Question: The executives here have decided that they want our company to dramatically improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. At a high level we can either invest in voice of the customer technologies or we can invest in tools that help us develop our employees’ skill and knowledge. I don’t think there is some middle ground compromise between the two, as the budget only goes so far. Happy to hear your thoughts.
A I thought this was going to be easy until you put the kibosh on some technology compromise. I feel compelled to say that you really need both to achieve your executives’ goals for obvious reasons. You need to make sure you understand what your customers want from your organization and insight into what elements of that they are not getting today. Then, you can turn your attention to the employees in an informed manner.
That said, given your constraint of investing in either one or the other, I go with developing the employees. Here’s why. While it’s true that more and more customer interactions are self service and involve no employees, it is equally true that there are a lot of touches between customers and employees, either directly or indirectly. By investing in tools and processes that identify skill and knowledge gaps in individual employees and remediating these gaps through e-learning and focused coaching, you help ensure that each customer interaction has the best chance of a successful and pleasing outcome.
Developing employees’ skills benefits the organization in several ways. Studies have shown that attrition falls and employee engagement increases. As the overall competency level of the workforce increases, it can be a strategic differentiator to empower the employees to make on-the-spot business decisions when interacting with customers. In this way, even though the organization may make some fundamental mistakes from time to time about what their customers want and value, the outcome of the interaction need not be at risk – the employee can always choose do the “right thing” even if it’s outside normal policy.
But the truth is that sooner or later you find that continued improvements in delivering a consistently positive customer experience hinge on a broad and deep insight into what your customer value and don’t value. And you’ll need voice of the customer solutions to acquire that.