Improve Your People First – They are your brand

As a course of business The Page Group begins working with a client engagement to identify how customer communicate and connect with a brand.   We see where they visit, who they talk to and how they engage with the products, the brand, the company and its people.   In doing so it also helps us evaluate the critical pathways to communicate with those clients in a very committed brand loyal way.   It always starts with the customer then evolves to internal. 

The success of any brand is driven by how your people engage and communicate your core brand philosophy to your core audience.  Do the reflect your brand?  Do they represent your brand message?   Are the living the Brand Philosophy when dealing with customers.

So the following article talks to the subject of Improving your internal Organization First.   Everyone in your organization should clearly understand what the brand philosophy, brand statement, and its message are all about.  They need to understand that this is what drives their everyday interaction with the consumer.   And, if they do we have a strong likelihood to develop strong brand loyal customers.   

The last thing a customer wants is confusion as to what the brand stands for when they interact with the company…whether it is on the website, with customer service, at the front desk, in its packaging, and all their interactions with the company.  As an example a company who feels that part of its brand statement is that they are a “customer service oriented” company then you cannot have a digital answering system…you need real people.   When a customer calls customer service they need prompt efficient and effective customer service.   If there is an accounts payable problem it needs to be done with exceptional customer service.   And so on.   Great article that delves into the importance of your people in the everyday success of your business.  Read On…


Improve People First

Published in Industry Week
Jan. 31, 2014

If we want to improve our services, the place to start is not with our computer systems, but with improving our front-line, customer-facing team members. Improve your people first.

Over the past five years, in almost every service organization I’ve worked with, I’ve heard the following complaint, or a version of it. Perhaps you’ve heard it in your service organization too:

“We’d like to improve, but until they fix the bugs in our computer systems, or we get the new system they’ve been promising us for years, there’s just not much we can do.”

And no matter how many times I hear there’s no way to improve service to customers without improving systems, I’m always surprised. It is true that service processes do often rely heavily on computer systems; however, those systems don’t operate themselves. Our team members operate them: Our team members use those systems to produce the services that customers need, such as payroll checks and reports, insurance policies, and banking and financial transactions. And it is our team members who use those systems to help answer customer questions and handle customer complaints. In service organizations, systems don’t produce the required services or satisfy customers—people do.

So if we want to improve our services, the place to start is not with our computer systems, but with improving the people who operate those systems to produce the services that our customers want: our front-line, customer-facing team members. And how do we do that in a service organization? The same way that we do it in a manufacturing organization. By teaching our team members to identify and solve problems in their work processes using the PDCA cycle: Plan-Do-Check-Act, the scientific method of solving a problem.

Take, for example, a team member whose job it is to answer incoming calls in a customer service center. That team member hears the voice of the customer loud and clear every day. And often-times, the voice of the customer is an angry voice, letting the team member know of a problem in the process: an incorrect amount on a payroll check, an ordered item that did not arrive at the specified time, or a difficulty accessing an online system to check a bank balance. Consider the following possibilities:

  1. The team member uses the system to record and help fix the problem and moves on to the next call.
  2. The team member uses the system to record and help fix the problem and recognizes that there is a process improvement opportunity in the customer’s complaint. They then raise the issue to their manager who has the skills and motivation to work with them to find the root cause so that countermeasures can be put in place to prevent the problem from happening again to other customers.
  3. Going one step even further, the problem is then recorded on a board organized by types of problems where the team meets daily to discuss how to solve the most important problems for customer satisfaction. Countermeasures could even include creating a task force to work with the IT department to improve the computer system.

In my experience, team members who have no “human system” available for highlighting problems and systematically solving them feel isolated and unable to solve problems and will choose the first alternative. The only system they know is the computer system, which is controlled by someone they never met in a place they probably have never been. Team members with managers who want to understand the problems so that they can help solve them, and care about improving their team members problem-solving abilities using PDCA, are more likely to at least raise the problem by telling someone. Team members working in an organization with a “human system” established for continuous improvement will naturally voice their customer problems in an established forum for doing that. And moreover, as the customer-facing organization brings problems to the IT group , the IT group may start to become more customer focused, and make the computer system more “human system” friendly.

Problems in customer service computer systems are always going to exist. When we replace our current system with a new system, we are simply going to get a whole new set of problems for our team members and our customers. And if we wait for someone else to develop and give us these new systems to begin improving our processes to satisfy our customers, we lose both the opportunity to develop our team members’ problem identification and solving skills and we risk losing our customers to other service organizations who aren’t relying on systems to improve their service, but are developing their team members through PDCA.

When we teach our team members to identify and solve problems, not only do we develop their abilities, but we also give our organization the competitive edge needed to satisfy and create loyal customers, no matter what computer systems we use. And when we stop focusing on what our systems can’t do, and start focusing on what our team members can do, we will realize that there’s no need to wait for someone else to give us new systems to start improving. We can always start working to develop our team members right now.


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