Jason Sharpe

October 31, 2018

To become a business with truly customer centric DNA, you need your colleagues on board. What do I mean by this? In short, customer service has to be everyone’s responsibility.

It needs to be a part of everyone’s job role, regardless of department, job title or level of seniority. Everybody in the business needs to believe in the ethos that “customers come first” – no exceptions.

Embedding this into a company isn’t easy. It has to be rooted in your culture, with strong support from the top. It can’t be something that you waiver when put under short-term pressures.

Partially it’s about recruiting the right people – the ones who understand what you’re trying to achieve for your customers. But it’s also about supporting and empowering current colleagues, so they have the freedom to deliver truly great customer service, resulting in a high degree of loyalty from customers, which in turn builds a level of trust and, ultimately, leads to advocacy.

Recruit with the customer in mind

To grow as a customer centric organisation, you have to recruit colleagues who ‘get’ your ethos. People joining the business have to understand the values, the belief and the culture driving the business. Otherwise you risk diluting the brand and diluting your promise to your customers.

When I was at first direct, the recruitment process was designed to make sure only candidates who understood the brand and what we were trying to do for customers were hired.

Typically, the process started with a phone interview. The reason for this is clear; if a candidate couldn’t talk to someone on the phone, build rapport and listen between the lines, then they wouldn’t fit well into the business. Candidates wouldn’t even enter the building until they passed the phone interview stage. We actually turned a lot of people away because they weren’t right for first direct customers.

Give your colleagues the data they need to make informed decisions

After hiring the right colleagues, support them by showing why, as an organisation, you’re so customer-focused. Give them the evidence, tools and freedom (within a supportive framework) that they need to make informed decisions and deliver great individual customer service.

When I was at Ovo Energy, through Rant & Rave, we introduced the ability to gather real time feedback from customers on their experience. So, when a customer called in or emailed, we would then respond back to that customer and say, “Please give us a score out of 10” – nothing new in that. But then the customer could also fill in a text box, using free flow verbatim, sharing exactly what they thought and felt about their experience with us.

We could then look at the data in real time and immediately share it with colleagues. If a customer called in and left a score of three out of ten, you would know within a minute or two how the customer felt. With the addition of the free flow verbatim, you could then drill down and say, “Here’s why the customer isn’t happy”.

Based on this evidence, you can then do something about it. You can call the customer back and say, “Look, I’ve checked the conversation and you weren’t happy. I’ve clearly failed. What can I do to put this right?” From a customer’s perspective, they’re probably now thinking, “WOW! You’ve listened, and you’ve called me back”, instead of feeling frustrated or disappointed with their experience. From a colleague’s perceptive, this is powerful in the moment coaching and a way to self-improve quickly.

Embed a Philosophy of Self-Improvement

Customer feedback is invaluable for self-improvement. It means everyone can see, in black and white, what they’re good at doing and what they need to do better. It might be painful to hear negative feedback, but it also gives them the opportunity to learn. Knowing how customers feel can empower someone to take responsibility. At the same time, in moment coaching can be a very positive experience. When a customer scores a colleague ten out of ten, you can shout about the success there and then. It becomes a real moment of pride for everyone.

You can collate this feedback in a fun way, to really engage colleagues. Gamify it by having real time leader boards and scores, which show where everyone is ranked and who is number one in your team. This creates buzz and plenty of morning chatter, as colleagues share their results and learn from each other about how they have achieved their scores. Then, at the end of the week, with the colleague who has the highest score, recognise this and reward them. It could be a big black leather chair, with a set of gold headphones – it’s an accolade for them.

It’s about celebrating success and reinforcing the positives of self-improvement. This doesn’t mean giving away loads of money away or freebies. Actually, it’s about giving a little bit of recognition and saying well done. It makes them feel proud, and pride is a thing that drives success in the business.

Don’t forget to have fun!

In the contact centre, at first direct, we used to have snowball fights (or tennis or cricket etc. depending on the season – all we used were soft balls, I hasten to add!). We’d just get out loads of soft balls and, for a couple of minutes, we used to throw them at each other in a frenzy.

Now, you might think it’s a bit wacky and not be convinced it’s a good idea. But, it was one of those moments where everyone could join in, even if they were on the phone to a customer – if appropriate.

It was a mad two minutes. But the energy levels that it generated in the business lasted for the rest of the day and beyond. WHY? Well it was collaborative. Everyone could get involved; everyone was engaged, just for that short moment of time. It’s not about trying to create false fun. It’s not about trying to create something that is cheesy.

For me, all the points spoken about here are about making sure your colleagues are engaged and involved. In a business that’s DNA is all about the customers, two things are imperative. First, colleagues need to understand what’s required of them. Second, you need to create a work environment where everybody believes in their accountability to that customer centric ethos. Ultimately, this will deliver a customer experience better than the rest.

Contact me at jsharpe@vallum.co.uk to find out how you can recruit the right team, and have a bit more fun with your customer and employee experience.


Jason Sharpe