Goldmine of Intelligence
Mining your front line — your staff — can help you achieve measurable bottom-line improvements.
Most companies conduct customer satisfaction surveys and some survey employees about human resources issues and conditions. But few engage employees in surveys that can lead to significant boosts in corporate performance.
Employees are the Key
Many security companies regularly survey their employees, but typically these programs are limited to measuring employee engagement, identifying the drivers of employee satisfaction, and soliciting suggestions for improving working conditions. While surveys include in-depth questions about the workplace, rarely do they ask the questions whose answers could most dramatically improve acquisition and reduce churn. Companies miss the opportunity to ask, for example:
Yet, apart from customers themselves, no one is better positioned to report on the customer experience than the employees on the front line — staff who also understand the operational challenges and constraints in providing a stellar customer experience.
Course corrections are best achieved with a wide range of perspectives on the way various departments interact, the allocation of functional responsibility and resources, and by uncovering small adjustments that have big impacts on service. Most companies in the security industry not only miss the opportunity to solicit systematic input from their employees about these factors, but even worse, they inadvertently create cultures that make employees reluctant to share critical observations. Surveys in which employees are solicited for a 360-degree view of the company’s key performance, for example STAT Resources Inc.’s Employee Generated Optimization (EGOSM) survey, can fill this void. Companies of all sizes can benefit from surveys of this type, although they need at least 50 employees to provide enough data to make real conclusions.
Employees across the organization — from front-line sales reps to backroom IT specialists — all may have valuable intelligence about what will drive measurable improvements in products and service quality delivery. There is probably no group in the company in a better position to identify the obstacles to success than employees. While reps can often identify these obstacles, they are rarely asked to, and of course, have little if any control over operations or policies in other parts of the company that impact their ability to serve the customer.
A corporate EGO survey not only gives all employees a voice that can be heard in the C-suite about what stands in the way of world-class service and market dominance, but, if implemented cross-company, also enlists the entire organization in reaching these goals. Even surveys of just care or monitoring personnel can give an enormous leg up on operational and quality improvements.
Lessons From a Major Monitoring Center
A major industry player was eager to launch service quality improvements to increase customer satisfaction and reduce churn. The company’s own internal data showed that the shorter the time a customer spent on the phone with customer service, the less likely that customer was to defect. In response to this finding, company management offered service representatives financial incentives to reduce time-spent-in-queue as well as for decreases in total average call length. Surprisingly, while the company dramatically increased the speed of response and call completion, customer satisfaction plummeted. Why?
Management enlisted employees in understanding the reason that shorter calls were associated with more satisfied customers; based on their feedback, incentives were shifted to align with problem resolution rather than speed. Customer satisfaction immediately soared. Employees understood that customers wanted their issues resolved; time spent on the phone was not the primary satisfaction driver. They also knew that shorter calls were often shorter because they involved simple, easily fixed issues and customers were very pleased to get a quick resolution. More difficult and complex issues took longer to resolve, so focusing on just shortening the call, rather than fixing their problem, greatly increased customer dissatisfaction.
There are three, perhaps obvious, but frequently overlooked lessons from this:
Benefits of Employee Involvement
How much can you learn by asking your employees, “What is the single biggest obstacle to doing your job well?”
Collecting rich and insightful feedback directly from customers can be difficult, and certainly expensive. Consumers, weary of being asked about their experiences and perceptions in every aspect of their life — from the store that sells them pens to the restaurant where they had dinner the week before — are often reluctant and inattentive research respondents. Fortunately, it is possible to learn almost as much by asking the right questions of employees.
Employees offer quick, efficient and economical perspectives that our research has shown are highly consistent with those of customers themselves. In addition, employee feedback is enhanced by sensitivity to organizational constraints and challenges. This understanding is key to identifying feasible improvements to the customer experience.
Employee feedback at another security company brought light to a different customer satisfaction issue. Sales personnel reported how irate prospects became as a result of missed or late appointments, which were made by a national center. This center set appointments centrally using software that had no information about local conditions. The prospect would be informed of the time of the appointment by the center, but then routing was later reviewed at the branch level where appointments were often re-routed and re-scheduled, but the prospect was not notified. Other parts of the company did not have contact with these prospects and therefore did not know there was such dissatisfaction with the scheduling process until sales reps provided this feedback.
Most Robust Employee Surveying
EGO surveys, as illustrated on page 129, replace traditional employee surveys and certainly complement (and perhaps even replace) customer surveys with a structure for a 360-degree examination of company performance in four major areas, each of which has two main components:
Human Capital Optimization
• HR Management: Does the company offer attractive compensation, benefits and working conditions?
• Employee Loyalty & Engagement: Do employees feel valued, empowered and supported?
• Customer Retention: Do we create an environment that inspires customer loyalty?
• Customer Relationship & Communication: How well do we communicate with and listen to our customers?
Product and Service Quality, especially as reflected in the Value Proposition and Care and Support
• Value Proposition: What do customers get from our products and services?
• Care & Support: How well do we handle issues when customers have problems or need support?
Brand & Market Dominance
• Brand & Positioning: What is communicated to the market and company stakeholders to create dominance?
• Sales & Acquisition: Are we effective in acquiring new customers?
Typical results then can be displayed in a radargram of the sort illustrated on page 130. Here we see a company that is quite strong in typical employee loyalty and HR measures, but is fairly weak in Customer Relationship & Communication and Care & Support, resulting in low scores in Customer Retention.
Why is this? The company scores well in Brand & Positioning, and Sales & Acquisition, indicating that the product or service being delivered is of reasonable quality and that the company is successfully acquiring good potential customers. Does the company need to introduce loyalty programs? Review customer care processes? Overhaul its communications strategies? Employee feedback in these areas can provide insight that would help to identify problem areas and possible fixes.
An Extra Benefit of Mining Employee Intelligence
It is now commonplace to recognize the strong relationship between employee loyalty and satisfaction, and the loyalty and satisfaction of customers. Here, the act of soliciting employee feedback to guide improvements becomes an improvement in itself, communicating to employees that their opinions are valued. In changing the communication culture of the system, and enlisting employees as partners in change, inevitably, the end result is increased morale and satisfaction.
Satisfied employees are more likely to stay put and their tenure provides their organizations with a knowledgeable, experienced and stable workforce — the kind of workforce that is most likely to lead to happier customers. And not only does improved employee satisfaction lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, it works the other way around, too. Satisfied customers improve employee satisfaction, and ‘round and ‘round it goes. n