Customer satisfaction cannot be bottoms up driven. While excellent work can be done by customer facing personnel such as customer service call centers, or customer support personnel, sales teams and business partners, if the senior executive team do not have a commitment to customer satisfaction, the results will be sub optimal.
And the front line employees will become increasingly frustrated with the lack of support for customer problems.
Many employees are not included in senior executive meetings and strategy sessions so they cannot know for sure how their executives weigh in on customer satisfaction commitment but there are tell tale signs they can read that tell the story.
Indicators of lack of commitment.
1. Lack of a measurement of customer satisfaction, customer loyalty or customer experience?
Do employees know what is measured and what is valued? There should be a measurement and what constitutes a positive result or a negative result. So an organization may have a low customer satisfaction rating but if they can show a trend that they are improving over time, this will be a valuable indicator to employees. If nothing is measured, there is no commitment.
2. Lack of a customer satisfaction measurement target?
If there is a customer centric measurement, that’s a good start. But the objective should not only be to have a measurement but also to have a target. The target may be an absolute number, (for example: we want at least 80% of all customers to rate us as satisfied or very satisfied on our customer satisfaction survey) or it might be continuous improvement (for example: we want to improve our results by 2% this year).
If the organization uses a measurement created by an outside organization just as J.D. Power, the target might be to be the top ranked company in the index for your industry, or to improve your ranking to take you into the top 5. Lack of a target is a clear indicator of uninterested management.
3. No Executive communication on Results
When executives communicate with their employees about business results, is customer satisfaction mentioned? Are the results presented during regular internal review meetings or send out in internal reports.
4. Customer satisfaction results are an Afterthought
One of the most telling indications for employees is where in the ‘results’ communication, customer satisfaction results are included. If they are at the beginning of the presentation or report, then customer satisfaction is considered to be very important. If the results are at the end of the communication or even worse, stuck in an appendix of slides that are never ‘covered’ or as an addendum to the report, the message is clear. This topic is not important.
5. Failure to provide Granular Customer Satisfaction Results
In a large organization, keeping the customer satisfaction results at the corporate level and reporting on it at that level is almost as useless as not reporting it at all.
Employees need to feel they contributed to the results or that their part of the business needs to improve. Split out the results by geography, or by product, by product line, by brand, by sales office or by customer service center. Try to bring the results closer to groups of employees.
One of the benefits of showing granular results is that often, some of the groups will be doing well, providing proof to other groups that it is possible to achieve positive results.
Ranking of similar groups to show who is doing the best and who is low is an excellent technique to get the attention of those groups that need to improve.
If a large organization does not break out results, the employees are frustrated that they cannot affect the results.
6. No incentives for Customer Satisfaction Targets
Do managers and employees have an incentive to improve customer satisfaction or meet the customer satisfaction objectives?
At IBM Canada, when we launched our customer satisfaction program, we told employees that 50% of their incentive pay (which was up to 10% of their salary) was based on the country meeting its customer satisfaction targets. The results were broken out by area, so every one knew was contributing and who was failing. That provided peer pressure on those with the lower results. It also became a team effort to get the low ranking groups to improve. Everyone wanted to find a way to help them.
Incentives should be in place, at least at the executive and managerial level. If there are no incentives, then the perception of employees is that this topic is not that important.
7. No reward and Recognition for Achievers
Sometimes, it is difficult in an organization to provide direct financial rewards to all employees for customer satisfaction results. But one of the easiest ways to gain buy in is to provide rewards and recognition for high achievers.
At IBM, we would give out a virtual trophy (we had a picture of a trophy) and we sent around an email monthly to all employees showing who had be awarded the trophy this month and prior months.
In another department the names of client executives who had high scores was publicized quarterly. Every client executive wanted his or her name on that publication.
Awards may be monetary, fabulous trips, a membership in an exclusive club, a lapel pin. It can be big or small.
If there is no celebration of high achievers, this too indicates the executives don’t really care.
8. No Improvements Plans
Most customer satisfaction processes include some form of tracking customer issues. The most important ones should have executives assigned to them and action plans associated with them.
The appointment of the executives with a mission to improve customer dissatisfiers needs to be communicated to employees. The details of how the improvement may be implemented may need to be kept private until rolled out but employees need to know that ‘our best people are working on this problem”.
9. Executives won’t talk to Customers
When customers are dissatisfied and escalate, executives needs to get involved. Obviously they will not deal with every customer or even most of them, but they need to be willing to address major customers who are dissatisfied or crises that arise.
Management cannot hide disinterest in customer satisfaction from employees. Their actions speak louder than their words.
Failure to measure, failure to provide a target, failure to communicate results, or relegating results to an appendix or back up slides, failure to break out results to meaningful levels to engage employees, lack of incentives, rewards or recognition, no publicized improvement plans or executives that won’t address customers or their issues, are all indicators of lack of interest and commitment.
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