Develop an Engagement Strategy That Prioritizes Employee Satisfaction and Recognition

Whether your company actively recognizes this notion or not, one fact’s for sure – your employees are your greatest asset by far. From those who operate along the frontlines, to those who maintain systems behind-the-scenes, your employees are the cornerstones of your brand’s existence. They interact with customers on a daily basis, making them the face of your brand. Success lies within their will and ability to deliver consistent, superior customer service at every touchpoint along the path to purchase. Yet, in many instances, leaders take their employees for granted, as they neglect to consider their insights and needs in pursuit of the elusive, almighty dollar.

Despite the fact that most leaders declare “our people” as one of their company’s prime competitive differentiators, not every brand has the proper engagement strategies in place. Actions speak louder than words and, in such cases, what these leaders say doesn’t always align with what they do. Brands that merely “talk the talk” offer employees little room for growth or feedback. But, for those companies that truly value their employees—the brands that also “walk the walk”—said individuals have ample opportunity to communicate and grow alongside the brand itself.

An effective employee engagement strategy requires emphasis on both satisfaction and recognition, as it’s not enough to simply provide these individuals with a generous benefits package and send them on their way. More than anything, today’s employees crave purpose. They wish to counter the world’s negative energy by making a positive impact one customer at a time, and that starts within the bubble of your business. After all, as a leader, you have the power to empower your employees to speak up and speak out against injustices within their ranks and throughout the organization, as they fight for what’s right for the customer day after day. You have the authority to enact programs and protocols that enable these employees to excel. You have the right to reward those whose performance elevates the customer’s brand experience.

But, at their core, what elements do such strategies command? What does it take to convey that your company cares for its employees like family? Here are the four building blocks every brand must use as its foundation for engagement:

 

Listen

First and foremost, your company must establish a forum that empowers employees to speak up and share constructive feedback without the fear of retaliation. In many instances, employees are afraid to share their concerns because they might face backlash from their colleagues or superiors. But such an air of trepidation can create a toxic work environment that permeates the ranks. Employees must feel free to share insights and opinions in an atmosphere that begets respect. For engagement to truly take hold, employees must know that their voice carries value.

If there’s any doubt, employees might flee to the competition. But, as on the customer front, it costs far less to retain your staff than to hire and onboard new employees. Thus, it’s imperative that you institute the processes necessary to amplify the complaints and criticisms of your current employees.

 

Change

Once your company’s leadership team turns its ears to the voices of its employees, you must also bring this influx of insight to action. It’s one thing to gather feedback, but it’s another to use this data to fuel change across the enterprise. Employees want to feel safe and supported when they share feedback, but they also want to know that their suggestions will influence improvements and adjustments in the way the company operates. Communicate how you plan to use their ideas and keep them up-to-date at every stage of development. Not only will this promote trust and transparency throughout the entire company, but it will also establish a precedent for how leaders handle employee feedback in the future.

 

Recognize

While employees might be motivated by a desire to provide the best possible customer experience at the start, they’ll inevitably become fatigued if their efforts go unrecognized. Company leadership must constantly be on the lookout for top performers so they may recognize and reward these employees for going above and beyond expectations. Ideally, leaders will set balanced goals based upon achieving key performance indicators (KPIs) for customer satisfaction and loyalty. It’s also important for leaders to recognize and reward both groups and individuals for their customer experience efforts, as some successes are collaborative, while others result from the actions of one lone individual. Companywide awards offer leaders the opportunity to declare their appreciation publicly, but employees should also be compensated for attaining measurable customer satisfaction gains.

Not sure what steps your team should take when launching your company’s own recognition program? Learn more about CRMI’s Employee Rewards Program here.

 

Educate

If your company’s truly invested in its employees, leaders will also be eager to invest in their continued education. In an era where technology evolves at breakneck pace, it’s often difficult for employees to remain knowledgeable about every possible twist or turn on the customer’s path to purchase. Thus, by committing to a continuous CEM training program, which includes both soft, people skills and technical or job-based competence, leadership demonstrates its desire to help staff members be the best they can be. Plus, advanced-level instruction can ultimately pay big dividends for your company and provide career advancement opportunities for employees, which benefits everyone involved.

Not sure how to boost your employees’ customer relationship skills? Learn more about CRMI’s certified CEM Professional (CEMPRO) training here.

Master These Omnichannel Management Strategies to Boost Workforce Optimization

CEM and Employee Engagement

With numerous channels at their disposal around the clock, the average customer journey no longer adheres to one predictable path. Thus, as companies evolve to satisfy demand, they have begun to adopt new technologies and strategies that enable them to meet the consumer where they work and play. Whether it’s in-person or online, customer-centric brands constantly work to expand their reach so they can maintain consistency across channels at all times. Yet, while this new normal has set the bar higher, many businesses have yet to grasp these new strategies to their fullest extent.

Leaders understand that their companies must establish a presence along each available avenue on the path to purchase, but many still struggle to achieve workforce optimization in the face of these emerging technologies, as the key to success lies in balancing the needs of both the agents and customers to augment productivity and experience. But, by mastering the four fundamental forms of management—field service, help desk, knowledge, and online community forum—businesses can develop the omnichannel approach they need to bring customer centricity to the next level.

Field Service Management

Despite the popular turn toward digital, many customer service interactions still take place in person. Whether it’s in-stores or in the field, there are some needs that simply can’t be satisfied over the phone or online. Thus, not only do your customer service representatives need to be equipped with the technology necessary to fulfill their duties—access to the customer’s history, for instance, might help them pinpoint any underlying or recurring issues—but they also need to have the proper personnel training. Customer service representatives must have people skills in order to establish and sustain the type of rapport that supports loyalty and retention.

Help Desk Management

Because help desks generally consist of internal operations that assist employees and business partners as they manage their various IT assets, leaders must focus on hiring and training strong employees who are motivated to provide exceptional service every single day. To ensure these employees have the capacity to handle any task, brands must develop an enterprisewide culture that enables representatives to track issues end-to-end so nothing slips through the cracks. It’s increasingly important to provide consistent, personalized support, as customers can easily turn to the competition at any moment. Customer service experiences can make or break these long-term relationships.

Knowledge Management (Self-Service/Remote Support)

Knowledge management acts an umbrella term for the self-service and remote support options modern companies must offer consumers. Because customers are distinctly independent today, they often seek self-service opportunities before they ever engage with representatives. They’d much prefer to solve their issue on their own, if possible. Companies must, therefore, establish the framework and strategies required to develop self-service portals that provide omnichannel access to the information they need to answer their questions and solve their problems. Remote support, of course, remains a byproduct of knowledge management and self-service, as these technologies empower agents to provide seamless service from afar.

Online Community Forum Management

In many cases, consumers turn to one another for assistance when they encounter issues with a particular product or service. Many seek advice from their Twitter followers. Others share their problem on public forums in hope that others will have experienced (and solved) the dilemma. When people pursue this route, it’s often because they couldn’t rectify the issue via the brand’s self-service database.

However, because these inquiries are typically posted on third-party sites, leaders must decide how to intervene. Here, CRMI outlines the questions companies must answer when developing their approach:

  1. Agree on your forum governance model. How involved do you want to be in managing your forum?
  2. Agree on intervention protocols. What kind of comments, questions and issues are going to prompt a facilitator intervention?
  3. Determine intervention procedures. What are your approval processes for releasing intervention content?
  4. Determine intervention responsibilities. Who is your primary facilitator/site manager?
  5. Ensure proper training for facilitator/site manager. Can someone with extensive customer service experience handle the site? Do they need specialist media training?
  6. Ensure community members know rules of engagement. Make sure the moderation rules are appropriate for your forum.

But, before implementing any new technologies and strategies, leaders must take stock of their company’s current state and perform an audit to establish strengths and weaknesses across the enterprise. Leaders must understand where they suffer and where they excel so they can focus on improving specific management techniques. While some companies will require a complete overhaul, many will find they’re already on the road to success. After all, workforce optimization can’t thrive without deliberate, effective strategies to guide service and experience initiatives. When employees are equipped with the tools and training they need to succeed, everyone wins.

On the Road to Key Account Management, Customer Journey Maps Pave the Path

Prior to the introduction of social media and smartphones, the customer journey was typically linear. Consumers often traveled from the top of funnel to the point of sale with nary a detour. But, now that there are numerous inlets for onboarding, leaders must ensure that each available touchpoint offers customers a coherent brand experience at every stage of the average lifecycle. That’s where customer journey mapping comes into play.

Originally, companies used customer journey maps as an opportunity to nail down any customer experience issues that might arise. However, customer journey maps have become an integral part of the customer experience development process, as these tools offer leaders insight into how consumers might perceive and interact with the brand at all points of entry. Analyzing the customer journey from the initial point of contact to the inevitable point of sale can help leaders determine the best way to nurture such accounts along their path to purchase.

While discovering customer pain points will always prove useful, the fruits of these labors can’t be reaped if leaders don’t have the appropriate guidelines in place to rectify issues and alleviate strain. Thus, customer journey maps provide each member of an organization—from the C-suite to the frontline—with insight into how to manage every single account at the most basic level. Customers now expect instant results, after all, so companies must be prepared to serve every need in real time at any point along the customer journey.
To ensure that customers don’t encounter any obstacles on their path to purchase, companies need to hone their key account management strategies. Because customers and clients can now enter the funnel at multiple touchpoints simultaneously, leaders must integrate methods that’ll guarantee consistency and relevancy in an environment where disparate channels can limit the brand’s ability to satisfy the customer’s wants and needs from the moment of first contact.
Before companies can achieve effective key account management, leaders must first recognize that it’s difficult to treat all customers and clients equally. While everyone deserves top-notch customer service, leaders must segment their client base in order to determine which accounts are the most crucial for their brand’s continued success. Segmentation, as it stands, empowers leaders to assess and categorize customer relationships in an effort to deliver appropriate levels of service at critical moments throughout the customer journey.

Typically, basic account segmentation falls into one of three categories:

Tier I: Significant annual revenue and/or strategic value
Tier II: Potential significant annual growth and/or customer lifetime value
Tier III: All remaining customer accounts

Ultimately, resources can become strained if employees are forced to devote equal amounts of time to clients that don’t ultimately yield the same level of profit. Thus, forming more targeted customer relationships affords companies the opportunity to boost loyalty, sales, and profits. Of course, while exceptional service must be the standard for every client, companies must use this baseline to take relationships with key accounts to the next level.

Segmentation certainly isn’t an exact science, but this process enables organizations to break customers into manageable groups as leaders work to make sense of an increasingly saturated market. Despite the allure, leaders must not become distracted by those accounts that promise the greatest revenue gains, as relationship value must also be derived from the client’s potential for strategic partnerships over time. It’s easy for brands to become preoccupied with the “shiny” prospects that pose the highest potential for profitability. However, it’s important to start small and proceed with caution so as not to strain your resources—or your client’s resources—as you work to establish a synergy that empowers both companies to succeed.

To guarantee that both new and existing customer relationships flourish, leaders will want to train key account managers, as they will become the client’s first point of contact for any service needs they might have throughout their lifecycle. Because they’re responsible for nurturing said strategic, long-term relationships, they must be well equipped with an intimate knowledge of the client and their personal goals, as collaboration remains the cornerstone of any effective, proactive partnership.

But, with the help of customer journey mapping, companies have the capacity to understand clients in new ways as they work to hone their key account management strategies. With critical information in hand, companies have the tools they need to acquaint themselves with prospects right from the start and use data from these early interactions to tailor engagements to meet prospects’ needs in an effort to convert and retain clients. Every interaction matters, especially in a market with ample competitors. By knowing precisely what the client hopes to accomplish, key account managers can provide personalized service that ultimately benefits both parties every step of the way, thereby carving a path that leads to profitability for all involved.

Keep the Lines of CX Communication Open

Keep the Lines of CX Communication Open

What’s in it for me? That’s the question key stakeholders will ask as you build your customer experience management (CEM) roadmap.

What they’re really asking is:

  • How will they or their team benefit?
  • What will they be expected to do differently—and at what cost in terms of time and effort?
  • And, how does their role link to customer experience, satisfaction, and loyalty?

With the groundwork of your CEM program defined, it’s time for formal communications with your key stakeholders to answer those questions, and to gain their support as you implement your plans.

Who are those stakeholders? They’re the internal and external groups you’ve been surveying and analyzing all along; getting their input to ensure that your CEM efforts will be supported internally, and are as relevant to employees as they will be to customers. Of course, your stakeholders naturally are curious about what it all means to them, their team, and their workload.

Your CEM program sets expectations for process improvements in your customer- and employee-facing operations. You now must communicate those expectations broadly and repeatedly. This will help to ensure understanding, buy-in, and participation.

You also must communicate transparently the results of your CEM strategy. If you don’t share this information, you’ll lose credibility with your stakeholders. Not only will they be less likely to embrace the needed changes to meet the expectations set in your CEM program, but, without follow-up communication, they’ll be left to assume by your silence that the results of the company’s CEM efforts are negative.

Initially, not every component of your CEM strategy will meet its stated objectives. That’s OK. Those elements will likely improve over time with changes and adjustment. In fact, it’s important to communicate the planned changes so stakeholders can stay apprised of progress and improvements, and understand how these adjustments may impact their roles and responsibilities.

But, of course, there will be wins. So, you’ll have a compelling story to tell about those specific improvements in customer satisfaction and loyalty.

You can use tools such as benchmarking and satisfaction studies to showcase your initial and ongoing successes to key internal and external audiences. You can also use these communications tools to further brand your CEM strategy and keep its momentum moving forward.

Remember: Transparency and frequent communication are essential to the short- and long-term success of your CEM efforts. Without those critical elements, your stakeholders will consider CEM as just another “program of the week” and revert to their easier and less customer-centric ways of operating.

 Communications to stakeholders is part of the CEMDNA Assess phase—along with win-back strategy and ROI—and one of the 12 of the components that comprise the CEMDNA Playbook Strategy.

Tying Employee Performance to Customer Satisfaction

Tying Employee Engagement to Customer Satisfaction

When looking at how companies measure employee performance, one thing is clear: There’s wide variation across industries in terms of how well businesses are incorporating customer satisfaction into the mix. Generally, companies do a poor job of linking performance to satisfaction. Although we have seen improvements recently, many companies still struggle to enhance the processes linking performance to satisfaction.

One of the key factors required to link satisfaction to employee performance is having sound methods to collect the satisfaction data. Companies that have poor satisfaction measurement methods have trouble linking the results to performance because there’s either not enough data or the data is suspect. Without a reliable foundation of results, employees will resist efforts to link their performance to satisfaction.

Those companies that are successfully tying satisfaction to performance are able to do so because they have clear goals and processes, as well as quality data. Consider the following approaches for improving your satisfaction and performance management processes:

Collect enough data to support evaluating individuals or teams. If there is not enough data to measure individuals, then setting goals and measuring performance at the team level is a viable and sometimes preferable alternative.

Set measurable goals for satisfaction, rather than “soft” targets based on perception. Having weak references to customer satisfaction in a performance review does not focus employees on delivering higher levels of service.

Ensure that customer satisfaction is a heavily weighted component of performance evaluations. The weighting should have a direct impact on compensation for the employees. If possible, put a bonus program in place to reward the staff achieving the desired satisfaction results.

Tie performance objectives to employee-controllable elements, as well as overall satisfaction. These include knowledge and expertise, professionalism, quality of solution, timeliness of status updates, and other factors in an employee’s control.

Regularly review satisfaction results with the staff and include them on performance scorecards or other productivity reports. This will ensure that employees are aware of customers’ satisfaction with their current performance and enable them to focus on areas that need improving.

Following these simple suggestions will have a positive impact on your overall customer satisfaction program and drive the staff towards delivering improved results on a consistent basis. Programs such as the Service Capability & Performance (SCP) Standards can help drive improvements in this area and will help set specific measurable targets for customer satisfaction.

About the Author
Greg Coleman is a principal partner and vice president of Strategic Programs for Service Strategies Corp. He has more than 25 years of experience in the high-technology service and support field. Greg has worked with leading technology services organizations to develop and deploy global standards for service excellence and has assessed the performance of hundreds of service organizations worldwide. You can reach Greg at gcoleman@servicestrategies.com

Treating Employees as an Asset

Employee Engagement

Do you consider the quality and performance of your employees as a major business asset? You should. Indeed, many firms list “our people” as their biggest competitive differentiator.

It’s also true that payroll, benefits, and other direct costs linked to employees are the number one expense item for most organizations. This includes the cost of replacing employees, which is similar to the cost of acquiring new customers.

Add to all this the fact that employees are the ones who interact most frequently with your external stakeholders, and it becomes obvious that happy, satisfied employees breed satisfied, loyal customers, suppliers, business partners, and shareholders.

Even so, most organizations lack a formal, structured employee engagement program to engage, reward, and retain employees for delivering outstanding customer service or to educate them on strengthening their CEM knowledge and skills.

Employee engagement means understanding, measuring, and improving the emotional relationship between employees and their work. It’s about more than employee satisfaction; it relates to measuring and improving items that will directly affect business outcomes. According to Gallup, companies with more engaged employees outperformed the earnings-per-share of their competitors by 18%.

Employee engagement is typically not wholly owned by the HR organization, but requires the active involvement of line management, as well. Here are two areas to consider as you work with HR to build out your employee engagement strategy:

  • Employee recognition and compensation –Set balanced goals based on achieving key performance indicators (KPIs) for customer satisfaction and loyalty. Recognize and reward employees individually and/or by groups. Most important, link employee compensation to achieving measurable gains in customer satisfaction.
  • Employee trainingCommit to a continuous employee training program on customer experience management (CEM), including soft skills such as conflict resolution, as well as technical or job-based competence. In addition, take advantage of certification courses that are available in customer experience, CRM, and CEM. This advanced-level instruction can pay big dividends for your company and provide career advancement for employees.

Employee engagement is part of the Act phase—along with corrective action and change management—and one of the 12 of the components that comprise the CEMDNA Playbook Strategy.

Avoid These Employee Motivation Killers

It’s essential to arm yourself with various strategies you can use to motivate—and retail—your employees. But, it’s equally important to learn what not to do. Here five are workplace motivation killers to beware of.

Negativity
If you’ve been around someone with a bad attitude, you likely understand how detrimental that energy can be to their colleagues’ work demeanor. Use clear policies and coaching to minimize the risk of employees spreading toxic energy through.

Lack of Growth
If employees aren’t growing, they may get complacent or bored. There should be constant learning opportunities for the betterment of the team, and, thus, the company. Professional development is an investment in the success of your business.

Blurry Vision
Transparent communication and a clear vision and mission set an effective company direction and focus. If the vision is muddled, even the most formidable employees won’t be able to operate at their peak performance levels. Ensure that all employees have a clear understanding of the company’s vision.

Trashed Time
If your organization holds two-hour meetings where nothing is truly accomplished, it’s likely your employees harbor frustrations. Don’t waste people’s time. Make sure the goal of each meeting is explicit , the agenda is clear, and that there is follow up afterward.

Lack of Appreciation
Employees don’t expect a gold star at the completion of each task, but it is important to recognize a job well done–especially when someone goes above and beyond expectations. If an employee puts in an extra few hours each day on a big project, devotes weekends, or exhibits extreme dedication, management should recognize those efforts. Recognition can be as simple as a sincere in-person thank you or god big by circulating an email about the person’s accomplishments to the team or company. As the adage goes, a little goes a long way.

Don’t let these employee motivation killers hurt your business. Improve your workplace by recognizing potential demotivators and creating effective solutions. In doing so you’ll build, strengthen, and maintain passionately loyal employees for life.