2020 Vision for Customer Experience Program

Against a backdrop of product commoditization and concerns about the perils of price wars, the customer experience has emerged as the de facto focus for competitive differentiation.

But for this to be achieved, organizations need to explore not only how they can improve their customer experiences at a rate that exceeds that of the competition, but also that keeps pace with escalating customer expectations. This means acknowledging that while customer experience programs must mature as part of ongoing CX evolution, at crucial periods in this evolution there will be a need for CX revolution too.

2020 Vision for Customer Experience Program
2020 Vision for Customer Experience Program

With that in mind, this guide explores the key opportunities that exist to create competitive differentiation in 2020 by embracing evolution – and revolution – of your CX program.

These are:

  • Connect, don’t collect: Achieving great customer insight and understanding by connecting the data from different sources around your organization.
  • Customer-centric decision-making: Ensuring that your CX program is action-oriented and that those on the frontlines are empowered to make customer-centric decisions and take decisive action.
  • Employee engagement: Embracing agile employee experience programs to allow the organization to learn more from and about its employees through continuous engagement.

Content Summary

Chapter one: Why brands need both CX program evolution and revolution to obtain a competitive advantage
Chapter two: Step away from the survey: connect, don’t collect
Chapter three: Customer-centric decision-making: the revolution from metrics to action
Chapter four: What is agile employee engagement – and how does it improve CX?

Foreword

Customer experience is at a crossroads. For years it has been hailed as the silver bullet. The approach that will overcome product and price homogeneity and create meaningful differentiation that drives loyalty. And, in theory, that’s all still the case.

The challenge is that reality is struggling to match the theory.

While huge amounts of money are being invested in CX programs, financial results and return on investment prove elusive for many organizations. As we hit 2020, it’s time for CX professionals to prove their worth to secure budgets – and a long term future – for their programs.

In this guide, we help to put you on that path. We address many critical elements to help you to understand what your next steps need to be, how to overcome common pitfalls and ways to bring the whole business along with you.

The important thing to remember is that while we’re all trying to be customer-centric, your CX program is not all about customers (bear with me!) Much of the work that needs to be done is about internal teams – empowering people across the business to take all that insight you’re gathering and actually do something with it.

I hope you find this guide useful.

Whether your CX efforts are ticking along well and simply need to evolve, or whether you’re ready for a revolution, you’ll find ideas to move you forward and ensure that 2020 is the year that you drive real business impact from your work.

Claire Sporton, Senior Vice President, Customer Experience Innovation, Confirmit

Chapter one: Why brands need both CX program evolution and revolution to obtain a competitive advantage

Against a backdrop of product commoditization and concerns about the perils of price wars, the customer experience has emerged as the de facto focus for competitive differentiation.

Research from IDC indicates that worldwide spending on customer experience technologies is soaring as companies focus on meeting the expectations of customers and providing a differentiated customer experience. It estimates that CX tech spending will total $508 billion in 2019, an increase of 7.9% over 2018 – and furthermore, it will grow by nearly 10% over the 2018-2022 forecast period, reaching $641 billion in 2022.

But is this investment translating into a competitive advantage? Not according to the latest Forrester CX Index, which suggests that most brands are rated pretty similar in terms of the customer experience they deliver, with few excelling and therefore achieving differentiation.

In Forrester’s latest US Customer Experience Index 260 brands were examined across 16 industries, with 100,000 US adult customers to measure how successful companies are at delivering customers questioned to measure experiences that sustain loyalty. Conducted annually, the Index demonstrates that customer experience standards have stagnated in recent years, with 81% of brands failing to improve their rating.

In the UK, it’s an even bleaker picture, with not a single brand in the UK managing to move upward at all as more and more British brands become mediocre.

These findings are supported by research from Nunwood in its customer experience index, which concluded that improvements in customer experience are simply not happening.

“The challenge isn’t that organizations are delivering worse customer experiences, it’s just that client expectations are going up,” notes Claire Sporton, SVP of CX innovation at Confirmit. “What worked a few years ago is not so great now. So if you want to differentiate on customer experience, then you have got some work to do. There used to be a few organizations that would deliver outstanding experiences, but recently there has been a rush to mediocrity, and now everybody is sat in the ‘OK’ bucket. So brands need to look at how they can differentiate and what they can do differently.”

For competitive differentiation to be achieved, therefore, organizations need to explore not only how they can improve their customer experiences at a rate that exceeds that of the competition, but also that keeps pace with customer expectations. This means acknowledging that while customer experience programs must mature as part of ongoing CX evolution, at crucial periods in this evolution there will be a need for CX revolution too.

Sporton explains: “Organisations need to know when it’s time for evolution and when it’s for revolution of their customer experience programs. You need to know when you should be consolidating and expanding your program to evolve it, but also be able to recognize when you’ve hit a sticking point and taken it as far as you can and then need to have a revolution to make a step-change into the next era of your CX program.”

To demonstrate where the periods of evolution are, and where they need for revolution arises, Sporton has defined three eras that characterize how customer experience programs evolve:

  • Era 1: Getting established
  • Era 2: Wider perspective
  • Era 3: Embedded CX
Evolution of Successful CX Programs
Evolution of Successful CX Programs

Era 1: Getting established

The first era is heralded by the recognition that customer experience represents a competitive battlefield and an acknowledgment that the organization needs to do something about CX.

This is the catalyst for organizations to start exploring how they can develop CX programs. Typically the starting point for these programs is the collection of feedback from customers, to enable better understanding of client perspectives on the organization’s products and services, and the implementation of a closed-loop process so that the business responds to this feedback.

Sporton explains: “It’s basic stuff, but think about the value that this delivers – you’re able to improve the lifetime value of individual customers because they’re going to be loyal and come back. And so tactically, you’re able to define the financial return on investment of the program.

“And from a cultural perspective, understanding how you are perceived by your customers gives your organization an external reality check – and taking that on board is the first important step of any CX evolution.”

Within this first era, there is plenty of scope for growth and evolution. For instance, expanding the CX program’s capability by capturing feedback and taking action across all the different touchpoints in the customer journey, across all the different geographies that are being served, and across all the organization’s different business lines.

Then the organization can also start to enrich its understanding by complementing the customer feedback it collects with other voices, such as employee feedback, and also with business data and operational data.

For the more advanced organizations in this era, accessing data from across a range of sources then enables them to connect data for greater insights, rather than just continually collecting data – something crucial at a time when the public are beginning to suffer from survey fatigue.

“We use the phrase: connect, don’t collect,” says Sporton. “We should be connecting the different data sources that are available to us to find new ways of gaining understanding about customers and their behavior. It’s not that organizations should no longer be interested in customer attitudes and feelings, but we need to use structured and unstructured requests for feedback much more carefully, asking them questions that we don’t know, rather than using it as a proxy for measuring their behavior.

“If we want to build trusted relationships with customers where they value their partnership with the organization, they need to believe we’re only going to ask them for their input when we need it, and we’re going to be transparent about how we’re going to use that data. If it’s a proper relationship you also return to the customer and demonstrate how the information they shared has been beneficial.”

But Sporton warns that organizations should be careful not to become stuck in this first era. “I’ve seen programs that have been in this first era for 20 years,” she notes. “They’re delivering value, but it does start to plateau after a while.”

So those businesses that are seeking a competitive advantage from CX should start to look to the next era.

Era 2: Wider perspective

There are many warning signs that a CX program is stagnating and requires a revolution to kick it on to the next era. The first of these is when competitors are reporting similar results, similar experiences and achieving similar reactions. If every organization is at the same point in their CX journey, and they have all set up customer listening programs and they’re all using these insights to make improvements, then businesses need to change the paradigm to stand out from the crowd.

The other warning sign is if the organization is regularly experiencing problems in a particular area that can only be resolved with the strategic-level change, and systemic change across the business.

The second era, then, is focused on delivering business improvement. There will be greater clarity on the ROI of the CX program and its activities, and therefore a better ability to communicate the value of the program.

At the core of this era is ensuring that more customer-centric decisions can be made, and that these can be made at all echelons of the organization. Crucially, this means empowering those on the frontline with real data to be able to make smarter decisions to help the customer.

This is not something that organizations are traditionally adept at. PWC research from 2017 found that only 16% of organizations questions reported that they currently empower their frontline staff to make customer decisions. Only two-thirds (64%) reported that they even see the value in pushing decision-making to frontline staff enough to invest in doing so in the next three years.

“Within this second era, quite often the change is being driven by senior management or change teams or the CX team,” says Sporton. “These are big strategic initiatives that deliver real value – process improvements, product improvements and experience improvements.

“But truly customer-centric organizations have everybody in the business taking action and driving change in their area of the business,” emphasizes Sporton. “Unfortunately, very few are pushing the decision-making and action as close to the frontline as possible.”

Sporton has identified three priorities that organizations must embrace as part of the second era, to enable those at the frontline to make customer-centric decisions and take decisive action:

  • Leaders must be comfortable and confident to provide their staff with autonomy. Therefore they must have a line of sight to their team so that they can see they are making decisions, see what decisions that they are making and also see the outcome of the actions that they take.
  • Frontline staff must have a feedback loop so that when they try something different they can receive quick, soft feedback to let them know if it worked or it didn’t – and if it didn’t work, they’ll learn and try something else.
  • These experiences should be shared across the organization so that teams don’t repeat the same mistakes and they can benefit from the learnings of others, and build on it and make it more successful.

Era 3: Embedded CX

During the first two eras, customer experience professionals and change teams do a lot of heavy lifting. Launching and sustaining a customer experience program across the organization is a major project and unsurprisingly those teams at the heart of the project are expected to undertake a vast number of tasks.

But the third era is about their hard work becoming embedded and adopted across the wider organization – so that the revolution taking place is that of the CX initiative being driven by everyone in the business. This then enables sustainable business growth to be generated through CX.

“This means fostering a customer-centered culture, where the customer is at the center of everything that the organization does,” explains Sporton. “It’s in the DNA of the business to do the right thing for the customer. And you only get there because the people in the organization own the opportunity to drive change based on insights from their customers, and insights from their team, and their suppliers and partners and so on. And so the final era is really where CX programs start to take on a life of their own.”

Culture change, of course, requires deep employee engagement – employees on the frontline have not only got to have access to data to make the decisions, and have the autonomy to take action, but they’ve also got to want to act and do the right thing for the customer.

Sporton continues: “Having the technology in place to enable your teams to make customer-centric decisions is important. But most data sources aren’t complete. For instance, as an account manager, you might know that the CEO of a customer has just changed and that the new CEO is friendly with your competitor – no data feed is going to tell you that. We need to enable human beings to make decisions that are augmented by that data, rather than just relying on data-driven decision-making. And we need to keep people with brains engaged so that they know when to act and have the willingness to act.”

Engagement and commitment to a customer-centric culture are crucial to delivering differentiation in customer experience.

KPMG Nunwood’s recent Customer Experience Excellence (CEE) analysis reflects the stagnation of standards that has occurred of late, but also identifies some pockets of improvement in CX performance, specifically in the retail and finance sectors. The survey of 13,000 UK consumers – entitled Power to the People – found that the main differentiator over the last 12 months has been the impact of employee engagement.

Of those topping the CEE rankings, Richer Sounds have received national praise for handing complete control of its business activity to its employees, while First Direct, Monzo, Lush, and Lakeland also all have highly commended employee engagement practices in place.

“Organisations need to understand what motivates their staff,” explains Sporton. “Staff will care about what they are measured on. They don’t care whether the net promoter score goes up or down one point. So organizations need to move away from customer experience measures to understand what is going to drive the right business outcome and then measure them on that. Important to this is a program to collect employee insights and feedback.”

Evolution and revolution

Through this combination of evolution and revolution, organizations can avoid being stuck in CX mediocrity, and push out of the plateau that they find themselves. Only then will they be able to seize a true competitive advantage through their customer experience.

Sporton concludes: “The biggest challenge at this point for organizations is acknowledging that it is really difficult to differentiate on customer experience. Once they have realized this, they can then focus on what is important. And there are two aspects at play here: there’s the internal piece in terms of getting staff engagement to help you develop your program; and then there’s the external piece relating to the customer, which is about understanding the client and developing trust.”

In the following guide, we’re going to explore the key opportunities that exist to create competitive differentiation by embracing evolution – and revolution – of your CX program.

These are:

  • Connect, don’t collect: Achieving great customer insight and understanding by connecting the data from different sources around your organization.
  • Customer-centric decision-making: Ensuring that your CX program is action-oriented and that those on the frontlines are empowered to make customer-centric decisions and take decisive action.
  • Employee engagement: Embracing agile employee experience programs to allow the organization to learn more from and about its employees through continuous engagement.

Chapter two: Step away from the survey: connect, don’t collect

As a customer experience professional, you want to know as much as possible about how customers feel about your business. How was that last interaction? Was the shop clean? Where the staff friendly? Did they have to wait on the phone for too long? Will they recommend it to you?

All good insight. And all with good intentions. How can you improve the customer experience if you don’t know about the customer experience? Time to crack open your Voice of the Customer platform and build another survey. No. Please, don’t. Take a moment and think about it from the customer’s perspective.

Think about it from your perspective. You’re a customer. How many times have you received a survey that asked you 40 questions about a simple shopping experience? You bought mouthwash, shampoo, and a Twix. And you used your loyalty card so the retailer KNOWS you bought mouthwash, shampoo, and a Twix. But here is a survey asking what sort of items you were shopping for. And which specific shop you bought them in. And 38 other questions that, frankly, don’t matter to you today. Particularly when you’ve got a Twix to eat.

Worse still, they are questions that they don’t need to ask. Because they know. Or at least, the company does.

Put your CX hat back on. The basis of an awful lot of customer experience activity is focused on asking people about things you can find out elsewhere. Every business is drowning in data (they don’t call it a data lake for anything!) and yet our default has become to keep asking for more. In the long-term, that is going to damage relationships with customers. And honestly, is it going to add anything, or is it just “nice to have”?

How do CX professional break this addiction to surveys? I suggest there are three key steps to take.

Identify what you need to know

There is a big difference between what you need to know and what you’d like to know. The basic rule of thumb is simple; if you’re not going to act on something, don’t ask about it. Ignore the little voice in your head (or indeed the big voice from another team member) that says “ooh, while we’re at it, what about..?”

When it comes to what you need to ask about, it comes down to what matters to customers. This means getting under their skin and understanding how they feel, their perception of what you are doing, and their thought process that underpins the decisions they have made. You must identify what is important to them and what will help you differentiate your business with your key market. This will take some work – and probably some serious research-based not only on asking customers about intent but on using behavioral data. There is no point looking for ways to wow people at some touchpoints if they are not areas that have an impact on the overall relationship.

The Holy Grail is building long term relationships based on trust. Trust requires consistency across the whole of the journey and over time. So this is about building a connection – not collecting some data – a connection that builds trust and strengthens the partnership. Keep it real – look for the emotion by asking questions that uncover how people feel, then use text analytics that identifies the emotion. More importantly, consider how you are going to respond. The partnership is not a one-way street so you need to turn the question into a conversation.

Locate and map the data you need to use

So if we are limiting ourselves to only asking the customer for insights into how they feel and their intentions, how are we going to get the other stuff – (how many Twixes, where and when.) Once you know what you need to know, it’s time to find it. The sheer volume of data that is available in your business is extraordinary so this is no mean feat. Do it, though. Contact center records, customer emails, CRM data, financial data….you have to dive into the data lake to see what is available.

The good news here is that you don’t have to do this alone. For every source of insight, there will be someone who can help you navigate it. Find the experts and harness their expertise to help you wade through in search of the data you need. Once you understand what is available, you need to be able to map that information back to customer and their experience to create context and start to build a clear picture of priorities for improvement in critical areas. By making these connections, you can start to see the gaps where you do not have insight into the customer experience.

Fill in the blanks

Ok, NOW you can ask customers for more information. If you are confident that you are using all the insight you have available, and you are only seeking input about what customers care about, it’s time to capture that insight. This should mean you are asking about things that just aren’t available from outside the customer’s brain. For example:

  • How do they feel? As mentioned above, you want to get an emotional response and that’s not coming from a tick box or their purchase history.
  • How do you compare to competitors in their minds?
  • What was their decision-making process?

At this point, it’s also worth reminding yourself of a few best practices. If you must send a survey, make it short, engaging and relevant to the customer. The technology and methodologies behind capturing the Voice of the Customer have moved on enormously in recent years, so there is no excuse for lots of tedious rating scales and grid questions. Text analytics means you can ask open-ended questions to encourage people to describe how an experience made them feel, and still capture real insight from the responses. And, if you are dealing with the right demographic, video responses are a brilliant way to engage customers and share the voice (and face!) of the customer with the business.

Successful companies need to become trusted partners for their customers. The biggest success stories of the past few years are not a result of price wars or even sexy new products. They are companies whose customers feel that they “get” them. Be transparent with your customers about what you are asking them about and why you need it. And then tell them what you did with the feedback they provided.

Connect what you have, collect what you need, focus on the connections you are building and crack on with driving real change.

Chapter three: Customer-centric decision-making: the revolution from metrics to action

The CX industry has matured quickly, but one thing still needs to evolve: the result. CX has been buried in chasing metrics as the key CX output for too long now. It’s easy to see why. CX teams are under increasing pressure to demonstrate results and metrics provide a tangible way of doing that.

But metrics aren’t a result of themselves. They’re a measure of change and often a catalyst for that change, but they’re passive, not action-driven. With this in mind, CX teams are ideally positioned to revolutionize the role of CX from information providers to drivers of business change.

That’s because CX teams already have all the tools and skills at their disposal to move far beyond sharing metrics and insight towards a much closer working relationship with stakeholders in which CX holds the key to initiate change programs and monitor their impact.

While this might seem a scary prospect for some, it’s a good thing: it shows that businesses are beginning to understand that better business decisions are made when they are based on smart, meaningful data.

So how can we help drive our CX revolution and put our teams at the front and center of data-driven decisionmaking? We think it comes down to embracing some critical mindset changes.

Stop chasing the metric

Actions drive business change, not NPS. That means proving the value of your actions beyond the metric. We’re not saying ignore the fundamentals of your role as a CX professional – metrics such as NPS, OSAT and CES are all important tools for the work we do.

But we need to use them in a context that delivers the necessary insight to make decisions – about products, processes or customer channels for example. So, we need to take two more steps: make sure something happens as a result of that insight, and then measure the impact of that action.

Essentially, this means we need to measure ROI, not just our CX scores. To do this, we need to consider using smart data analytics to more accurately make evidence-based decisions, and then measure the business impact of those decisions based on relevant KPIs – more of which to follow.

Use data actively, ditch passive reports

Smart data analytics are fundamental to action-based CX programs. Mapping and integrating feedback data against other, relevant data sources and business information systems makes sense of the insight you’re gathering.

Smart analytics also allow you to draw deeper meaning from unstructured data such as social channels and verbatim customer comments – often the most important feedback sources.

The result is your ability to share insight with the wider business that specifically identifies the actions most likely to drive improvement and change, rather than a set of passive charts and tables that require further individual analysis. CX now becomes the source of the contextual insight your business needs to implement defined actions and deliver desired business outcomes.

Define goals in terms of outcomes, not statistics

These outcomes should be the very objective of your CX program in the first place.

Action-based CX means reaching out to stakeholders at the start, ensuring we understand their wider business goals before we begin to measure anything. This means we’re much better positioned to work in partnership with them to define how CX initiatives can actively help them deliver on their aims.

Critically, we’re also taking ownership by agreeing CXrelated goals with them and defining success using the measurements and terminology of the business as a whole – something that puts CX in much better stead for future investment.

Think innovation and change, not points and percentages

We’re trained to question – that’s a fundamental part of the CX role. But we often miss the question that should sit at the heart of our programs: is there a clear call to action? To understand if there is, we need to make sure our programs are designed to act as a catalyst for innovation and change, not just as a measurement tool.

Taking this a step further, we need to make sure we can track the action is taking based on the insights we gather. Someone needs to be accountable for acting, but this shouldn’t be the CX practitioner. Their role is to get agreement from the relevant line manager that they will own the action, then support their efforts to deliver it.

By staying close to the owners, we can use that CX analytical thinking to help them identify the business benefit of the action. As well as showing that NPS or OSAT scores have improved, we can seek out a correlation with revenue growth, reduction in churn or cost control, for example.

Communicate success in words, not numbers

Of course, numbers are important and CX metrics are a critical foundation of any CX program. But we go back to the question of what you’re doing with those numbers once you have them.

CX metrics alone don’t tell you if you’re doing something right or wrong, or how you can change that metric. We need to translate numbers into meaning – and for us, this means speaking in words. Use the terminology your business understands and translate it into departmental areas of focus if necessary, too.

In our experience, you need role-based insight to turn metrics into action. This provides a clear demonstration of how their work affects their roles, the wider business, and the overall customer experience.

Storytelling is key here, too. Share the successes – and failures – of the actions that the business has taken. Going back to the business and its customers to tell them, in a real-life context, what you’ve done to drive change is one of the most powerful elements of a successful CX program.

The ‘you said, we did’ approach remains one of the best ways to drive internal engagement and build deeper customer loyalty.

CX becomes fundamental to action

We know that these mindset changes can’t happen overnight. And we also know that many CX teams and individuals already embrace one or several of these approaches. Bringing them all together and then embedding this collective mindset within an organization is no easy feat.

At the same time, proving ROI from a CX program is a huge challenge for even the most experienced teams. But it is all achievable if we are pragmatic in our approach to action-based CX.

Rather than getting lost in building the most comprehensive, long-term CX model, take it in stages. Work with key stakeholders to identify incremental steps to success. Focus on specific improvement initiatives, rather than theoretical score value increases. This will slowly but surely create the essential link between CX and business outcomes and drive longer-term understanding and investment.

When this happens, CX teams will become a fundamental driver of business action and CX professionals the people who drive business change. A revolution indeed.

Chapter four: What is agile employee engagement – and how does it improve CX?

Employee engagement is nothing new. Most mid-sized and large organizations have mature employee measurement processes in place, often covering multiple steps along the employee journey. So why are we still talking about the need to improve employee feedback processes?

The discussion is being fuelled in two ways: by organisations who have a deeper understanding of the link between business success, customer experience and employee engagement, driving their interest in harnessing real-time, ongoing employee insight rather than just moment-in-time snapshots; and by employees themselves, who increasingly expect to have a voice in their organisation and share opinions about their experiences in a way that suits them.

An annual engagement survey is no longer enough to satisfy both parties. To outperform their rivals, businesses need to foster an environment in which employee feedback is continuous, two-way, and – critically – action-led.

Enter the concept of ‘agile employee experience’: an approach built on the already proven concept of agile customer experience measurement. In the same way as agile CX works, agile employee experience programs allow you to learn more from and about your employees through continuous engagement. In essence, agile engagement programs move beyond continuous listening because they are proactive and empower employees to start conversations.

Why agile?

Employee engagement strategies, as the name suggests, focus more on whether employees are engaged (have emotional ties to the job) than whether they are happy (generally positive and with a sense of well-being). This is a much more relevant measure since the underlying factor of most employee dissatisfaction or disengagement is a sense of not being listened to – and this is where engagement programs can make all the difference.

Agile engagement strategies take this one step further, addressing every aspect of an organization, inside and out, and doing so continuously. Companies that want to engage their teams need to develop a truly agile approach to listening and implement programs that combine proactive, solicited surveys at key stages of the employee lifecycle with unsolicited, reactive approaches such as online comment boxes and social media sources.

Being able to track an individual employee’s feedback continuously adds tremendous value to the pursuit of predictive, smart employee engagement data. It also allows organizations to make the entire employee experience better as they learn from and act upon that data.

Agile employee engagement relies as much on a shift on cultural mindset as it does on tools and technologies that can underpin continuous listening and analysis.

This continuous approach is critical in delivering a better understanding of the employee’s impact on a business at every stage: employees, particularly those on the front line of a business such as in a call center, have the most knowledge about the customers they speak to every day. They also have clear views on how they can make their customers’ experience better. Indeed, their understanding is often far greater than that of the C-suite, who are usually several steps removed from direct customer interaction.

It’s this involvement in customer experience – and by association business success – that underpins agile employee engagement. Employees who feel they could make a difference but don’t believe they have the opportunity to are never going to be particularly engaged, and this represents a real missed opportunity for many organizations.

Supporting new organizational models

As well as capturing more relevant, timely feedback, agile employee engagement strategies fit much better with the increasing move towards flat organizational structures. Team-centric models, in which people come together and then disband as initiatives come and go, are ideally supported with an agile approach to listening, providing the structure and framework necessary to capture and act upon the continually changing dynamics of a group or the business as a whole.

An agile engagement approach empowers people across a business to easily seek feedback in ways that are meaningful to their work area, but within a clearly-defined governance framework that ensures high-quality data and insights. It’s an ideal approach for businesses who want to build a culture that thrives on – and drives success from – feedback.

How to roll out agile employee engagement

Agile employee engagement relies as much on a shift on cultural mindset as it does on tools and technologies that can underpin continuous listening and analysis (and that’s a subject for another day). That mindset relies on a few critical actions:

  • Make the program proactive: Encourage and ask for ideas, using short surveys to start the ball rolling.
  • Build trust: Allow employees to give feedback anonymously, at least at first, so people feel safe and learn to trust the process.
  • Drive innovation and confidence: Encourage people to rock the boat and make it clear that all ideas are good ideas, even if not all feedback is ‘good news’.
  • Show you are actively listening: Share feedback, and tell employees what you’ve heard from other sources, so they can see that it is worth sharing ideas.
  • Reward employees for their effort: The process must show a clear result. Often, building in reward and recognition processes drives much better and longer-term participation.

Following these steps is the best way to create an environment in which employees have easy access to sharing continuous feedback that informs business change.

That is, of course, if these steps lead to action. Taking action not only allows for immediate and long-term business improvements but also creates a virtuous circle whereby employees are more willing to contribute their views as they see them being utilized to drive positive change. For business leaders, this delivers results that are far more useful than the numbers and statistics delivered by standard, annual employee surveys.

Act on knowledge and insight

Action is key. Even the most well-organized, well-implemented programs can run aground if due consideration is not paid to ‘what happens next’.

Even for those who embed action planning into their process, a common complaint amongst frontline managers is that the data is not actionable or too outdated, or that the outcomes are not within their span of control to change. This can create frustration among employees, causing them to lose interest, become disengaged, and not prioritize the customer in their day-to-day roles.

Companies are quickly learning that agile listening is all very well but it is worthless if it doesn’t lead to improvement or change. Agile programs need to be business-focused, gathering meaningful, real-time data that is driven by the needs of leaders, managers and employees alike. Only then will they deliver insight worth acting upon – demonstrating a clear and relevant impact on business outcomes.

So, where do we go from here? We know it’s no longer an option to conduct an annual survey and tick that as a job done for the year. Now, the concept of making information and insight actionable must sit at the top of an organization’s priority list – particularly as more and more data is being gathered from multiple, very different, sources.

By taking time to investigate the techniques needed to create an agile engagement program, organizations will discover that there are great opportunities to better understand the role their employees play in corporate success. This does take time, effort and often a fundamental change in corporate behavior, but it will be a critical move in outpacing the competition, not to mention securing the best employees and the most satisfied, loyal and profitable customers.

Source: Confirmit

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