Are you on Slack? If not, chances are you will be soon. Slack is "a platform for team communication: everything in one place, instantly searchable, available wherever you go." According to an article in the New York Times this week, Slack is "one of the fastest-growing business applications in history." There are about half a million employees using Slack everyday, and that base is doubling every 3 months.
If you aren't one of the initiated (yet), Slack is an internal communications tool that is fast making email and instant messenger obsolete. Its aim is to support the free flow of information up, down, and across organizational silos—leading to better decision-making, more efficient operations, and greater engagement and connection to one's work, colleagues, and company.
The growing popularity of this tool is indicative of a tectonic shift in the way work is getting done in companies.
We say, Hear! Hear! It's about time.
Communication is core to customer centricity.
In our research into customer-centric culture, we've uncovered one cultural dimension that supports Employee Engagement and customer Net Promoter Scores more than any other. It also happens to be the one dimension that is most challenging to fix. This dimension is what we call: "How We Work Together." It speaks to removing or making the most of organizational silos. It speaks to sharing information; seeking ideas and input; understanding and working toward common goals.
When organizational groups are on the same page, everyone understands the “right” choice for the customer, at every level, in every channel, regional office, and department. And everyone is encouraged to make that choice. Disconnects can happen between people serving customers and those marketing to customers, or between people developing products and those selling them. When such disconnects exist, the customer invariably suffers.
Internal communication can facilitate better working relationships and a more consistent focus on the customer, two reasons we are so excited to see tools like Slack being adopted in corporations today. However, if your company has not yet adopted new communications tools, don't despair. You can adopt some simple methods today to improve employee and customer engagement. By taking on these three suggestions, you can improve customer experience more quickly.
Shine a spotlight behind the curtain.
Think back to when you were a child, specifically to a time when you weren't in the spotlight. Maybe when your sister scored the winning goal, or your brother got better grades on his report card, and for a moment, your parents focused all their attention on them. It's likely a small part of you couldn't help resenting your sibling just a little bit (i.e., "Why should they all get the glory?"). In our experience, the dynamics in companies are not that different from those in families. Some teams perceive that they get the spotlight shone on them less often than others.
In customer-centric companies, the focus tends to be on the front-stage teams, those that interact directly with the customer. And the support teams—those that make it possible for the customer-facing departments to create customer loyalty and retention—well, they can feel invisible. Like their efforts aren't talked about. Their expertise isn't valued. Or their daily struggles aren't addressed.
One of our clients in the retail banking sector has taken deliberate steps to strengthen internal working relationships by showcasing the successes of employees in all departments—not just those on the front line. Their internal newsletters regularly feature one internal team member as well as one customer-facing employee and the positive impact both are having on customers and the business. Finding and sharing these stories can strengthen internal ties and build greater appreciation for the role everyone plays.
When was the last time you told a story that connected the work of an internal department or team member to customer happiness?
If asked right now to tell such a story, what would you say?
Mix it up.
A lot has been written about the LEGO turnaround story. One aspect of their Rags-to-Riches-to-Rags-to-Riches story that resonates most with me was when they put Customer Service Reps and Product Innovation employees on the same team. At the time, sales were down, despite producing more SKUs associated with successful Hollywood franchises than ever. What LEGO learned through marrying front and backstage staff was instrumental to their decision to return to their roots.
Customer Service reps knew, because customers were telling them so, that parents didn't want toys that were easy for kids to build. They wanted the system of play that had entertained children for hours on end on rainy weekend afternoons. Sharing this knowledge with the product teams put the whole company back on track. And you can bet that everyone felt more successful, together, as a result.
How often do your customer-facing representatives and backstage employees work together (physically or virtually) tackling a customer related problem or opportunity?
What can you do to make this cross-team working part of your regular operations?
Make it easy for employees to share.
Even if your employees aren't talking directly to customers at work, they might be in their personal lives. Depending upon your brand and industry, it's possible that their neighbors, church, school, or other community associations contain people who do business with your company. What are they hearing about the experience you are delivering? Do they have a mechanism for sharing customer feedback with others in the company?
There is a growing trend today to move away from annual or bi-annual employee engagement surveys and begin an ongoing dialog with employees about the business. Feedback Fridays, Tip Tuesdays, SharePoint, and Slack channels that are dedicated to employee suggestions and feedback are increasing.
These channels allow employees to share—openly or with anonymity—their ideas for improving the customer and employee experience. And, with the advent of Text Analytics, it is easier than ever before for leaders to quickly analyze and interpret the feedback—identifying trends in ideas, themes, and sentiment—and follow up on what they are hearing. Some suggestions will get acted upon. Some may not. But companies that are listening recognize the importance of closing the loop with employees to let them know they have been heard. Acknowledgement is an important step toward forging strong relationships up and down the organization, between leaders and team members.
Do you make it easy for your employees to share their ideas, suggestions, and customer impressions with the business?
If they can, are you analyzing that feedback and closing the loop with them?
The World of Work is Changing
Whether it's through shifts in technology or culture or both, companies that encourage transparency, manufacture cross-team collaboration, seek ideas, and share recognition and gratitude with all will be the ones that win at engaging both employees and customers.
- "Milk Factory Sunset" by darkday, CC BY 2.0
- "Do you ever get the feeling..." by John Haslam, CC BY 2.0
- "High five!" by loozrboy, CC BY-SA 2.0
- "Meerkats" by Ronnie Macdonald, CC BY 2.0