One of the traps that rapidly growing organizations run into is that in their focus on growth, they forget about maintaining and increasing customer satisfaction, so improving sales revenues to power the growth, but dropping the customer metrics, thus impacting the customer base and brand. We will discuss here ways to win on both sides of the trade-off.
Executive summary and recommendations
When setting goals, try to avoid setting 12 month strategic goals during high growth periods. Experience has shown that this approach is not successful. Targets in shorter time frames and frequent reviews to highlight corrective action have proved to be more effective. The other vital area is prioritizing what can be delivered in the specified time frame. If the business must be profitable in 6 months, then those activities that contribute to these goals come first, everything else stays in the background.
When scaling for growth, organizations are more likely to reach their targets if the gap between employee and customer experience is reduced to a minimum. Therefore, the key focus areas have to be both customer experience and employee experience, making sure that the customers get what they want out of their encounter with the organization, and that employees’ expectations of the organization they work for are also met. At Be All Ears we pride ourselves on understanding this from all aspects and gain perspectives with our unique approach of Be you, the individual – Be them, the customer/client and Be us the employer/partner.
Outsource or not?
Cost is crucial in any business, but it can be very difficult to balance growth, hitting customer metrics and saving money at the same time. Often companies end up hitting a brick wall and losing out on quality and cost. Do not be scared of the rumors which circulate outsourcing, it is possible to outsource, improve customer metrics and save money during growth periods. However, do decide quickly what is best for an individual business case and start the steps which are needed to find the right partner. The longer it takes to make such a decision, the greater the risk of encountering troubled customers and stunting growth.
Key deliverables must be determined in line with overall company strategy. The customer service organization and the business as a whole must agree them and their appropriate metrics. Many KPIs are available, but it’s not possible to deliver or even gather data on all of them, so it’s important to be selective.
The most important customer service KPIs to measure customer experience will be one or more of the following: net promoter score (NPS), customer satisfaction (CSAT), customer effort score (CES) and first contact resolution (FCR). Depending on the business, other KPIs are likely to be complaint rates, sales volumes, renewals rates, response rates to post call surveys etc. It goes without saying that cost per contact or cost per touch point should be measured as a key identifier to be watched during company growth along with cost to hire and cost of attrition.
An organization wants to achieve high CSAT ratings and to scale for growth simultaneously. However, hiring, training and onboarding new staff will inevitably lead to a lot of errors, and will affect CSAT. The solution is to identify the key parts of the customer experience and deprioritize the less important aspects. Customers want to get their problems solved, so FCR is the key metric, while average handling time (AHT) matters a lot less to customers.
It’s important to be practical about what can be delivered in the time frame. There is no point in setting growth or CSAT targets for the next month or quarter which existing data shows cannot be delivered. In the excitement and chaotic atmosphere of rapid growth, leadership must stay grounded in reality.
Understanding your customers
As the company expands, goals and business requirements will change. This leads to changes in processes and technology. Customer needs within the customer experience, what is working and what is not working, must be properly understood before making these changes. The key question is: “Do you know your customer journey from all aspects?”
The workloads and time pressures involved in scaling for growth mean that there is no time to hunt down and collect new data. Decisions must be made based on the available data.
Trust in your employees
The changes needed to allow the organization to successfully scale for growth and maintain CSAT have to be delivered by customer service staff. Skillful change management, including a well-thought-out engagement strategy, is a key part of the employee experience gaining their acceptance and therefore the rapid adoption of any change. There are metrics which can be used to measure aspects of the employee experience. These will, to a certain extent, vary from company to company. There are crucial questions here though, when planning, such as:
“What do the agents do now?”
“What are they going to do?”
“How do we communicate the changes?”
“How do we obtain continual feedback?”
“How do we respond to it?”
“How are we going to measure progress and success?”
Engagement of all peers / department
Having defined key metrics, other departments in the company need to be engaged and educated. A common scenario is where growth by increasing headcount is needed to handle increasing customer volumes. As new hires are recruited, the training team will have to adjust their courses to convert recruits into productive agents as quickly as possible with the minimum training necessary to address customers’ issues. The quality team will have to maintain a balance when giving feedback between keeping first contact resolution high and average handling time low. Both of these teams and operations management must give regular and frequent feedback on what is working and not working so that quick and effective adjustments can be made.
Keep in close contact with internal tech teams, in many cases, one of the main reasons of customer contact is due to a broken process or a tech issue with something not working right for the customer. Stay well connected here with your product or tech team to look at what can be fixed quickly. You will find that a lot of the higher volume inbound contact reasons from customers are often lengthy processes and difficult to fix. Therefore, get some quick wins, review smaller volume contacts and look to eliminate a higher percentage of those.
As well as keeping a close eye on employee experience, it’s also vital to manage the expectations of senior management. Set the scene about the effect of prioritizing growth over CSAT and the likely consequences to get their agreement for the overall plan.
How are these metrics delivered?
Simple, drive clear and concise communications across all levels and frequent checks against key metrics. There are many and diverse groups of employees who must be kept up to date according to agreed time frames. These updates require a response. If there is no improvement or progress towards the target, then questions need to be asked like:
“Why did this happen?”
“What has to be done?”
“Who can help?”
If things are going according to plan, then the questions will be about what can be done better or faster.
Driving metrics through want not need
Engagement is key to getting staff onboard. The most important are those who work with customers. They are the people who will deliver the majority of the required KPIs. Communications should happen on time and routinely including structured one to one meetings with agents and management, people often forget this during high volume times. Most agents want the best for the company and genuinely want to do their best for customers, but this enthusiasm needs to be encouraged, recognized and rewarded to be sustained.
Rewards and incentives are a special topic within the framework of employee experience and one which should be reviewed regularly, especially during growth periods. Rewards can help, but also hinder set goals, we will get more into this in one of our future blogs.
Overall leadership is responsible for delivering growth and achieving metric targets by engaging both customers and employees. The ultimate control of the situation and CSAT metrics lies with the customers. Handling the situation to push it in the right direction is what lies with management in close cooperation with employees.
Open questions & talking points?
- How do you view employee metrics as key items to the success of your growth?
- How do you balance improving employee and customer experience with costs?
At Be All Ears, we specialize in supporting businesses to successfully overcome growth and operational challenges, driving change through employee & customer experience. Get in touch with us and see how we can best support you.