaching sessions and training sessions with management. Meaningful change only comes when it is practiced regularly and when positive customer experience behaviors become engrained through repetition and training.

4 Strategies for Encouraging Cross-Departmental Collaboration

August 16, 2016

Cross-departmental collaboration is a reflection of a healthy internal culture. When employees feel comfortable working together, communicate effectively, and understand each other’s roles and functions within the system, your customer feels the difference.

common obstacles to cross-departmental collaboration and how to avoid them
What gets in the way of cross-departmental collaboration? 
Obstacle 1 – Tunnel Vision

When employees get too limited by the tunnel vision of their own job descriptions and team functions, frustration often ensues. This is often the root of communication breakdowns and interpersonal conflict. For example, an employee might make an unreasonable request from another team, assuming it was a simple request when it actually created a huge hassle.

Solution

Cross-train. Offer employees frequent opportunities to step into each other’s shoes, job-shadow each other, or train each other. The idea is not to make everyone essentially interchangeable, but to give employees a basic understanding of how each department functions, individually and as part of the bigger picture. This is especially important for regular processes that touch multiple departments.

Obstacle 2 – Ineffective Meetings
Employees would rather watch paint dry than attend ineffective meetings.

According to the same poll, 8% of employees would choose a root canal.

One poll found that 17 percent of employees would rather watch paint dry than attend a meeting. Ouch. Face-to-face time is essential to healthy collaboration – or at the very least, being on the same conference line or web conference. But meetings have a tendency to clog up calendars, disrupt the workday, go off-topic or off-schedule, or otherwise not accomplish their objectives.

Solution

Meet more mindfully. Before you schedule a meeting, think hard about how to make the most of that time. Meetings should have designated leaders, note-takers, and time-watchers. An agenda, prepared and provided in advance, can keep everyone on track. And there should be a plan in place to follow up on the meeting’s objectives and action steps before they are forgotten. Be mindful of scheduling, too – make sure employees have a chance between sessions to make meaningful progress. 

Obstacle 3 – Social Silos

Consciously or unconsciously, each department can wind up so isolated from the others that it’s effectively in its own silo. Its members only interact among themselves and rarely cross over to other territories. The result is a series of micro-cultures that aren’t always compatible. Much like the tunnel vision that prevents employees from understanding each other’s jobs, social silos prevent employees from understanding each other, period.

Solutions

Celebrate together. Create opportunities for employees to socialize with each other, during and after office hours. For example, you might consider a casual gathering on the final Friday of each month, and rotate the duty of “hosting” this gathering between departments or teams. You can use these opportunities to highlight positive progress and accomplishments from various teams – but unlike meetings, these gatherings don’t need a strict agenda.

Uniting around a common goal is one of the best ways to break down silo walls. So another way to get groups to mix up or interact could be to introduce a goal or project that isn’t directly related to work functions. Examples include: a charitable drive, a company 5K team, annual outings, regular “Happy Hours,” or some friendly competition like a costume contest around Halloween. All of these can break the ice and help employees see each other as people, not just co-workers.

Obstacle 4 – Top-Down Direction
cross-departmental collaboration can't happen without the right leadership

Cross-departmental collaboration can’t happen unless managers lead by example.

Direction and leadership are not the same. Cross-departmental collaboration requires buy-in from all involved, including and especially the designated leaders of any given group. Otherwise, the entire effort feels inauthentic. Managers, after all, are just as susceptible to social siloes and tunnel vision as their staff.

The other side of this coin is whether or not employees feel they have a voice in how their departments are run, and in how departments interact. If they don’t feel they have an opportunity to raise an issue, ask a question, or be proactive, there’s little motivation to simply follow orders.

Solutions

This one is twofold. First, department heads should be modeling cross-departmental collaboration by regularly and visibly engaging with each other – and with each other’s teams. If they notice that their department is becoming too isolated or is hesitant to collaborate with others, these leaders should be the first to start building bridges, and not just directing others to do so. Second, you need a mechanism in place to effectively collect employee feedback, in a way that makes employees feel safe from any negative consequences for speaking up. CSP highly recommends a Voice of the Employee program to gather this kind of data.

 

Your culture is the result of your actions and your priorities. Cross-departmental collaboration is not the kind of thing that can be enforced upon your staff. It must be nurtured at all levels of the organization, with deliberate intention, even when other priorities seem more immediately urgent.


More reading on this topic:

5 Compelling Reasons to Measure Employee Engagement

March 2, 2016

The ongoing cycle of customer experience success is comprised of four main influencers: Employees, Customers, Management, and Data. In this series, CSP examines the Employee segment of that cycle and the benefits of focusing on internal culture to drive success.

Understanding Employee Engagement

As defined by the Corporate Leadership Council, “Engagement is the extent to which employees commit to something or someone in their organization and how hard they work and how long they stay as a result of that commitment.”

Engagement is all about intentionally creating a motivating workplace environment, while simultaneously aligning individual employee talents with business strategy. Employees engaged in their work are likely to be motivated, to work with passion, to remain committed to their employer, and to stay focused on achieving business goals and driving the organization’s future.

Why It’s Important to Measure Employee Engagement

1 – Employee engagement directly correlates with performance and business results

No business can expect to grow and achieve sustainable success without an engaged workforce. This is especially true as it applies to customer service and satisfaction. Customer experience is nurtured from the inside out, and relies on competent, well-trained, and highly motivated employees. Sure, you may deliver annual performance reviews and objectives, but that’s only scratching the surface of the overall success of your team.

2 – Being a ‘Great Place to Work’ attracts top talent

A company’s reputation as an employer is one factor determining the quality of applicants for open positions, be they external or internal applicants. Being a great place to work is not just about bragging rights and publicity, it demonstrates to potential candidates (not to mention customers and the general public) that you are doing the all the right things to keep your employees feeling fulfilled. Any worthy candidate will see this as extra incentive to join your team. It may even attract them away from competitors with similar openings available.

3 – Engaged employees are emotionally invested

Your contract with your employees goes beyond tangible benefits like compensation and benefits. How employees feel about their jobs – their managers, their workload and hours, the company’s mission and the quality of the product or service – makes the difference between a job that looks good on paper and one that is satisfying in practice. Employees who are emotionally invested in the company’s success are among your greatest assets.   

CostofReplacing4 – High engagement reduces employee churn

The highest-engaged employees are the least likely to look for or take other employment opportunities that come their way. Naturally, it follows that those who are the least engaged are also the least committed to staying on the team. Not only is it costly to regularly lose employees and have to replace them, voluntary departures affect the morale of the rest of the team.

5 – Engagement can’t be ‘felt,’ it must be measured

While a manager may have a sense of who the most and least engaged members of the team are, many employees will fall somewhere in the invisible middle. These employees are susceptible to being swayed in either direction. Improving individual and overall engagement is only achievable if you know the baseline from which you’re working. Employee engagement metrics take many of the intangible motivators of performance success and make them tangible, visible, and trackable. That’s an essential step for setting goals and implementing internal initiatives to improve engagement.

More posts on internal culture and employee engagement: