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Want to Build a Customer-Centric Culture? Make It Personal. (Part 2 of 3)

When your manager asks, “Would it be OK if I share some feedback?”, it rarely leads to a comfortable conversation – even if you have a great relationship. But if you want to improve customer-centricity, you need to push past the discomfort of conducting such conversations, so your employees can learn directly from constructive customer feedback. 

Habit 2: Make the Customer Your Coach

This habit is all about connecting employees directly with feedback from customers they have impacted, to help employees self-coach. When executed correctly, this approach will alter the role of manager from “judge” to “guide.” The customer’s input would serve as the focal point, and the manager would guide employees to ensure that they turn critical feedback into a learning experience. This strategy requires a high level of trust between the employee and manager, as explained in Habit 1: Build Trust Through Recognition.

Let me illustrate this with a practical example from a client who uses Medallia in their contact centers. Our client shared this story at our Experience Conference several years ago, and it remains one of my favorite examples of customer-centric employee development and coaching.

The approach follows three simple steps that you can apply to almost any role: 

  1. Use data to determine and understand the principal drivers of the customer’s experience.
  2. Translate those drivers into behaviors you can illustrate with detailed examples from top performers.
  3. Align feedback systems and processes so employees can self-coach and seek guidance from their manager.

Step 1: Understand Customer Experience Drivers

Our client started by gaining an understanding of the key drivers of contact center interactions. They asked customers how likely they are to recommend the brand and several more detailed questions about satisfaction with their recent contact center experience. After testing multiple driver questions, they identified six that were important across the markets where they operate. These six drivers covered topics such as “taking ownership of the customer’s issue” that were within the agent’s control. 

Step 2: Translate Customer Drivers to Employee Behaviors

Next, they drilled down to translate each driver into specific behaviors that agents could work on improving. They began by examining their customers’ comments and ratings. For the highest scores, what did customers say about the agent’s behavior? For low scores, what did the agent do – or not do – that caused the low rating? But they didn’t stop there. They went back and listened to phone recordings of hundreds of interactions so they could describe each behavior accurately. Then, they chose examples of exemplary interactions and posted them in a learning library for the agents.

Step 3: Realign Feedback for Self-Coaching

To launch the new process, they realigned their Medallia reporting, internal Quality Assurance forms, and coaching around the six behaviors. Previously, QA forms and coaching sessions revolved around “Yes/No” compliance. They restructured the forms and meetings to focus on the six drivers and the underlying behaviors. They removed agent evaluations based on “points” and replaced them with three categories: best practice, effective, or opportunity. The goal was to empower each employee and to shift weekly coaching sessions to a learning-oriented conversation.

From Learning to Bottom-Line Results

This interactive, behavior-based approach changed everything for their teams. They now had personal control to work on these drivers and the tools to learn and improve. The company’s contact center NPS rose eight points in one year, customer satisfaction with agents went up five points, and the customer-reported resolution rate increased by five percentage points.

What About Employees Who Don’t Deal with Customers?

It’s easy to describe Habit 2 for employees in customer-facing roles, but you can use a similar approach for back-office teams. It may require a bit more creativity or IT integration to make the connection between customers and the employees who support them from behind the scenes. Here are three ideas to start:

  • Look for operational data from underlying IT systems that can connect individual customer journeys to specific back-office teams. For example, for freight issues, figure out which fulfillment center handled a shipment, and who was on shift at the time.
  • Configure text analytics to automatically tag customers’ comments with topics relevant to a particular function. When a customer mentions “invoicing” or similar words, your program should tag the comments for accounts receivable.
  • When customer feedback is escalated into a closed-loop follow up, ask the follow-up owner to tag relevant departments when they close the case. Then, push those curated cases to the right teams.

Put the Ball in Their Court

The best way to build a customer-centric culture among employees is to put the ball in their court. Employees want to optimize their performance. So, give them the tools to grow from both positive and negative feedback, along with the autonomy to learn and improve.

Once your teams take ownership of what they can control, you will be ready to progress to Habit 3: Harness employee ideas, which I will cover next time.


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