According to Pine and Gilmore, “Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage” and to manage customer experiences we must manage the full production.
For many businesses on the customer experience improvement journey, one of the first steps in producing a great experience is getting the frontline – your frontstage employees – aligned to what your customers want. Listening and sharing customer feedback with employees who are interacting with those customers gives them insight into how to engage, delight, or connect with customers in a memorable and emotional way.
And while these practices are great, many Voice of the Customer software (VOC) programs fail to involve the backstage. Consider a retail bank: it’s the tellers and bank managers and financial advisors who will receive the customer feedback. In a restaurant, the servers and GMs see what their guests are saying and are able to correct the experience for the next customer. In an accounting firm, the partners and senior managers learn about their clients’ views of the experience and equipped to forge a stronger bond with that customer as a result. In all of these scenarios customer recognition, a powerful driver in Employee Engagement is given only to those on the frontstage.
But what about the loan processors, the underwriters, the kitchen staff, the legal team, and the IT function? All of these individuals play a role in putting together a great production for the customer but are often overlooked in the VOC process. Nobody ever says thanks for turning the lights on and getting the props on stage– in fact more often than not we only say something when things go wrong. We frequently see the results of this arrangement when we conduct employee satisfaction surveys. Consistently, the backstage departments have lower Employee Engagement than the frontstage.
We’ve uncovered three ways to ensure that all departments, regardless of their proximity to the customer, understand what the desired customer experience is, why it matters, and the essential role they play in producing it.
1. Share customer feedback with everyone.
One of our clients, a supplier of products and services to the hospitality industry, has begun a deliberate program to share VOC results with all groups in the company. In addition to Customer Service and Sales staff, employees in Merchandising, Finance, HR, and Distribution Centers receive regular updates on VOC findings. The inclusion of specific customer stories that highlight the end result of an internal department’s work is bringing the customer deeper into the organization.
2. Invite feedback on internal departments.
Some companies are starting to replicate the approach they take with external customers for internal audiences. When a customer-facing employee interacts with a backstage person or team to meet a customer need, they then have the opportunity to share feedback on how that went. Our Voice of the Customer software includes the option to generate a Recognition or Kudos alert for exceptional support.
3. Create employee listening portals.
Backstage employees often see it all. They know when a process that impacts the customer is broken. They can see where technological and systems issues lie. By making it easy for these employees to share their suggestions, communicates that their voice counts. And using their feedback to show trending themes that can be addressed as they arise will have a material impact on the customer experience.
Sometimes the issues ruining the customer experience are deeply ingrained in an organization. Poor departmental management and or internal politics can prevent employees from speaking up. Anonymous Online Focus groups can be a valuable way to gain insight on the sensitive backstage issues that are preventing a great performance.
Certainly the frontline employee is a sensible starting point when it comes to sharing VOC feedback, but to truly transform the experience you deliver to your customers, focusing on the frontstage is not enough. Everyone in the organization needs to be connected for holistic change to occur.