We’ve all heard the phrase “Happy employees mean happy customers(?)” Indeed, there has been a host of research and documentation that employee engagement means lower attrition costs, better performance, and achieving or exceeding overall organizational goals.
What is true employee engagement? There are measures that attempt to quantify employee engagement. Surveys of employees occur regularly in most medium and large organizations. Engagement however is difficult to define. A simple internet search yield different, eloquent definitions. Here are a few examples:
- Employee engagement is a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organisation to give of their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.
- Employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work.
- Employee engagement represents the levels of enthusiasm and connection employees have with their organization. It’s a measure of how motivated people are to put in extra effort for their organization, and a sign of how committed they are to staying there
- Employee engagement is a property of the relationship between an organization and its employees. An “engaged employee” is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests. (Wikipedia)
- Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. The recurring theme is that employee’s are engaged if they feel commitment ad passion to the organization. Although the definitions above allude to the ability to do their work effectively as a component, the word customer doesn’t occur once.
Shouldn’t the employee be engaged with their customer first?
In another discussion, a customer is an individual or entity who exchanges something of value for an experience, product or commodity of equal value, greater value, or that is required of them to possess. The customer is the reason the organization exists. If you are a warehouse and your customers are the sales teams, then engagement would be how engaged you are in ensuring the sales team fulfils their promises to the customer.
The key customer-facing disconnect
Take an example where a customer service employee (CSE) is in charge of satisfying the myriad issues customers may have. Billing, technical, website navigation, shipping, conflict resolution are all in a day’s work.
CSE 1 works for a company that provides calls into a contact centre. Tribal knowledge and some documentation exist. There are technical manuals online and website sales and information. The CSE can access the billing history as well. A customer calls and says that they entered payment into the web and got confirmation but now cannot see an order and hasn’t received the product. The CSE can’t see an order. What happens next? The CSE tries as hard as they can to understand and find a resolution but ultimately says that they can’t find an order at all. The CSE is frustrated as they want to believe the customer and the customer senses the frustration and may or may not believe the CSE. The CSE would like to bring this up, but with one on ones infrequently forgets the incident amongst the many other interactions.
CSE 2 has the same situation. They look at not only the history of the customer but see that they actually accessed the order and payment screen and made it to the confirmation screen. CSE can now inform the customer ‘I’m with you, I see that you received the confirmation of an order.’ As they still do not see this in the billing/account system, the CSE now creates live feedback that confirmations are not getting to the account system. On the backend, this type of issue immediately drives an alert to the website to answer. CSE 2 now can inform the customer that it is being investigated and would they like a team member to contact them back with a resolution.
CSE 2 feels like that can see the whole picture, has an opportunity to escalate and ‘be heard’ right away and can offer a level of experience they would appreciate.
Just opening a door
Engagement is when someone is invested in an experience. Think about it, someone is coming toward a door and you are headed that way as well. You arrive slightly before. Do you open the door and go in letting the other person behind you fend for themselves? Or do you hold the door and receive a smile from the other person for the act of kindness? The latter is engagement and humans largely seek engagement. In the first scenario, one person may feel slighted (negatively engaged) and the other ambivalent. In the second scenario, the investment of holding the door gives the holder the emotional engagement of having done something nice for another regardless of the other’s engagement.
It’s a ridiculously simple example, but an important one as engagement is the little thing. The ability to recognise what customers and employees endure quickly and act on it is crucial to making customers say ‘it’s really easier to business with ABC’ and employees to say ‘I really like ABC because I can be effective and make a difference for my customers every day. That is the engagement that makes a difference.
GREAT … How?
It’s a focus on customer effort and customer journey. Why? Because of what the customer goes through, employees should be aware of so they can ‘hold the door’ when the opportunity arises. Organizations need to enable the employee by working on some key efforts:
Step 1: Connect the dots ….Know what your customer and employees go through
This is the seemingly arduous task of gathering data from all points of the customer effort or customer journey. It means connecting the data and experiences in retail, web, chat, contact centre, email, even social media. All the handle time and different states of hold, talk time, wrap up. The reasons for interactions from IVR, Web, Chat, and employee logging.
Step 2: Engage with your Data
Visualize the data effectively to describe the business. Provide seamless real-time information to different roles in the organization. Through individual interaction data and customer history to the customer journey and effort metrics.
Step 3: Act … Automate engagement improvement
Using the engaged data and automation to drive proactive effort reductions. If the customer already talked to an employee and was told to reset the cable box to solve the issue, but then is contacting your organization in an hour, move them to the next tier of support. Provide customer journey and effort score to employees as they engage with the customer. Systemically provide employees with the next best action to take or offer.
Step 4: Close the Loop … Give employees a constant voice
Real-time tracking of customer-facing employees feedback can be a key indicator of issues to address. It also provides the ability to coach and praise. When the employee is recognized for focusing on the customer, the culture of engagement builds, both for the customer and the employee.