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Research Tools to Monitor Planned Interactions Through the Customer Life Cycle

As we explored in an earlier post, 3 Types of Customer Interactions Every Customer Experience Manager Must Understand, there are three types of customer interactions: Stabilizing, Critical, and Planned.

The third of these, “planned” interactions, are intended to increase customer profitability through up-selling and cross-selling.

These interactions are frequently triggered by changes in the customer’s purchasing patterns, account usage, financial situation, family profile, etc. CRM analytics combined with Big Data are becoming quite effective at recognizing such opportunities and prompting action from service and sales personnel. Customer experience managers should have a process to record and analyze the quality of execution of planned interactions with the objective of evaluating the performance of the brand at the customer brand interface – regardless of the channel.

The key to an effective strategy for planned interactions is appropriateness. Triggered requests for increased spending must be made in the context of the customer’s needs and permission; otherwise, the requests will come off as clumsy and annoying. By aligning information about execution quality (cause) and customer impressions (effect), customer experience managers can build a more effective and appropriate approach to planned interactions.

Research Plan for Planned Interactions

The first step in designing a research plan to test the efficacy of these planned interactions is to define the campaign. Ask yourself, what customer interactions are planned based on customer behavior? Mapping the process will define your research objectives, allowing an informed judgment of what to measure and how to measure it.

For example, after acquisition and onboarding, assume a brand has a campaign to trigger planned interactions based on triggers from tenure, recency, frequency, share of wallet, and monetary value of transactions. These planned interactions are segmented into the following phases of the customer lifecycle: engagement, growth, and retention.

LifeCycle

 

Engagement Phase

Often it is instructive to think of customer experience research in terms of the brand-customer interface, employing different research tools to study the customer experience from both sides of this interface.

In our example above, management may measure the effectiveness of planned experiences in the engagement phase with the following research tools:

Customer Side Brand Side
Post-Transaction Surveys

Post-transaction surveys are event-driven, where a transaction or service interaction determines if the customer is selected for a survey, targeting specific customers shortly after a service interaction. As the name implies, the purpose of this type of survey is to measure satisfaction with a specific transaction.

Transactional Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping is about alignment.  It is an excellent tool to align sales and service behaviors to the brand. Mystery shopping focuses on the behavioral side of the equation, answering the question: are our employees exhibiting the sales and service behaviors that will engage customers to the brand?

Overall Satisfaction Surveys

Overall satisfaction surveys measure customer satisfaction among the general population of customers, regardless of whether or not they recently conducted a transaction.  These surveys give managers a feel for satisfaction, engagement, image and positioning across the entire customer base, not just active customers.

Alternative Delivery Channel Shopping

Website mystery shopping allows managers of these channels to test ease of use, navigation and the overall customer experience of these additional channels.

Employee Surveys

Employee surveys often measure employee satisfaction and engagement. However, they can also be employed to understand what is going on at the customer-employee interface by leveraging employees as a valuable and inexpensive resource of customer experience information.They not only provide intelligence into the customer experience, but also evaluate the level of support within the organization, and identifies perceptual gaps between management and frontline personnel.

 

Growth Phase

In the growth phase, one may measure the effectiveness of planned experiences on both sides of the customer interface with the following research tools:

Customer Side Brand Side
Awareness Surveys

Awareness of the brand, its products and services, is central planned service interactions.  Managers need to know how awareness and attitudes change as a result of these planned experiences.

Cross-Sell  Mystery Shopping

In these unique mystery shops, mystery shoppers are seeded into the lead/referral process.  The sales behaviors and their effectiveness are then evaluated in an outbound sales interaction.

Wallet Share Surveys

These surveys are used to evaluate customer engagement with and loyalty to the brand.  Specifically, to determine if customers consider the brand their primary provider, and identify potential road blocks to wallet share growth.

 

Retention Phase

Finally, planned experiences within the retention phase of the customer lifecycle may be monitored with the following tools:

Customer Side Brand Side
Lost Customer Surveys

Lost customer surveys identify sources of run-off or churn to provide insight into improving customer retention.

Life Cycle Mystery Shopping

Shoppers interact with the company over a period of time, across multiple touch points, providing broad and deep observations about sales and service alignment to the brand and performance throughout the customer lifecycle across multiple channels.

Comment Listening

Comment tools are not new, but with modern Internet-based technology they can be used as a valuable feedback tool to identify at risk customers and mitigate the causes of their dissatisfaction.

 

Call to Action – Make the Most of the Research

Research without call to action may be interesting, but not very useful.  Regardless of the research choices you make, be sure to build call to action elements into research design.

For mystery shopping, we find linking observations to a dependent variable, such as purchase intent, identifies which sales and service behaviors drive purchase intent – informing decisions with respect to training and incentives to reinforce the sales activities which drive purchase intent.

For surveys of customers, we recommend testing the effectiveness of the onboarding process by benchmarking three loyalty attitudes:

  • Would Recommend: The likelihood of the customer recommending the brand to a friend relative or colleague.
  • Customer Advocacy: The extent to which the customer agrees with the statement, “you care about me, not just the bottom line?”
  • Primary Provider: Does the customer consider the brand their primary provider for similar services?

As you contemplate campaigns to build planned experiences into your customer experience, it doesn’t matter what specific model you use.  The above model is simply for illustrative purposes.  As you build your own model, be sure to design customer experience research into the planned experiences to monitor both the presence and effectiveness of these planned experiences.


 

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Not All Customer Experience Variation is Equal: Common Cause vs. Special Cause Variation

Variability in customer experience scores is common and normal.  Be it a survey of customers, mystery shops, social listening or other customer experience measurement, a certain amount of random variation in the data is normal.  As a result, managers need a means of interpreting any variation in their customer experience measurement to evaluate if the customer experience is truly changing, or if the variation they are seeing is simply random.

In a previous post, we proposed the use of control charts as a tool to track customer experience measurements within upper and lower quality control limits, giving managers a meaningful way to determine if any variation in their customer experience measurement reflects an actual change in the experience as opposed to random variation or chance.

Now, managers need to understand the causes of variation, specifically common and special cause variation.  Common and special cause variation are six sigma concepts, while most commonly used in industrial production, they can be borrowed and employed to the customer experience.

Common Cause Variation:  Much like variation in the roll of dice, common cause variation is natural variation within any system.  Common cause variation is any variation constantly active within a system, and represents statistical “noise” within the system.

Examples of common cause variation in the customer experience are:

  • Poorly defined, poorly designed, inappropriate policies or procedures
  • Poor design or maintenance of computer systems
  • Inappropriate hiring practices
  • Insufficient training
  • Measurement error

Special Cause Variation: Unlike the roll of the dice, special cause variation is not probabilistically predictable within the system, as a result it does not represent statistical “noise” within the system, but is the signal within the system.

Examples of special cause variation include:

  • High demand/ high traffic
  • Poor adjustment of equipment
  • Just having a bad day

When measuring the customer experience it is helpful to consider everything within the context of the company-customer interface.  Every time a sales or service interaction within this interface occurs the customer learns something from the experience and adjusts their behavior as a result of the experience.  Managing the customer experience is the practice of managing what the customers learn from the experience and thus managing their behavior in profitable ways.

A key to managing customer behaviors is understanding common cause and special cause variation and their implications.  Common cause variation is variation built into the system: policies, procedures, equipment, hiring practices, and training.  Special cause variation is more or less how the human element and the system interact.

See earlier post:

Not All Customer Experience Variation is Equal: Use Control Charts to Identify Actual Changes in the Customer Experience

 

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Best Practices in Bank Customer Experience Measurement Design

The question was simple enough…  If you owned customer experience measurement for one of your bank clients, what would you do?

Through the years, I developed a point of view of how to best measure the customer experience, and shared it with a number of clients, however, never put it down to writing.

So here it is…

Best practices in customer experience measurement use multiple inputs in a coordinated fashion to give managers a 360-degree view of the customer experience.  Just like tools in a tool box, different research methodologies have different uses for specific needs.  It is not a best practice to use a hammer to drive a screw, nor the butt end of a screwdriver to pound a nail.  Each tool is designed for a specific purpose, but used in concert can build a house. The same is true for research tools.  Individually they are designed for specific purposes, but used in concert they can help build a more whole and complex structure.

Generally, Kinesis believes in measuring the customer experience with three broad classifications of research methodologies, each providing a unique perspective:

  1. Customer Feedback – Using customer surveys and other less “scientific” feedback tools (such as comment tools and social media monitoring), managers collect valuable input into customer expectations and impressions of the customer experience.
  1. Observation Research – Using performance audits and monitoring tools such as mystery shopping and call monitoring, managers use these tools to gather observations of employee sales and service behaviors.
  1. Employee Feedback – Frontline employees are the single most underutilized asset in terms of understanding the customer experience. Frontline employees spend the majority of their time in the company-customer interface and as a result have a unique perspective on the customer experience.  They have a good idea about what customers want, how the institution compares to competitors, and how policies, procedures and internal service influence the customer experience.

These research methodologies are employed in concert to build a 360-degree view of the customer experience.

360-degree bank customer experience measurement

The key to building a 360-degree view of the customer experience is to understand the bank-customer interface.  At the center of the customer experience are the various channels which form the interface between the customer and institution.  Together these channels define the brand more than any external messaging.  Best in class customer experience research programs monitor this interface from multiple directions across all channels to form a comprehensive view of the customer experience.

Customer and front-line employees are the two stakeholders who interact most commonly with each other in the customer-institution interface.  As a result, a best practice in understanding this interface is to monitor it directly from each direction.

Tools to measure the experience from the customer side of interface include:

Post-Transaction Surveys: Post-transaction surveys provide intelligence from the other side of customer-employee interface.  These surveys are targeted, event-driven, collecting feedback from customers about specific service encounters soon after the interaction occurs.  They provide valuable insight into both customer impressions of the customer experience, and if properly designed, insight into customer expectations.  This creates a learning feedback loop, where customer expectations can be used to inform service standards measured through mystery shopping.  Thus two different research tools can be used to inform each other.  Click here for a broader discussion of post-transaction surveys.

Customer Comments:  Beyond surveying customers who have recently conducted a service interaction, a best practice is to provide an avenue for customers who want to comment on the experience.  Comment tools are not new (in the past they were the good old fashioned comment card), but with modern Internet-based technology they can be used as a valuable feedback tool to identify at risk customers and mitigate the causes of their dissatisfaction.  Additionally, comment tools can be used to inform the post transaction surveys.  If common themes develop in customer comments, they can be added to the post-transaction surveys for a more scientific measurement of the issue.  Click here for a broader discussion of comment tools.

Social Monitoring:  Increasingly social media is “the media”; prospective customers assign far more weight to social media then any external messaging.  A social listening system that analyzes and responds to social indirect feedback is increasingly becoming essential.  As with comment tools, social listening can be used to inform the post transaction surveys.  Click here for a broader discussion of social listening tools.

Directing our attention to the bank side of the interface, tools to measure the experience from the bank side of bank-customer interface include:

Mystery Shopping:  In today’s increasing connected world, one bad experience could be shared hundreds if not thousands of times over.  As in-person delivery models shift to a universal associate model with the branch serving as more of a sales center, monitoring and motivating selling skills is becoming increasingly essential.  Mystery shopping is an excellent tool to align sales and service behaviors to the brand. Unlike the various customer feedback tools designed to inform managers about how customers feel about the bank, mystery shopping focuses on the behavioral side of the equation, answering the question: are our employees exhibiting appropriate sales and service behaviors?  Click here for a broader discussion of mystery shopping tools.

Employee Surveys:  Employee surveys often measure employee satisfaction and engagement.  However, in terms of understanding the customer experience, a best practice is to move employee surveys beyond employee engagement and to understand what is going on at the customer-employee interface by leveraging employees as a valuable and inexpensive resource of customer experience information.  This information comes directly out one side of the customer-employee interface, and provides not only intelligence into the customer experience, but also evaluates the level of support within the organization, solicit recommendations, and compares perceptions by position (frontline vs. management) to identify perceptual gaps which typically exist within organizations.  Click here for a broader discussion of employee surveys.

For more posts in this series, click on the following links:


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Leverage Unrecognized Experts in the Customer Experience: Best Practices in Bank Customer Experience Measurement Design – Employee Surveys

Bank Employee Surveys

Frontline customer facing employees (tellers, platform, and contact center agents) are a vastly underutilized resource in terms of understanding the customer experience.  They spend the majority of their time in the customer-bank interface, and as a result tend to be unrecognized experts in the customer experience.

An excellent tool to both leverage this frontline experience and identify any perceptual gaps between management and the frontline is to survey all levels of the organization to gather impressions of the customer experience.  This survey can be fielded very efficiently with an online survey.

Typically, we start by asking employees to put themselves in the customers’ shoes and to ask how customers would rate their satisfaction with the customer experience, including specific dimensions and attributes of the experience.  A key call-to-action element of these surveys tends to be a question asking employees what they think customers most like or dislike about the service delivery.

Next we focus employees on their own experience, asking the extent to which they believe they have all the tools, training, processes, policies, customer information, coaching, staff levels, empowerment, and support of both their immediate supervisor and senior management to deliver on the company’s service promise.  Call-to-action elements can be designed into this portion of the research by asking what, in their experience, leads to customer frustration or disappointment, and soliciting suggestions for improvement.   Perhaps most interesting, we ask what are some of the strategies the employee uses to make customers happy.   This is an excellent source for identifying best practices and potential coaches.

Finally, comparing results across the organization identifies any perceptual gaps between the frontline and management.  This can be a very illuminating activity.

For more posts in this series, click on the following links:


Click Here For More Information About Kinesis' Employee Engagement Research

Internal Customer Survey Design Tips

It is a commonly accepted principal that internal customer service, the service all employees provide each other, has a significant influence on employee satisfaction and turnover as well as the customer experience, customer loyalty, retention and wallet share. Key to managing any process, whether it is internal customer service or not, is information. This post outlines a survey tool to measure internal customer service in a manner to, not only understand what is going on, but also to inform management decisions with respect to the internal service environment. Kinesis has had success measuring the internal environment using a fairly simple internal customer service survey process with key call to action elements built into the program.

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Data collection for such internal customer service surveys is typically performed via an online survey instrument. Online surveys from an external provider allow for a promise of anonymity, allowing the employee to be completely candid in their input; with the additional benefit of being extremely cost efficient.

Generally, internal customer service surveys start with a screener asking what departments the employee has interacted with within a specific time period (typically the past three or six months). From this screener, survey logic determines what departments the employee will be asked to evaluate.

Departmental Evaluations

The next step in the survey process is to ask the employee to evaluate each department they have interacted with recently. We typically present the employee with a series of internal customer service survey questions based on specific service attributes. Among some of the service attributes we have had success measuring are:

  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Quality
  • Teamwork

As an option, you may want to consider using a battery of adjectives to evaluate each department. This technique presents employees with a list of adjectives and asks them, which if any of the adjectives describe each department. Some of the adjectives Kinesis has had success using include:

  • Attentive
  • Efficient
  • Experts
  • Empathetic
  • Respectful
  • Knowledgeable
  • Accountable
  • Reliable
  • Responsive
  • Courteous

Overall Company Evaluation

In additional to evaluating individual departments, it can also be instructive to evaluate the company as whole. There are a number of ways to do this. One technique is to ask yourself what is your brand personality, and evaluate each department against this benchmark. Another is to ask employees the extent to which they agree with the following statements:

  • We are the preferred provider in our industry.
  • Our employees build customer relationships to deliver exceptional service.
  • Our employees are empowered to serve customers.
  • Our strategy is forward thinking.
  • Our strategy ensures efficient and cost-effective operations.

Call to Action

Finally, research without call to action elements may be interesting, but not very useful. We always build several “call to action” elements into our internal customer service surveys, which are designed to identify ways clients can act on the research. Perhaps the simplest of these techniques is to solicit ideas for improvement with an open-ended question, such as:

What would you most like to change about the way our departments serve each other?

Or conversely,

What do you like best about the way our departments serve each other?

The answers to these questions will point managers in the right direction in terms of improving internal service.

Again, information is a critical to managing internal customer service. The benefits to managing internal customer service and integrating them into your culture include: improved collaboration, workflows, communication and productivity, while at the same time reducing costs with the ultimate benefit chain including stronger employee and customer satisfaction, lower turnover, and increased customer loyalty.


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Does Your Frontline Understand the Customer Experience Better than the CEO?

Frontline customer facing employees are a vastly underutilized resource in terms of understanding the customer experience. They spend the majority of their time in the company-employee interface, and as a result tend to be unrecognized experts in the customer experience. Conversely, often the further management is removed from the customer interface the less they truly understand some details about what is going on.

One tool to both leverage frontline experience and identify any perceptual gaps between management and the frontline is to survey all levels of the organization to gather impressions of the customer experience.

Typically, we start by asking employees to put themselves in the customers’ shoes and to ask how customers would rate their satisfaction with the customer experience, including specific dimensions and attributes of the experience. A key call-to-action element of these surveys tends to be a question asking employees what they think customers would most like or dislike about the service delivery.

Next we focus employees on their own experience, asking the extent to which they believe they have all the tools, training, processes, policies, customer information, coaching, staff levels, empowerment, and support of both their immediate supervisor and senior management to deliver on the company’s service promise. Call-to-action elements can be designed into this portion of the research by asking what, in their experience, leads to customer frustration or disappointment, and soliciting suggestions for improvement. Perhaps most interesting we ask what are some of the strategies the employee uses to make customers happy – this is an excellent source for identifying best practices and potential coaches.

Finally, comparing results across the organization identifies any perceptual gaps between the frontline and management. This can be a very illuminating activity.

And why not leverage employees as a resource to understanding the customer experience? They spend most of their time in the company-customer interface, and are therefore experts of what is actually going on. Secondly, employees and customers generally want the same things.

Customers want… Employees want…
To get what they are promised The tools/systems/ policies to do their job
Their problems resolved Empowerment to solve problems
Their needs listened to/understood More/better feedback
Knowledgeable employees; adequate information More training; more/better feedback
Employees to take the initiative, take responsibility, represent the company Empowerment; clear priorities; inclusion in the company’s big picture
The company to value their business Clear priorities; the tools/systems/policies to do their job

 


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People: The Fifth-P of Marketing

We are all familiar with the Four-P’s of marketing: Product, Price, Promotion and Place – but maybe there is a Fifth-P. Recent research by Kinesis has determined the importance bank representatives play in driving purchase intent. The Fifth-P – it is People.

In the first quarter of 2004, Kinesis conducted a survey of people who had recently visited a bank branch to inquire about a retail banking product or service. The purpose of this research was to determine the key drivers of purchase intent after a branch visit. Six hundred ninety-four people (n=694) were asked to rate how the experience at the branch influenced their intention or purchase a product or service from the bank according to a five-point rating scale anchored at -2 and +2, where -2 was defined as “significantly decreased purchase intent”, +2 was defined as “significantly increased purchase intent” with zero (the mid-point) defined as “had no influence on purchase intent.” Paired with this purchase intent rating, respondents were asked why the experience influenced their purchase intent as it did? The responses to this open-ended question were grouped according to common themes and cross-tabulated according to the purchase intent rating to determine what elements of the branch experience drive purchase intent. The results of this cross-tabulation are presented in the accompanying chart.

Once a prospective customer enters the branch, the platform representative clearly drives purchase intent. Over two-thirds (69%) of the reasons given for positive purchase intent are the result of branch personnel, only one-in-five (18%) were product related, while 8% were due to the branch atmosphere.

The branch personnel driven elements include: generally positive friendly service (26%), product knowledge/informative/confidence in the representative (16%), attentive to needs/ interest in helping/ personalized service (14%), and professional/ respectful/ not pushy employees (10%). Prospective customers want confidence and trust not just in the institution, but also in the people who are the human face of the institution. Product knowledge, attention to personal needs, and a respectful professional sales approach are all very important in establishing the trust necessary to earn the right to play a role in the household’s financial business.

Reasons Behind Purchase Intent

Friendly Employees /General Positive Customer Service

26%

Product Reasons

18%

Rep. Product Knowledge/ Informative /Confidence in Rep.

16%

Attentive to Needs/ Interest in Helping/ Personalized Service

14%

Professional/ Respectful Employees/ Not Pushy

10%

Branch Atmosphere

8%

Felt Valued as a Customer

3%

In a follow-up study, Kinesis wanted to investigate the key drivers of purchase intent as a result of the sales presentation for more complex financial services. Three hundred fourteen people (n=314) who had recently participated in a sales presentation for bank-marketed investment products (annuities, mutual funds, and other securities from Series 6 and Series 7 licensed sales people) were given the same survey. If trust and confidence in the platform personnel is important for retail banking, it is even more important for investment products.

Over nine-out-of-ten (91%) of the respondents mentioned an employee related reason as driving purchase intent, only a handful mentioned product (3%) and branch atmosphere (2%), as drivers of purchase intent. The themes of trust and confidence are even more evident in investment presentations. Interest in helping/attentive to needs (43%), product knowledge/informative/confidence in the representative (28%), and professional/respectful employees (13%) are the top three reasons for positive purchase intent. Furthermore, the strength of these attributes’ influence is striking, 78% of the respondents who mentioned these attributes assigned the highest purchase intent rating (+2). Not only are they mentioned with significant frequency, but the strength of their influence on Purchase Intent is significant as well.

As banks continue to expand their offerings to more sophisticated products, the professionalism and personalization of the sales process is critical to garnering the trust necessary to earn the household’s business. Not only is this due to the sophistication of these products, but also because of their risk profile. Customers understand this increased risk and therefore require even more personalized and professional attention to feel comfortable giving their business to an institution, even if the institution is a bank with all the trust usually associated with bank brands.

Once a prospective client is in the branch, the people in the sales process drive purchase intent. Product, Price, Promotion and Place all play a role in getting prospective clients to the branch, but it is the people involved in the sales process who clearly drive purchase intent from that point on. Perhaps People really doesn’t deserve elevation to the status of Fifth-P. In fact, the people in the sales process is part of the Fourth-P, Place. However, consider this – financial institutions invest heavily in marketing efforts for both core bank products and increasingly more sophisticated products. Yet, all this marketing investment is wasted if it is not supported by the people involved in the sales process. It is these people who connect with prospective customers on a personal level, and as a result, influence the sale and maximize return on marketing investments. That’s worth repeating – the people in the sales process maximize ROI on marketing dollars.


Click Here For More Information About Kinesis' Employee Engagement Research

Click Here For More Information About Kinesis' Employee Engagement Research