No matter how “e” or electronic your company, your employees need to be prepared and motivated to deliver the right experiences.
Operational dashboards. BYOD (bring your own device) policies and mobile apps. KPI scorecards.
These are effective tools for keeping employees engaged and productive. But when it comes to ensuring front-line employees are ambassadors for your CX program, e-tools can’t do the job alone. It takes creativity, hard work, and—speaking for my company, at least—an ongoing commitment to find fresh, new ways to extend the CX culture throughout the organization.
Verint has some of the strongest executive-level commitment to a CX program of any company I know. In previous CustomerThink posts, I’ve written about how to cultivate leadership support for CX initiatives, but that’s not all you need. While the best CX programs start in the C-suite and move throughout the organization, their long-term success must come from the bottom up. We’re making that undeniable truth the centerpiece of a new program at our company, and it’s called the CX Catalyst Network.
These are the three key strategies we’ve used to build this program:
1. Cultivate the grassroots
Two years ago, after gaining C-level executive sponsorship for our initial corporate CX program, we stepped up our game by creating a “Customers for Life” steering committee made up of VPs and directors from services, support, renewals and sales—all customer-facing teams. And, while they’ve done a great job at being CX evangelists along with their daily responsibilities, we found there was a gap between their efforts and their frontline employees. We needed another layer for training and modeling CX behavior at the day-to-day, grassroots level.
This year, we are launching a CX Catalyst Network made up of managers and other formal—or informal—leaders with a passion for the customer. We’re asking each department director to identify the best candidates for the network based on a Customer Catalyst Profile we’ve developed. The profile includes these traits:
- Is a true Customer Champion.
- Thrives in a team environment.
- Can balance internal protocol against the needs of our customers.
- Is able to influence the belief system of their peers and/or subordinates.
- Can respectfully challenge and provide feedback to leadership.
- Will exceed the status quo.
- Has a strong internal network and can work across organizational lines.
- Is familiar with departmental KPIs and how to drive performance through a balanced CX program.
- Has strong negotiation skills.
To show we mean business, we’re asking each CX Catalyst to contribute 20-25 percent of their time to CX activities, and they will be held accountable for those activities in their annual performance reviews. We’ll be starting with a training retreat to prepare and motivate our Catalysts, to be sure everyone is aligned on the definition of customer experience and has a basic understanding of how it all works.
We want them to be CX experts, extensions of our CX team and, even more importantly, CX role models for everyone they work and interact with. To guide the network, our mission statement will be produced by the CX Catalysts in training, and will encompass these traits and themes.
2. Leverage employee knowledge
The thing I like most about our plan for a CX Catalyst Network is that it will formalize and leverage our very best CX asset — our frontline, customer-facing employees. These employees not only talk with customers every day and hear what their pain points are, but they also have insight into what’s causing the pain, and where the operational obstacles are. They’re experts on both sides of the CX equation, and our CX Catalyst Network will tap into that wealth of knowledge.
We use a survey that assesses the voice of the customer through the employee (VOC-E): what they hear, customer-focused improvements they recommend, and where we are not meeting customer expectations. These surveys can tell you things that a customer survey will not.
For example, last year, general customer dissatisfaction with the time it took to resolve technical issues left our CX team in a quandary in regard to locating the source of the issue. On the other hand, the employee survey lead us right to it, with data that embodied operational context around the issue. We learned that rather than implementing a single, drastic change, the issue could be improved by a number of small changes to processes, systems and training. We were able to implement many of the suggested changes and have enjoyed increased customer satisfaction since.
Our CX Catalysts will be empowered to take issues like these and quickly find a way to solve them, across organizational lines, if necessary.
3. Position the workforce for action
As with any corporate initiative, positioning is important. We were going to call our new program leaders “CX Advocates,” but you can be an advocate without doing anything. Not so with catalysts. Catalysts get things started, inspire change, and influence others. We want to make it very clear that this is an action-oriented and empowered position in which merely talking about good customer experience isn’t good enough. Launching said action is expected and required.
While we’re on the topic of language, I know a lot of companies differentiate between customer-facing and back-office employees. I don’t like the term ‘back-office’ because it implies that the employees don’t have an impact on the customer experience, when of course they do. This specialized group certainly has an impact on overall customer satisfaction if the bills sent to clients aren’t accurate.
I prefer the terms ‘customer-facing’ and ‘customer-impacting,’ which does a better job of emphasizing the role each one plays in CX. Other companies call their back-office employees ‘offstage’ employees. I like that, too, because offstage workers are integral to the quality of a performance and the audience’s appreciation, as well as experience, of it.
Improving the customer experience is a never-ending process, a crusade with many facets, carried out on many fronts. Even as we are working on the CX Catalyst Network launch, I am actively discussing with Human Resources how to include CX proclivities in our hiring profiles.
Informally, most of the leaders on our Customers for Life steering committee are already changing the way they interview. They are seeking hires with a strong CX orientation. In addition, customer-facing department heads are getting very specific in their performance management objectives about the things that drive customer satisfaction. Through these efforts, we’re able to document and provide incentives for employee behavior that drives customer satisfaction, and that, as we all agree, is an investment worth making.
Your Customers for Life is an inspiring program, especially in that it hits all the marks necessary for a) optimizing the employee experience and b) linking employee attitudes and behaviors, irrespective of level or function within the enterprise, to desired customer outcomes.
We’ve been conducting targeted research, and counseling clients on building employee ambassadorship (and mitigating or eliminating negativism), for more than a decade.
Going beyond the HR-based alignment and productivity boundaries of engagement, the key objectives of ambassadorship are to create greater customer focus and leverage commitment to to the organization, its products and service value proposition, its customers, and fellow employees. My forthcoming book, Employee Ambassadorship, addresses all of this. Creating CX catalysts is very much in line with strategies and tactics covered in the book. Please let me know if you would like to review the book – I’d very much value your perspectives.
Nancy, great points here! I especially love the concept of VOC-E and also think you’re right on with the word “catalysts.” If I mention either of these at my company, I promise to use air quotes!
Michael & Jeremy,
Thank you for reading the article – and your comments! We are certainly on an amazing journey and your support is much appreciated!!
I always learn from your perspective and would be honored to talk to you about reviewing your book!
FYI. People Magazine just published a list of “50 Companies That Care”. The #2-listed company is Ultimate Software, which has a long-standing “People First” philosophy and has programs which would resonate with you and folks at Verint. Last year, I co-facilitated a webinar with a senior exec from Ultimate Software (http://www.ultimatesoftware.com/Contact/hcm-webcast-designing-an-exceptional-employee-experience-from-the-inside-out) and also co-wrote a white paper on employee ambassadorship