Friday, February 27, 2009

Is Your Service “Wow” or “Ow”? Here’s How You Can Tell…

Today's Blog is written by Barbara Hughes, ICC's Co-Founder
How would you describe the customer experience you provide – in just a few words? More importantly, what would your employees or customers say about your service? Perhaps they would say “completely taken care of” or maybe, “taken for granted”.

We use a lot of words to describe what we want from our customer efforts: committed, loyal, engaged, or satisfied. But, what are we reflecting back to our customers and how do we know whether our service strategy is working? Here are four signs that you may need to re-think your service climate:

• What do your employees say about your service? Employees, especially the customer-facing ones, are incredibly accurate about the good, bad and just plain ugly about their companies’ service climate. If you aren’t asking them, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to engage them and get invaluable feedback about your service.

• What are your customers saying about you to others? Try typing your company’s name and ‘customer service’ in a search engine; you may be surprised and not always pleasantly so. Don’t expect your customers to tell you what they think on your corporate blog; they are chatting on other social media outlets and they are very blunt. One video I’ve seen on YouTube of a cable technician who fell asleep on a customer’s couch because he had been on hold with his own technical support for 45 minutes has had 5 million hits and several million other twitters, blogs and online community comments. Not the best way to build positive word-of-mouth.

• Do you have conversations with customers or just interactions? The experts say that ‘conversation’ is replacing ‘communication’ and ‘community’ has overtaken ‘customer service’. All evidence points to the need for trust and, dare I say it? – transparency -- when dealing with customers. If you fake it, your best promoters (employees and customers) become your worst detractors and they will tell 5 million others in a nanosecond. There is an ad on TV where the CEO of a telecommunications company speaks of a transformation in his company and actually has his email address in the ad. Try using it and you’ll find an automated response from a ‘service team’ that says nothing and does nothing to dispel the fact that the whole message is smoke and mirrors. We can’t “fake it ‘til we make it” any longer.

• Are you anticipating the small things that can make the customer experience memorable? A bucket of ice in a hotel room for a weary traveler who doesn’t want to trudge down the hall after a long journey. An intuitive web site designed with the customer in mind. Giving your employees at the front line the ability to make it right if a problem arises. These service moments of truth don’t have to break the budget to be effective and in order to be a competitive advantage for your company should be different, unexpected and delightful.

Call to Action:

• Replace Communication with Conversation with customers and employees. Listen and use the feedback to course correct your service strategy.

• Learn from and don’t ignore the criticisms you will read on blogs, twitters and other chat forums. Find out what they are saying about your competitors as well. Never has market intelligence been so prolific, available and immediate.

• Anticipate the small things that are big paybacks in terms of making a customer feel completely taken care of and not taken for granted.

We’d like to hear your Wow or Ow experiences!

Monday, February 23, 2009

What are Your Company's Moments of Truth?

During every interaction with customers and employees you have the opportunity to create a memorable experience. These experiences or “Moments of Truth” are what drive employee and customer loyalty, allowing your company to rise above your competition.

Do you thrill your customer at each opportunity? Here are a few questions to consider:
1) Is my website designed with our customer in mind? Is it easy for our customer to navigate the site and to place orders?
2) How do you answer incoming calls? Is it personal or a voicemail jail?
3) When a customer calls into your billing department do they get a friendly individual or a promise of a call back in 72 hours?
4) Does your help desk and call center solve problems on the first call in or do you escalate calls to another level making the customer wait?

Your employees experience Moments of Truth, too. Do you take the opportunity at each touch point to build loyalty and good will for your company? Think about the employee life cycle at your company:

1) Is your recruiting process mostly automated or high touch?
2) Do you call candidates back and let them know where they are in the selection process? (these individuals could be and probably are your customer)
3) Is orientation a great way to learn about your company or is it a paper work exercise?
4) Is your performance management system designed to develop employees or discipline them?
5) Do you have built-in feedback opportunities for employees?

Take the first step in understanding how to build loyalty into your company’s touch points by mapping your employee and customer experiences. Consistent POSITIVE interactions OVER TIME with both groups is what builds loyalty. Remember in a previous post, the "Spillover/Service Mirror" Effect: Your customers reflect your employees attitudes.
How does your company build great Moments of Truth for your employees and customers? Please post a comment, would love to hear from you!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Getting Creative to Save Jobs

I went to a SHRM-Atlanta chapter meeting last week and attended a great workshop on compensation during these economic times. The speaker, Phil Blount, from Phil Blount and Associates had some really good ideas on how to save on salary/benefit expenses before having to lay someone off. He suggested the following:

1) Furloughs-shortening the work week to save on salary expense. Interesting caveat to this one, BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR EXEMPT STATUS EMPLOYEES AND WORKING PARTIAL WEEKS.

2) Merit increase delays-instead of saying no merit increases, delay the increase to a future date even if the amount is only 1%.

3) EXECUTE on Pay for Performance-now is the time to reward your top performers and save on salary by not rewarding poor performance.

4) Suspend 401(k) contributions-A few people in the room had to do this. The key was explaining the reason and relating the money saved in contributions actually saved X number of jobs.

5) Conduct a benefits audit-see where you can adjust company portion on premiums, deductibles, coverage amounts, etc. to save on employer paid benefits.

6) Temporary pay cuts-Make sure you look at each department separately to see where this is needed most. Many companies are executing across the board pay cuts, this strategy may be easy but it may impact those you need to retain the most when the economy picks up.

In a Wall Street Journal Article, "Cut Pay, Not People," David Lewin, A UCLA professor states, "In a recession, it's smarter to reduce employee pay than to make layoffs."
7) Travel and expense freeze-many companies are limiting or reducing company travel.

8) Voluntary retirements, layoff-Ask employees if any would like a package. Some employees may be in a position to quit work.

I would love to hear what you are doing in regards to total compensation during these crazy times. Please post a comment wiith your ideas!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Giving Feedback After the Feedback

Last week, I was asked a great question by one of our current clients.  They had just received employee survey results and are getting ready to share those results with the employees.  We told them they should do that, so they are.  Then, very smartly, they asked, "What are best practices for giving employee survey results back to employees?"  Wow, good question.  We told them to communicate results, but we didn't say HOW to do that.  So here are some best practices around employee communications regarding employee surveys:

1) Timing-Be sure to go back to the employees as soon as possible after the survey results have been compiled.
2) Cascading-In our experience, we have seen cascading results from the top down is very effective and important.  In other words you can start with all employee meetings but make sure the results are discussed in department level meetings as well.  This is where ACTION takes place
3) Keep the conversation going-If though your data analysis you find a low score in let's say communication for example, you need to uncover what made that score low.  You must try to get to cause and effect, diagnosing the actual problem and what is causing communications to be ineffective.  Smaller focus groups are a great way to get at this information.  Surveys can uncover an issue, but then you must put on your detective hats, to get to root causes. 
4) KISS-keep the feedback simple.  So many times employees are overwhelmed with too many charts and graphs and lose the real meaning behind the data.  The data tells a story, tell it simply. 
5) Action plans-when appropriate let employees know what you plan on doing about the data.  This may take some time to formulate, but at least let employees know you are "working on it."
6) Say, thank you for participating-  Simple but necessary.  Just by embarking on a survey, we set an expectation that results will be shared.  In other words, you have asked our opinion, now tell me what you have heard and plan to do. 

Too many times, we have seen clients execute surveys and not do anything after the results.  The next year, we go back and do the survey again...same results or decreased from the prior year.  You must do something to get different results and the biggest part of that is communicating those results to the people that can change results!

Thoughts?  Any other best practices?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Is Now the Time for an Employee Survey?

I have been asked several times in the last few weeks if now is a good time to survey employees.  I say, "YES!" Here is why:

1) Employees are nervous-Surveys can be as much about PR, as they are about research.  Just by reaching out to the employees and touching base, you send a message of  "We Care."

2) SpillOver Effect-In an earlier blog, I discussed the relationship between happy employees and happy customers...this is still the case and now it is even MORE important. 

3) Build loyalty now-When this situation is better, employees will remember how the company responded in bad times.

4) It is relatively inexpensive-with so many online solutions and third party providers, data gathering can be very cost effective.  Good bang for the buck.

5) Ability to rise from the ashes-by understanding what the issues are now (management, job satisfaction, etc) you can correct and emerge better and stronger!

6) Performance of Top Talent Matters-determining how loyal your top performers are is critical.  Making sure they are taking care of NOW versus LATER is smart. 

7) You may learn something you didn't know-In my experience when conducting employee surveys, if constructed correctly, you learn a great deal and even get some really cool suggestions. 

So, get busy constructing your employee survey. Customization of questions is key.  Stay tuned for a blog post on why questions should be customized and not copied from other organizations.

Thoughts?  Please comment on your ideas regarding employee surveys!