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The rewards of ‘smarting up’ your customer-facing staff

Posted by Stephen Parry on Aug 22, 2015 11:21:30 PM

Right across the board, today’s customers are demanding greater and greater choice. To stay successful in a rapidly changing climate, organisations must not only confront and deal with this demand for choice, they must design a corporate culture which actively embraces it.

‘Smarting up’ sales teams has been a vital part of my work in helping corporations develop such a culture. This ‘smarting up’ means taking managers and operational staff beyond a traditional mindset and into one which develops vastly improved customer experiences to help grow the revenue of the organisation.

We’ve all had those frustrating customer experiences where the person we have just spoken to has not been able to help us. Our needs have not been met and our dissatisfaction is vented at the employee or the next tier of management in the company. But the real fault is not there, it is right at the top level.

Those negative customer experiences are almost always brought about because employees have been placed into ‘dumbed down’ positions where they are prohibited from moving beyond the transactional level. Their task is simply to increase the portfolio of a narrow range of options.

When Fujitsu – an IT outsourcing company I worked with – decided to move its focus client business outcomes and then adjust its IT service levels in response, they ‘smarted up’ their staff to more deeply understand their clients. The result for their airline client was reduced queues at ticket offices, check-ins and during flight delays.

When customers are not listened to on the other hand, or they feel that their specific query or demand has not been met, they are made to feel like one of a million and not one in a million.

In the ‘smarted up’ model, on the other hand, where sales staff are given the freedom to engage in wider ranging conversations with customers in order to understand their situations, the customer experience becomes relational and personal.

In this model, staff are actively looking for possibilities and ideas for new services or new products which can be added to the portfolio. Our smart people are now telling the organisation what customers really want, becoming, in the process, a source of new and exciting products and services to generate more revenue for the company.

And now the customer is made to feel like one in a million, not one of a million, resulting in increased customer loyalty.

I once worked with a large telecommunications firm who, in the name of standardisation, offered a one-size-fits-all set of services which they delivered in a strict transactional process, causing much frustration to clients and shareholders who were concerned at the client churn rate.

Our work in ‘smarting up’ their staff allowed them to create a more efficient way of working which gave them the ability to generate a wide variety of new services. Thus increased responsiveness helped deliver new revenue streams.

As you can imagine, my work in growing this kind of cultural change in organisations often meets stiff resistance. One of the arguments against ‘smarting up’ is economic. ‘Can I afford to pay my sales staff more?’ and so on.

The sad truth is that too many business organisations know the cost of everything, but the customer value of nothing (to paraphrase Mr Wilde).

Once again, it comes down to the traditional, transactional mindset. When you separate ‘value’ from ‘cost’, everything is always going to become too expensive. The global drive to move work to the lowest labour cost economies betrays this inability to think beyond the transaction and the cost.

Implementing lean

This is amply borne out in the work I did with one of my clients, a well-known parcel and documents delivery company. After ‘smarting up’ their couriers, the company found that customers were wanting their packages to be weighed and safely packed with all paperwork completed when courier arrived to collect the parcel. Rather than try and drive couriers to greater efficiency, they had encouraged them to find ways of creating greater customer value. The result? New services, differentiation, new opportunities, greater job satisfaction and an enhanced customer experience.

Employing people to do smarter, more responsible jobs is an investment which delivers true value. ‘Smart up’ your sales staff and they will begin to uncover customer needs, acting as a kind of market research team to feed responses and ideas through the management chain.

The key to it all is to recognise the value of your most priceless commodity – your people.

Topics: Uncategorized, Customer Value Principles

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