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Cultural Change: 5 Ways to Empower Employees with Customer Insights 

Nancy Porte | Nov 4, 2016 1,067 views 2 Comments

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As CX practitioners we tend be a “glass half full” group, and such optimism usually serves us well. Even so, it’s important to ask tough questions, including “How can the CX team, typically one of the smallest departments in a company, truly influence the culture and mindset of the entire organization?”

More specifically, how do you apply everything you’ve learned about customer wants and expectations to the front lines where it makes the greatest difference?

It’s often the case that these questions raise additional concerns. Organizations are typically challenged by enabling employees with the customer insights they collect. Also, it’s important to take a look at what you’re doing to align the longstanding behavioral norms within your organization and with your customers’ expectations.

These were issues I grappled with when thinking about a situation all CX professionals ultimately face:

  • What could the CX team do to ensure that the processes and practices we influenced and created were applied in a meaningful way—not only by customer-facing departments, but by all of those that impact customers?
  • In short, how could our team, in its relatively small form, influence the company as a whole?
  • More specifically in my case, how could we empower and engage employees to achieve our goal of creating customers for life?

I’m pleased to say the approach and roadmap we landed on proved to be highly successful and broadly applicable to any CX team intent on positively changing its organization’s culture. Although there are many definitions of culture, one of my favorites is from Harley Manning at Forrester who said that company culture is “what your employees do when you’re not in the room.” While admittedly an over-simplification of what’s involved, the following five steps will give any CX program the teeth it needs to bring about real cultural change.

1. Get your facts straight.

In previous columns, we discussed the importance and challenge of creating a great customer survey. Verint’s survey data provided a foundation to combine feedback tools such as interviews, focus groups and social media. We established a regular cadence for most surveys, but added transactional, pulse and segmental studies to our knowledge and understanding. As we started our Customers for Life initiative, we had more than three years of data directly from our customers. However, having the data is not enough.

2. Use analytics to determine what customers want and expect.

Analytics can be an intimidating word, but it’s imperative to make sense of your data and to understand what it reveals about customers wants and values. Analyzed properly, this information makes it possible not only to understand, but to articulate clearly what our customers expect of us. These include insights we can use to identify the guiding principles on which to build and sustain a viable, CX-inspired corporate culture.

One of the most helpful processes was a driver analysis. Using regression analysis, we determined what key attributes of the customer experience were the most important. The top satisfaction drivers were identified for the overall experience and for each key department. As a result, we were able to provide focus for not only our improvement projects, but also for communicating customer priorities to our employees.

3. Identify and articulate the guiding principles that will enable you to fully address customers’ expectations.

Once you know what customers want, it’s time to work with executive leadership to create guiding principles which will enable you to address customers’ desires directly and effectively, and ultimately to create a complimentary company culture. These guiding principles are unique to every organization, but in all cases they should be direct.

In our case, our analysis led us to a guiding principle that directly addressed our customers’ three key expectations: 1) that we understand our customers and their businesses, 2) proactively communicate with them, and 3) continually make it easier to do business with us. With this information, we created the following proprietary customer guiding principle:

“We will develop customers for life by enabling them to realize the full benefits of Verint Solutions and transforming the way they engage their customers. Our customers become champions when we understand their business needs, proactively communicate with them, and make it easy to do business with us throughout their journey.”

4. Use your guiding principles to transform expectations into behaviors.

Collecting and managing feedback, using analytics to determine customer expectations, and creating a guiding principle to address them is of value to the CX team. However, to create a corresponding culture that establishes customers for life requires employees from throughout the company to be fully engaged in the effort. In other words, you have to transform these expectations into behaviors that can be woven into the very fabric of how the organization operates.

The Employee Workshop

Workshops and training are crucial to ensure that employees are actively involved in furthering the work of the CX team. Following are several tenets of a successful workshop:

Identify the future state you hope to create and a clearly defined goal. Help employees understand not only what you are trying to create, but also how it will benefit them.
Make the guiding principle actionable. Success should clearly equate to the achievement of the goal or goals you have identified.
Be realistic. Realize that some aspects of company culture are intrinsic. Rather than perfection, you’re aiming for a customer-inspired culture.
Share ‘next steps’ to help ensure the workshop is not an outcome in and of itself. Ideally your partnership with HR will provide additional training, incentives and rewards that encourage CX-friendly behaviors.

We achieved this engagement in two ways. First, with the help of our executive sponsors, steering committee and human resources department, we held workshops for all customer-facing and customer-impacting departments to make them aware of the guiding principles we wanted the company and its culture to reflect. Even more importantly, we shared how these same principles could be applied by the participants in their work. The critical part of the workshop was an interactive portion that allowed employees to discuss how their roles helped develop strong customer relationships.

Then they were asked to identify behaviors that support customer needs and expectations. We captured all the input and are now developing training sessions to be delivered over the next six months. We’ll continue to monitor satisfaction levels and we anticipate seeing improvement. The lessons learned in the workshops empowered employees to play an important role in creating and defining our culture. Even as we plan the training, we know that we have an additional effort remaining in order to institutionalize these strategies.

5. Partner with HR to transform CX-inspired behaviors into official processes and practices.

Our partnership with HR not only helped support the workshops, but also identified and articulated behaviors that impacted customer sentiment. Unfortunately, these acquired lessons can quickly dissipate if there’s not a process in place to back them up. That’s why it’s important to partner closely with HR to achieve the long-term cultural change required to further the goals of the CX program. HR has the performance management expertise and the systems in place to tangibly and effectively reward employees for the behaviors the CX program calls for, and to negate those which are counterproductive.

By executing these steps, we were able to collect information from our customers, determine their expectations, create a guiding principle that would enable us to exceed them, and most importantly create behaviors that furthered our goal of creating customers for life. All companies are unique, and the steps above will differ by definition from organization to organization. But they do serve as a valuable roadmap that all practitioners can use to ensure that they are not only putting CX to work in their own efforts, but also the very organizations they serve.

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2 Responses to Cultural Change: 5 Ways to Empower Employees with Customer Insights

  1. Desirree Madison-Biggs November 7, 2016 at 12:21 pm (1 comment) #

    I appreciate the way Verint practices what they preach in a comprehensive, repeatable way. Nice work, Nancy!

  2. Michael Lowenstein November 9, 2016 at 5:40 am (1225 comments) #

    As an expansion on point #1, suggest including employees, as a sampling group along with customers, This provides “mirroring” insights, having employees give perspectives as to the value they think customers are receiving. These findings – often very revealing – can offer perspectives regarding gaps between customer and supplier views of value delivery.

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