Have you ever had the problem that management and employees are so busy trying to meet sales, revenue or expense targets that they don’t focus on how they personally impact customer satisfaction? Or those who are not on the front line with customers every day, do not relate to how important customer satisfaction is  and how they fit in? This is a common problem in large organizations. In my years at IBM, it was one of the key challenges. Often decisions made in departments removed from day to day interaction with customers set policies, design systems or created products, services or promises that are not customer friendly or can not be implemented in the real world.

Here are some tips to get buy in and focus internally to improve customer satisfaction.

1. Create a customer satisfaction measurement to use. There are some external measurements available in the marketplace today such as  Net Promoter Score or J.D. Power customer satisfaction ratings exist. In these cases, it is important to be aware of these ratings for your organization and how you compare to others in the same industry. For those organizations, not covered by one of these measurements, or who want additional feedback, other techniques needs to be deployed. They can include surveys of various types, customer service metrics, and feedback from consumers gathered from public reports (Consumer Reports ) or the Web (complaint sites, reviews, blogs, youtube videos, etc).  Pick something to measure.

2. Start with a Baseline. Once you have picked something to measure, get a baseline. Where are you now! Try to pick a time of the year when you would see results regularly. If you use an exterior source, use their cut off dates to help with when to report. Otherwise it is wise to pick a time relative to a year end.

3. Announce the Measurement and current baseline to all employees and management. Explain what is being measured or how the metric is derived (if it is an index, for example). Focus on explaining what makes up the components of the metric.If there is an industry average or a best of class for your industry that you have data for, include it in the announcement. Try to show that the organization has some improvements to make or that a competitor is very close and could steal customers. Make it personal. Show how your organization could be impacted if customer satisfaction were to drop: eg lost sales could mean cost cutting which could mean reduced employment or salary increases.

4. Assign a target. There is nothing more powerful than a target. There are many variations on how targets could be set and whether everyone gets the same target or different targets but let’s keep this simple and ensure that everyone knows there is a target to meet and that management are measured on how well the achieve the target. Each manager should be able to article how his or her organization contributes to that target and some will create their own internal metrics.

As an example, customers may be calling the service organization about billing. The billing organizations should have some internal tracking on how many bills have to be corrected each month. What is the nature of the billing problems? Can they be eliminated? Is the problem part of the ordering process? What can be fixed to reduce the number of bills that need to be corrected. Connect employees to how they influence customer satisfaction, even though they may not be on the front line.

5. Spread the targets. If you have multiple departments doing similar things, give them the same measurement to meet. So you have multiple sales departments, give them all a target to meet that will allow you to compare them.

6. Report regularly. Try to measure monthly if possible. It is hard for people to get focused on a measurement that only comes out once a year or infrequently. Management reports should come out at least monthly. They should be broken down by department if possible. So if measurement exist by region, or by state or branch office,  report them. This will make the measurement more meaningful. If one manager has take an initiative to improve some area, it is important for them to see improvement to keep employees engaged and motivated.

7. Rank departments. There is nothing more powerful that ranking. If your organization has external measurements (Net Promotor Score, J.D. Power ratings or consumer ratings) that allows you to rate your organization against others, use that data to keep everyone engaged. Then, if data is available at the department level, the product level or geographic level, use that as well. Report the competing departments ranked. Best scores go on top and worse scores go on the bottom. No manager wants to be on the ‘bottom’.

8. Publicize the results. The results should be disseminated by top management and cascaded down. Rank the company against the industry (if available). Rank competing departments. Cascade results down to the lowest level for which metrics are available.  If top management has a newsletter, conference call or regular meeting where employees are present, the customer satisfaction results should be presented.

9. Customer Satisfaction results at the beginning of any executive communication. To get optimum value of the ranking and publicity, put customer satisfaction ratings at the beginning of every results communication with managers and employees. There is a very important psychological message delivered by the placement of customer satisfaction data. If it is first, then it is important. If it comes near the end, it is an also ran and deemed not very important. This should be emulated by department leaders as well.

10. Reward and Recognition for role models. In addition to ranking and measuring results, periodic rewards for high achievers or for role models will also augment the message that customer satisfaction is important. Rewards could include financial rewards, promotions, trips, merchandise or the name on a plaque. Recognition could include having a role model present what he or she did to delight a customer, or help a customer out of a bind. Recognition could come in the form of naming individuals who met a target or who exemplified the right behavior. Have a recognition even for the achievers. People loved to be recognized and it sends a strong message to their peers that they, too, can stand out.

11. Incentives. Sometimes, it is necessary to provide incentives to really get the attention of management and employees. An incentive might be a payment for achieving a target, in the form of a bonus or a trip. The difference between a reward and an incentive is that the incentive is announced ahead of time.

12. Management Review: Invite the low scorers or low scoring departments to a review meeting with senior executives, asking them to review the issues associated with their results and their proposed action plans. Review progress on a regular basis.

13. Sustain the momentum. Report often, monthly, quarterly and annually. Strive for improvement over prior years or sustaining the lead against your competitors if you are on top.

Using even some of these techniques should get the attention of employees and management and sustain it within your organization. If you have additional techniques that you use, leave them in the comments section below.

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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