There’s a saying that’s become so cliché and so obvious that’s it’s now considered an unimpeachable truth: the famous “Customer is king” line.
Still, over the course of different mandates that we’ve undertaken, we’ve often noticed how deep the divide can be between words and deeds. We say the customer is king, and that the customer experience is key, but in fact, it’s not always the case. That’s because an organization’s commitment to put the client first doesn’t always reach the people who are in direct contact with those clients. This is a key issue, since consumer choices are no longer determined solely by the products or services they buy, but also, in large part, by the experience they get. This shouldn’t be a surprise, considering the increasingly competitive environment we live in.
So how do you make sure customers remain the primary concern of every employee who comes into contact with them? What concrete and measurable mechanisms will allow you to mobilize the front lines to reach this goal?
An Actual Case
Recently, we were confronted with these questions when a financial institution specifically asked us to help mobilize its front-line staff to better serve its clients.
We based our approach on the theoretical framework developed by our partner Pierre Daems, President of Aube Conseil and an expert in customer-experience management, in collaboration with André Coupet. Called MC2 (www.mc2-experience.com ), this model identifies three pillars used to successfully mobilize customer service personnel.
- Pillar #1: THE WILL. Putting the customer first requires not only grasping the importance of this goal, but also understanding and owning it as a strategic organizational imperative. You have to want the client to live a positive and memorable experience.
- Pillar #2: THE POWER. Employees must have the tools and autonomy they need to take action, otherwise they’ll quickly become frustrated and discouraged, and come to the conclusion that management’s will is only theoretical. If that happens, then whatever mobilization you manage to drum up will be short-lived.
- Pillar #3: THE BEING. The client experience depends largely on staff. If employees do not feel valued, recognized and respected – both personally and professionally – they won’t have the motivation required to focus on the client and deliver the proper experience.
Great. But How?
We chose to organize workshops in a way that combined three different components.
Individually and in teams, participants were asked to reflect on the importance of the client experience and identify specific actions, in relation to the 3 pillars, that could help their teams be even more customer-focused. The trick is to identify actions that are concrete and immediately implementable by the team members themselves. That means no initiatives requiring management intervention or complex organizational decision-making processes. By giving employees a voice and involving them directly, and asking them what concrete measures they could implement by themselves, the organization expresses its interest and confidence in them.
In our workshops, the spirit of the three pillars manifested itself beyond the actions that were identified. Participants developed a sense of ownership for management’s strategic objectives, and they looked for ways of translating them into concrete actions (The Will). They felt supported and empowered enough to give themselves the means to fulfil their ambitions (The Power). Finally, the confidence and interest shown by the organization gave them a sense of recognition and consideration (The Being).
Innovative and inexpensive ideas emerged from each workshop, and we saw an impressive increase in the level of energy and enthusiasm – to the point where participants were eager to start implementing their solutions.
That being said, we’re not surprised by the richness and relevance of the ideas that were brought forth. Employees spend a lot of time dealing with customers who think of them as nothing less than the embodiment of the organization itself. This experience gives us a glimpse into the enormous potential for innovation and collective intelligence that lies within each organization.
A few weeks after the workshops, managers observed significant changes within their teams, as employees quickly implemented action plans that they themselves had come up with. They were walking the talk.
For one manager, these workshops were an opportunity to establish a dialogue within a team that had a reputation for being very reserved. Today, these teams still have to face the major challenge of harnessing their creative energy and making it last, to make sure the process they developed stands the test of time.
As for the employees themselves, they clearly expressed their satisfaction with words like “energizing”, “engaging”, “concrete” and “efficient”. And who wins in the end? “Front-line employees – and clients, of course!”
by Aline Baron, in collaboration with Pierre Daems