Today I’m pleased to present a guest post by Jorie Basque. It’s a great follow-up to my post earlier this week about the linkage between employee experience and customer experience.

Think of the best – and the worst – customer experience you have had recently. Chances are, what is foremost in your mind is a person – the courteous and efficient employee at the home improvement store who helped you solve that tricky DIY problem and guided you to the precise tools and parts you needed. The abrupt call center employee who sounded like she was chewing gum, left you on hold without letting you know what was going on, and eventually disconnected you. If the customer experience is critical in establishing and maintaining customer loyalty, the people who impact the customer experience are critical in its execution.  How you choose, train, manage, and reward your talent may be the most important factors impacting your customer service climate.

Maybe it is time to have a closer look at your talent management processes. Here are some steps you can take.

Step 1: Identify the people who are critical to the customer experience
Although talent management process improvements will positively impact all the employees in your organization, you may choose to focus on those most impactful to the customer experience. Use journey mapping to analyze the customer experience and to identify who and how people along the route are engaged in it. From that exercise, you can determine the roles to focus on.

Step 2: Identify the competencies that impact the customer experience
What does good customer service look like? Examine performance review data to find your top performers in the roles you have identified and observe the skills and behaviors they demonstrate. A report by DDI lists the top-ranked customer service behaviors as:

  • Listening carefully to what customers have to say
  • Interacting with customers in a warm and friendly way
  • Taking immediate action to meet customer needs or requests

Step 3: Embed key customer service competencies into talent management processes
Now that you know what they are, you can use talent management processes and tools to build key customer service competencies into your workforce.

  • Recruiting and selection. Include customer service competencies in job descriptions, advertisements, interview questions, and selection tools so new hires – as well as those you promote from within – are well skilled in them.
  • Goal setting. Cascade and communicate organizational customer service goals and metrics.  Engage employees and their managers in setting performance goals and evaluation criteria that support organizational goals and reflect customer service competencies. For example, call center employees may have a goal to check back with customers who are on hold within a certain time frame.
  • Performance management. Once the competencies are known and the goals are established, managers and supervisors should observe performance, provide feedback, and reinforce the key behaviors when they occur. Address enablers and barriers to success and document findings to chart progress.
  • Rewards and recognition. Although paying for performance is important, there are many ways to reward and reinforce good performance. Celebrate accomplishments, goal achievement, and the acquisition of new competencies that positively impact the customer experience. Share progress on organizational customer service goals.
  • Employee development. Identify development tools that will build customer service competencies.  Use information obtained through compiling performance management data to identify skill gaps that can be filled through targeted training and other learning strategies.
  • Engagement and retention. There is plenty of research linking employee engagement to retention as well as many other business priorities, including customer satisfaction. If you have been addressing the talent management tips described above, you may already be seeing an uptick in employee engagement and retention.
  • Succession planning. As you to watch over the key customer experience roles, think about which would create chaos should you suddenly lose the incumbent. These are the roles for which you need a succession plan. Use performance management data to identify high potential successor candidates and employee development plans to get them ready.

Using talent management processes to create a customer service climate will positively impact the customer experience and bring added benefits to the workforce as a whole.

Jorie Basque is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and a Customer Account Manager at Halogen Software.