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Customer Measurement Problem 10

NEGLECTING CONTACT EMPLOYEES AS A CRITICAL CONTROLLABLE

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NEGLECTING CONTACT EMPLOYEES AS A CRITICAL CONTROLLABLEMany companies fail to leverage the power of one of their most valuable assets – the employee base. Theorizing and empirical evidence in recent years points to one of the most logical connections imaginable. Namely, employees of an organization affect customer experiences and thus subsequent customer evaluations and behavioral responses. Customer perceptions certainly will be influenced by the quality of service received in any business transaction involving contact employees. Yet many companies that measure and attempt to manage customer satisfaction seem to completely ignore the potential power in managing the quality of inputs and outputs of customer contact employees. Companies would do well to study the critical organizational processes and influences that help to produce better employee outputs. It is a grave oversight given that the outputs of these employees become direct inputs to customers’ experiences.

To be fair, the quality of employee outputs is an area of study for most large organizations. However, there are several reasons why those activities do not adequately address the issue at hand. Often the activities reside only in human resource related silos, typically far away organizationally from the department(s) responsible for customer measurements. Often they are internally focused, e.g., on productivity. Many times those responsible for employee measurement and management are not even at the same table with those responsible for measuring and managing customers. Further, those responsible for employee measurement and subsequent improvement actions view employees in broad structural organizational categories (e.g., marketing, finance, operations) rather than through the lens of the customer. Not surprisingly, many of the organizational improvement recommendations from employee research are posed at an overall organizational level or by functional silos. A better, more customer focused classification framework might first segment employees on something as simple as “has direct contact with customers” versus “does not have direct customer contact.” Then research would aim at finding out the issues that enable or inhibit excellence in contact employee outputs – the outputs that subsequently become customer inputs.

The management of employee issues often is not viewed or taken up explicitly as a means of influencing customer experiences. That clearly is a missed opportunity. Those responsible for customer measurement and management would do well to proactively seek intra-organizational connection and influence with the departments and individuals responsible for employee measurement and management. Owners of the customer processes can then influence what gets measured on the employee side, and how those measurements are analyzed. They also can become advocates and drivers of lines of action aimed at improving customer experiences. Particularly when analysis of customer data uncovers service failures and problems traceable squarely back into certain pockets of customer contact employees, employee data in those pockets should be used to help understand and fix the internal issues affecting the quality of outputs to customers.

Those are just a few possibilities. The point here is to note that many companies do not dig into one of the most logical controllable causes of customer experience – namely the internal dynamics of customer-facing employees. Those employees help produce points of contact with customers. We must strategically manage those particular employee contexts so as to help causally drive enhanced customer experiences.

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