CX (Customer Experience) & CSAT (customer satisfaction) start with contact center frontline employee engagement & ESAT (Employee Satisfaction).

By Peg Ayers

Everybody wants to improve the Customer Experience (CX) they provide, right?  But maybe you believe it’s just too expensive to even think about it.  Your organization is doing its best with the resources it has.  What else can you do?  Plenty!

Providing poor CX is incredibly expensive!  A 2019 survey, which interviewed more than 6,000 consumers in Australia, Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States says 72% of respondents said, “I am loyal to a certain brand, but as soon as I have a bad experience with them, I move on.” (Acquia Survey)

What’s the cost to your organization if nearly three quarters of your customers go elsewhere?

Research suggests the cost of providing bad CX is climbing rapidly, from $20 Billion USD annually in 2013 to $62B in 2016 (Forbes-Hyken) to $83B in 2017 (Customer Think-Jaiswal).  You can do the math easily for yourself.  What’s 72% of your annual revenue?  Can you afford for that revenue to go to your competitors because your customer has one bad experience?    This is the beginning of a compelling cost/benefit analysis!

Just as you shouldn’t put off going to the gym until you lose weight, you shouldn’t put off improving your CX until you’ve put together a big budget.  There are low cost solutions you can implement today.

Start with your frontline employees, the people who are dealing with your customers.

Customers want a convenient, personalized experience that meets their needs.  Your own employees have opinions on how to make that happen.  To get them to tell you, you’ll need to gain their trust.  This means leading by example and listening without judgment to what they have to say.  Your interest is improving CX must be clear in everything you do.  Here are a couple of ways to find out what they have to say.

Listening Sessions

Lead listening sessions with employees, making the groups small enough for everybody to speak but large enough so they can build on one another’s ideas.  Lay out the goal of the session and set a specific timeframe for the discussion.  Begin by telling them you’re interested in how to make their interactions more convenient for the customers AND for them.  Let them know you expect respectful conversation that’s focused on making improvements for the customers.  There should be no personal attacks, within the group or on other employees or departments, and what’s discussed in the group shouldn’t be repeated.

Some questions to spark discussion:

  • Thinking about the past week, tell me about something that made it difficult for you to provide good service to a customer.
  • What complaint do you hear most from our customers?
  • If you had my job, what’s the first thing you’d change?
  • What do customers like best about us?
  • What do our competitors offer that we don’t?
  • What is the best thing about what we offer to our customers?
  • Tell me about something that takes your time and doesn’t help customers.
  • What would our customers like us to START? STOP? CONTINUE?
  • If we asked customers if they’d recommend us to others, what would they say and why?

As the session leader, your job is to keep the discussion focused on improvement and not allow it to become a negative gripe session.  It is NOT your job to respond to every comment—the less you talk, the more you learn.  Have a scribe record the comments on a board in front of the group (take a picture at the end) or on paper that can be saved.

As you’re approaching the end of the meeting, you want to bring the focus back to areas the frontline can control, so they walk out thinking about how they can contribute.  Now is the time to empower them as customer advocates.  It’s up to them to provide excellent service and to let you know when they see areas where CX can be improved.

If the meeting has identified several issues in the control of your own department, you might list them and let the group vote on which are most important to pursue.  A method I’ve had good results with is 10-4 voting, where each person has 10 votes and can put no more than 4 votes on any one suggestion.  Once the highest priorities are identified, action items can be created for the group to work on in team meetings or in special committees.  Depending on how much time you can devote, this may be two meetings, one to brainstorm issues and another to identify action items.

Creating Successful Listening Sessions

  • Stay positive—don’t allow sniping at one another or other departments
  • Keep reactions even—don’t get excited about one idea and look appalled at another
  • Prevent any individual from dominating the discussion
  • Create safety for all participants
  • Remain calm and non-defensive
  • Record all ideas—no judgment

Suggestion Programs

Everyone has unpleasant memories of suggestion programs gone wrong, beginning with great enthusiasm and fizzling from lack of attention after a few short weeks or months.  A badly run suggestion program is worse than none at all.

A well-run suggestion program can give your employees a way to share their ideas in writing and can be a stand-alone program or an addition to listening sessions.  I’ve had success with a combination approach:  listening sessions where each employee participates at least a couple of times a year plus an online suggestion program that’s available whenever they have an idea.  In my contact centers, I’ve also offered a graffiti-style feedback system that I’ve written about before.

Creating Successful Suggestion Programs

  • Introduce it in person—during listening sessions, team meetings or an all-hands gathering
  • Kick it off with fun—snacks, balloons, posters, whatever works for your folks
  • Designate a champion—a leader who will keep the program fresh
  • Make suggesting easy—online is best
  • Require thoughtful suggestions, including the idea AND the concrete/measurable benefits
  • Consider giving out a small token for each unique suggestion
  • Offer a prize for the suggestion that creates the greatest benefit (to customer or company)
  • Follow up with employees on every suggestion—if not implementing, give the reasons why
  • Spread the suggestions around to the appropriate leaders—then follow up to ensure action
  • Designate an administrator for the program and allow time for daily/weekly action
  • Automate initial responses to suggestions and make additional follow up convenient

Employees will have to see some success with the suggestion program before they take it seriously, especially if they’ve seen other great programs come and go like the “flavor of the month.”  That’s why follow up is so critical.  Leaders in the organization must support it and answer suggestions that come to them thoughtfully and quickly.  If an employee makes a suggestion and it languishes in someone’s email inbox for months, they won’t make another, and neither will their coworkers.

Listening sessions and suggestion programs require relatively little investment and are two ways you can kick-start a focus on CX in your organization, even before budget is available for more sophisticated CX solutions.  The Return on Investment (ROI) for improved Customer Experience can be amazing, and companies that focus on CX reap the benefits each day. At ApexCX, we’re ready to help you reap those benefits.  Just CLICK HERE to schedule a free consultation.

Please Contact ApexCX for all your customer experience needs.

(Apr 9, 2020)