In our technologically driven world, we are continuing to see an increase in use of artificial intelligence in the customer service arena. From chatbots, to self-serve checkouts, to online shopping and much more, AI is really taking over when it comes to the service sphere, and it’s only getting stronger and more personalized.
Why Do Customers Want AI Service?
Customers want fast, friendly and hassle-free service. Many customers choose AI service options because it is available more conveniently for them. For instance, the chatbot services online are often available 24/7 and you can get through to a AI service rep immediately versus waiting for sometimes hours on the phone to speak with a human rep.
That brings me to another reason why customers might choose AI service over a human interaction and that is, faster service. AI customer service can often provide speedier answers to customer inquiries and problems.
Why Do Employers Want To Use AI?
Employers are also jumping on the AI bandwagon for several reasons. Having AI service can often prove to be cheaper than paying a human body to be available. The fact that AI service is ‘running in the background’ all the time, regardless of if it’s being use every moment, frees up the time of human agents making them much more efficient and productive.
Organizations are realizing more and more that having an omni-channel experience for their customers is critical. And consistency among those channels is paramount. Your organization might use a combination of AI and human customer service in order to provide an omni channel experience for your customers. For instance, your human front-line workers might represent your company in your brick and mortar stores, whereas your AI reps fulfil online service inquiries.
Is AI Going To Take My Job?
If you could interact with a fast, friendly, hassle-free human OR a robot, which would you choose? If they knew for sure that their customer service experience with the human would be exceptional, most people would probably choose the human.
With human to human interaction there are a lot of nuances and ability to provide personalized service that a robot can’t provide. Of course, as technology is getting smarter, robots can automate to create personalized solutions for customers. However, with robots there are many variables that we can’t control.
From an employer perspective, there is a place and time when AI should be used to increase productivity and efficiency and save costs. But there are so many things that a robot cannot do that a human can provide.
The best solution for employees who find them in a precarious place when it comes to technology taking over their jobs, is to be constantly learning and growing to stay relevant. Read more about how you can stay relevant in the age of AI by Re-Skilling the Workforce to Prepare for Technology.
There’s a generation in the workforce that will soon play a very important role in leading your organization into the future. In fact, Forbes reported that by 2030, Millennials will comprise 75% of the workforce.
There has been a slew of articles lately about millennials ‘killing off’ various industries. This attests to their immense buying power and control in the markets. And, it is another reason why it is very important for you to treat your millennial employees well – because what is being felt on the inside of your organization can be felt on the outside by your customers.
All generations of talent want to feel valued in the workplace. Millennials have reported several things that help to motivate and engage them in the workplace and turn them into loyal employees (and customers).
Here are some of things millennials look for in an organization to keep them motivated and engaged:
Flexibility. This comes at the top of the list for many millennials. Many would even forgo a pay increase or bonus in lieu of more remote work, flexible hours, vacation time and a better work life balance.
Mentorship. Millennials want to receive feedback and one on one coaching with their managers. They want to have a good relationship with their direct supervisor and learn from them so they can move up in the organization.
Autonomy. Along with flexibility, millennials want to have some autonomy and say in how they execute their role. They don’t want a supervisor who micromanages them. Some examples of ways they can get autonomy include, working remotely or flexibility, and having authority over making certain decisions within their scope of practice.
Transparency. Millennials want to know what is going on in the business and how they can contribute to the growth. They want you to be clear about what your business goals and objectives are and to communicate that with them.
Impact. Millennials want to feel like they are contributing to the betterment of the organization. This could be with a special project, by supporting their colleagues, or by serving their customers on the front line. Whatever way they serve your organization, they want to know how their contribution is making an impact in order to feel valuable.
Skills. Millennials are a generation that are very dedicated to continuing their education and learning new skills that make them more marketable. They want to know that you are investing in their future by providing them will skills and development that will make them more marketable and allow them to grow in the organization.
Recognition & rewards. Millennials (and other generations of talent) want to feel like their great work is being acknowledged. Recognition and rewards can come in many forms including non-monetary recognition such as praise and thanks, or monetary rewards and recognition such as bonuses, time off, gift cards, and total recognition points that can be redeemed for merchandise, travel and many other rewards.
For more information on how to support millennials at work read What Millennials Want in the Workplace.
With the rise of virtual and remote workers, organizations are paying more and more attention to how they can utilize this great opportunity to offer their employees more flexibility. However, just as important is keeping those same employees motivated and engaged as if they were in the office daily having one on one face time with their colleagues and managers.
As a remote worker myself, I can attest to the fact that the tips below work to keep me motivated and engaged during my workday. I should mention though that not everyone is cut out for remote or virtual work.
When I tell people I work from home, I’ve had countless people tell me “Oh, I couldn’t do that.” I think it’s true that some people are just not cut out for remote work. You do have to be self-motivated and disciplined enough to cut out the distractions. Additionally, it’s important to make sure you allow yourself the time to step away from work to take short breaks — perhaps get outside for a walk – as it will help you to reinvigorate your energy for the rest of your workday. If you just plop down in front of your computer screen for 8+ hours straight you’re going to drain yourself both mentally and physically.
Here are some of the top ways that you can motivate and engage your remote and virtual workers:
1. Establish Your Company Culture.
Be sure to communicate your expectations and company culture up front with your remote workers. You want to make sure that they’re a good fit for your organization and that they will be committed and competent to perform their duties. If you find that an employee isn’t cut out for remote work, give them opportunities to connect in person with their colleagues and leaders. For example, when I first started at GES I would go into the office so I could get to know who I was working with. It was important to establish those in person connections and get to know a little bit more about the company and culture before I began working remotely.
2. Keep in Touch Often.
It is so important to communicate often with your remote workers. Establish a meeting frequency that is best for your team and be sure to touch base on activities, deadlines and updates that they might require in order to perform their job best. Keep in touch daily via email and be sure to communicate very clearly and efficiently what your expectations are for work completion. Establish deadlines together and come up with an action plan on how they will execute their duties.
3. Opportunities to Grow.
Make sure to offer your remote employees the opportunity to learn and grow within your organization. If they stay sedentary for too long and aren’t developing new skills, they are likely to find somewhere else where they will. This can include formal learning opportunities such as eLearning, one on one training and coaching or work related courses/certifications that will teach them new skills. You can also send them to industry conferences where they will have the opportunity to keep their finger on the pulse of the industry and bring back relevant opportunities to implement in your workplace.
4. Give Them Challenging Projects.
Keep your employees motivated by giving them new and challenging projects. It will give them the opportunity to learn new things, and exercise their problem-solving skills in a new way. This will also help them to develop a new set of skills that they may be able to transfer into other parts of their role in your organization.
5. Recognize their Achievements.
It is so important for you to recognize and reward your remote workers for their great work! Recognition can take on many forms such as non-monetary recognition such as a verbal thank you or acknowledgement, or a peer to peer recognition note, etc. You can also recognize them with monetary rewards such as points to redeem in your total reward program, monetary bonuses or paid time off. It is important to recognize your remote workers in a personalized way that is unique to how they want to be recognized. For example, some employees would prefer to have extra vacation time over a bonus, or vice versa. Get to know your employees so you can personalize their recognition experience.
To learn more about what your employees want to keep them motivated and engaged check out the Top Company Perks to Consider for Your Talent.
You may have heard the term micorolearning being tossed around the learning and development world for the last couple years, and for good reason. Microlearning is essentially a method of teaching and delivering content in small, specific doses. In this type of learning, the learner is in better control of when and what they are learning.
The Benefits of Microlearning
In our high-tech society, it has been said that the attention spans of most people are dwindling. However, as an organization, learning is still so important for the growth and development of your employees, your business and your customer service. Learning providers face the challenge of delivering learning in a way that is accessible, digestible and most importantly translatable to a real-world environment.
Some of the benefits of microlearning include:
- Shorter lessons are easier for learner to complete with busy schedules
- Succinct content makes the information more digestible
- Reduced amount of time spent on training
- Increased retention because the learner isn’t getting too much information too fast
- Accessible content when and where it’s convenient, on any device
Is Microlearning Right for my Organization?
With busy schedules it’s getting harder and harder to take people off of the job for in person learning, not to mention the added cost and travel time. People want their learning content when and where it is convenient for them. Microlearning adds the element of time convenience in a high-tech, yet interactive environment that so many people desire.
By utilizing eLearning, your organization can provide a clear and consistent message to all employees across the organization. This can offer a high impact way to align your culture and messaging internally.
Global Engagement Solutions offers microlearning solutions utilizing our Layered Learning approach. Click here to learn more about our learning solutions and see them for yourself in action.
Your organization can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on training and developing your employees, but if you don’t put that learning into action, then your efforts will be in vain.
It is critically important that 10x the amount of time, energy and resources is spent following up and reinforcing learning and development, as is spent designing and delivering it.
What is Action Planning in Learning?
Action Planning is an application focused exercise for you to implement and discuss during your leadership meetings. Upon completing a learning session, the learner would develop an action plan on how to implement that learning in their workplace. The action plan would be sent to their direct supervisor and they would work together to create a plan and methods of accountability to put that plan into action.
How to Activate Change with Your Learning Program
Action planning is important to the development process because It creates momentum and motivation to put the learning into action. It creates accountability for both the learner and their supervisor because it’s a guide to how to implement the learning in your organization.
To successfully transfer learning from the learning environment to a real-life scenario, your focus must be on repetition and reinforcement.
Your learners must fully understand the content and competencies they have learned by repeating the content, practicing, drilling and rehearsing it in a safe environment.
We believe the key to great learning is retrieval. Being able to retrieve the content or the competency when you need it to make a difference with a colleague or a customer.
Once your learner is confident in their ability to retain and retrieve the content and competencies they have learned, create an action plan of how to implement that learning in the organization. It’s important for the supervisor to be directly involved with the action planning step. This gives the learner someone to be accountable to, while also making the supervisor accountable for putting the learning into action.
Here is an example of an action oriented microlearning program:
As you can see from the design above, each learning suite is developed to create repetition, follow up and reinforcement as well as accountability, tracking and measurement.
If you would like to learn more about how to implement a microlearning program in your organization with a focus on action planning, get in touch here.
Talent today aren’t going to stick around your organization and give you their discretionary energy and loyalty unless they feel they are being engaged, empowered and enabled in their role.
Most employees don’t want to just put in x number of hours a day in the same monotonous job. They want skills that make them more marketable NOW and in the future. They want to feel like they are learning and growing in their current role, and they want to feel like they have the skills and competencies to do a good job with their colleagues and customers.
We have observed that the new work order has changed, and talent is no longer trading job security for job loyalty. However, when you give them skills and development now and opportunities for growth in the future, they feel visible and valued, which translates into giving their discretionary energy and loyalty. Plus, when you develop your employees they are better enabled to serve both your internal and external customers and provide a better experience which can translate into more productivity and profits for your organization.
Millennials and Learning
Millennials especially are known for moving from job to job in order to expand their growth, salary and opportunities in their careers. A recent Gallup poll found that, “Millennials are more likely than both Gen Xers and baby boomers to say a job that accelerates their professional or career development is “very important” to them (45% of millennials vs. 31% of Gen Xers and 18% of baby boomers).” (Gallup, 2017).
Read more about What Millennials Want in the Workplace here.
Enable your Employees with Learning and Development
Hire for personalization, then train for hard skills. There is lack of soft skills now in the workplace, and yet these skills are ones that help to create exceptional experiences for your customers. Often times the hard skills that an employee needs to execute their role are trainable. Soft skills that focus on creating personalized experiences for your employees and customers include: being authentic, hospitality, empathy, competency, commitment, friendliness and fun! If you hire your employees for these sort of skills, you can usually train them for the specific tasks they will need to know on the job.
Commit to your employee’s development and be accountable for their learning. Have a plan for developing your employees. Communicate and discuss with them openly about their opportunities for growth and commit to a plan of action. Ask yourself, what specific efforts have been made to improve my employee’s personal and professional skills? The best organizations, the ones who have high retention, high recruitment and employee loyalty, engage and enable their talent with learning and development throughout their careers.
For more information on how to implement a custom learning program in your organization click here.
There are many reasons you should engage your employees, besides just money. But did you know that if you’re not engaging and recognizing your employees you could be leaving hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars on the table!
By engaging your employees, not only will you be improving your internal processes, but you will create a better experience for your customers.
Internal Loss from Lack of Engagement
Lack of engagement can lead to many pitfalls in your internal service channel. Some of them include:
- Lower Productivity
- Higher Turnover
- Effect on Recruitment
- Lower Energy/Motivation
- Higher Stress Levels
- Implications for Safety/Wellness
Why is Employee Engagement Important for your Bottom Line?
As an organization, if you focus on engaging your employees and removing obstacles that get in the way of internal service cooperation, it will translate into better experiences for your customers. This will create customers that stay longer, buy more and positively refer others and that means more profit for your organization!
When you have loyal customers you have a built in base of reliable continuous profit. This can continue to grow if you exceed your customer’s expectations and provide them with personalized service. When you provide your customers with value and exceptional service they will continue to be loyal to your organization. Value for your customers is created by having competent, committed, hospitable and authentic employees that can provide fast, friendly, hassle-free service. Therefore, your employees’ engagement and motivation will result in high-quality service for your customers.
According to a recent report by OfficeVibe, “disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion annually” (OfficeVibe, 2017). In their roundup of employee engagement stats, they make a very compelling case for the profitability of engaging your employees (see below).
- Highly engaged business units result in 21% greater profitability.
- Highly engaged business units realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity.
- Highly engaged business units achieve a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales.
- Companies with engaged employees, outperform those without by 202%.
- Customer retention rates are 18% higher on average when employees are highly engaged.
What improvements have you seen in your organization from having an engagement and recognition program?
Do you feel your engaged employees have improved your customer experience?
If you’re ready to get started engaging your employees to create more profit, read more about how to Focus on Engaged Employees for Better Customer Outcomes.
In order to have your customer’s loyalty, to ensure they stay longer, buy more and tell others, you have to be responsible for their entire experience, not just the things directly in your control. That is why if you are a leader, it is so important to focus on your internal service cooperation in order to improve your customer experience. Read more about why If Your Internal Service Sucks, Your External Service is Doomed.
It is critically important for you and your organization to look for ways to own and manage the entire customer experience or you could be in jeopardy of losing your loyal customer at any touch point. Yes, this means even for things you are not responsible for.
“Service recovery means that you have an opportunity to respond and work to resolve the problem at hand to ensure the customer expectations are met.” – Peter Psichogios
Here are a few ways that will help to keep your customers as net promoters (and not turn them into net detractors):
Put their problem in context. Context involves using your diagnostic skills. The other element of context is knowing your customer. As a leader, this means giving your team autonomy to use judgement in the service recovery process.
Never be rude. There is never a reason to be rude, disrespectful or condescending to a guest. Safety, security, common respect and politeness are not mutually exclusive. Rude people leave a long, lasting impression. Always show your customer respect. Many people have difficult jobs, many people have to deal with difficult situations.
Receive feedback as a gift. Don’t argue with a customer who is giving you feedback; use it to improve. Continuously. Regardless of what type of complaint, it is critically important to first listen, never argue and then apologize.
Focus on recovery. If you get it wrong the first time, you’d better get it exceptionally right the second time. Not a lot of people complain, because typically it is such a hassle. But, when someone gives you an opportunity to recover, you’d better do it exceptionally well. Recovery means listening. Recovery means being empathetic.
Listen, listen, listen. Upset customers need to vent, so let them. When you are in service recovery, expect to have a frustrated customer who may be emotional.
If you are in customer service and you are dealing with an angry customer, they may yell at you and they may even swear at you. It is your job to listen and not be defensive so that you can understand the real issue that your customer has. And ideally, solve it!
An apology, listening and respect go a long way. In order to thrive in service recovery you must a) acknowledge b) communicate c) apologize and d) answer your customer.
Remember, each and every person inside your business impacts the customer experience, their loyalty and yes, your customer’s peace of mind. If you let somebody inside of your four walls, regardless of what department they are in, they’d better be focused on enhancing the customer experience. Create exceptional experiences for your customers at every touch point.
Each and every person in your organization has an impact on your customer experience and therefore your bottom line. Even those employees who don’t work on the front lines directly with your customers are serving your employees internally and providing them with the means necessary to perform their job.
“Customers don’t interact with an organization. They interact with you and your co-workers. It is that experience whether they buy or not, whether they become loyal customers or a lost opportunity.” – Peter Psichogios
Your Customer Service if Only as Great as Your Internal Service
It takes great internal service cooperation to provide seamless, flexible, hassle-free customer service. Whatever is happening on the inside of a company can be felt on the outside by the customers. If your talent is not fast, flexible and hassle-free with each other, how can they behave differently for your customers?
There are many ways that your internal employees might help serve your front-line employees to improve the customer experience. Leaders can serve your customers by providing front-line employees with the training, skills and competencies needed to do their best work. They can also remove obstacles that get in the way of providing the best experience to your customers.
Other internal colleagues might be involved in supporting those front-line workers with administrative work, stocking products, accounting and many other tasks that all contribute to a smooth customer experience. Read more about why if Your Internal Sucks, Your External Experience is Doomed.
Earning Customer Loyalty
Earning your customers’ loyalty starts with creating exceptional customer experiences at every touch point. The first step is having great internal service cooperation, and providing your employees with learning and development to enable them to better serve your customers as discussed above.
Earning customer loyalty is simple, but it’s not always easy. It takes dedication from your leaders, continuous effort from employees, and a commitment from your organization to align your organization on all levels.
Here are a few simple things you can do to earn your customer’s loyalty:
- · Personalize your interactions and treat each customer uniquely as they want to be treated.
- · Be authentic with every customer.
- · Be friendly!
- · Communicate clearly and effectively to set realistic expectations.
- · Exceed customer expectations every time. Always go the extra mile for your customers!
- · Honor your commitments. Follow through and do what you say you will.
- · Provide them with fast, hassle-free service.
- · Reward them with incentives to return and recommend!
It takes commitment and focus to understand that each interaction with your customers is an opportunity to create delight. But when you create exceptional experiences at every touch point, you will earn decades of loyalty.
Gone are the days where leaders can rule with an iron fist and expect their employee to respond with their loyalty and productivity. Talent nowadays feel a lot less like they owe their organizations something, when they don’t get something in return. Talent want to feel empowered and enabled to do a good job to the best of their ability. They want to feel like they have the skills and competencies to help their colleagues and customers.
Leave Your Ego at the Door
What would it look like in your organization if your leaders were egoless? Think about it, if you’re a leader who leaves their ego at the door, you’re going to have a more pleasant, less confrontational work environment. You’re going to have better, more open communication because your talent won’t be afraid to tell you about problems that get in the way of their service. You’re going to have more employee engagement because they want to serve a leader who cares about them and not just him/herself.
There are many reason why being an egoless leader will have benefits for your organization and it’s bottom line including, increased productivity, better safety, improved morale, and improved word of mouth from both your employees and customers.
How to Serve Your Way to Success
If you are truly committed to leaving your ego at the door and serving your way to success in business, there are some helpful things that will help you to get there:
Focus on your employees needs and wants. Get to know your people beyond the job they do and find out what motivates them. Do they want opportunities to learn and grow in a certain position? Provide them with development and they will be more engaged, energized and committed to your company’s success.
Recognize your employees for a job well done. This is not a one size fits all approach, and you absolutely cannot pollute the winner’s circle with losers. But recognize each individual employee for their personal contribution to your company’s success. When you do so, others will see these behaviors being recognized and will follow suit. Plus, it reinforces a positive, reward driven work environment where your employees will be acknowledged for doing good work.
Provide one-on-one coaching to see employees excel. If you give your employees personalized feedback and direction, you will be able to play upon their strengths and improve their weaknesses. It’s important to communicate openly and effectively with them so that they know what your expectations are and how they can meet and exceed them.
These are just a few ways that being an egoless leader will help you serve your way to success.
- Do you have any examples of an egoless leader in your organization? How are their interactions with employees different than other leaders?
- What are some ways that you have seen improvement in your employees by being an egoless leader?
- Do you have any guidelines you follow for being an egoless leader? Please share in the comments below!