This blog post was written by Maurice FitzGerald, who recently retired as VP of Customer Experience for Software at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. His career with HP, Compaq, Digital Equipment Corporation and Wrangler Jeans concentrated on customer-centric business strategy and process improvement. He is currently documenting his experience in three books that are expected to appear in early 2017. You can find more information about Maurice's books here.
We talk a lot about asking customers what to improve, and improving it. In my previous post for Etuma, I covered the same approach for employees. Now I want to introduce a new concept: ask employees how to improve customer experience. Let’s call it Customer-Employee NPS, or ceNPS. (If I could think of an appropriate word beginning with an ‘a’, I could call it ‘aceNPS’, which would be cool.)
Why should the customer be the only source of customer knowledge?
Customers are the best possible source of information about what they would like to see improved. As to how to improve it, well, they leave that up to you. Your employees have a different perspective. Most of them are aware of things that could be made better. Many might even have ideas about how to make it happen.
I therefore suggest testing the following survey with your employees:
- How likely are our customers to recommend our company?
- What should we improve for our customers and how?
Use the same techniques as for customer research to prioritize the input.
Compare with customer feedback
In a rational world, there will be quite a bit of overlap between customer feedback and employee views on what customers need. Compare the top five suggestions on both lists. Items that come up high on both lists should be prioritized. This approach will also give, if not clear instructions, at least guidelines on how to implement the improvement.
Employees will have different ideas
Employees may have insights in areas that would not naturally occur to customers. One example that comes to mind happened shortly after HP set up a centralized pre-sales group in Bucharest, Romania.
When the new operation started up, it would be fair to say that the people were quite passive, just doing what was asked. Sales people and resellers asked them to provide price quotations to customers, and they did that work well. Then the team supporting the Benelux noticed something. As negotiation cycles continued, sales people removed things from orders to meet the customer price point. Notably, offers for servers and storage that started with round-the-clock support services were often reduced to a cheaper business-hours-only proposal.
The Benelux team in Bucharest decided to systematically give the customers two proposals: one exactly as requested, and one with the service levels they believed the customers actually needed, at a higher price.
The initiative was a great success, with about half the customers taking the more appropriate service proposal at the higher price. For customers who accepted, it completely eliminated the situations where they would call during weekend to be told that their contract did not cover the repair. A customer would never have thought of this double-proposal idea.
Employees should lead the implementation of their own ideas
Unless you have an excellent reason for not doing so, the suggester should always be in charge of the implementation. Letting anyone else lead eliminates a career development opportunity and allows one aspect of human nature to creep into the picture: rejection of other people’s ideas. Just as the golden rule of project planning is “Those who implement must do the planning”, the golden rule of ideas is that the idea generator has to drive the implementation. Yes, it is true that really creative people are usually awful at project management, and that will be their career development opportunity.
Include your subcontractors and partners
If you use resellers and subcontractors, they should be included in your improvement culture too. Simply follow the same approach as with employees.
You read it first here on Etuma. All feedback welcome.