Jo Thomson thinks there are seven powerful steps you can take in making your staff believe in the customer experience. Here she tells us how to put the magnificent seven in to practice.
If you have bought in to the idea of the customer experience, then you will recognise that your agents, team leaders, trainers and management need to stand up and be counted in order to deliver it successfully. They will need to understand it, own it and use it both now and in the future.
Rest assured, the high level of buy-in required is achievable, but there are some practical steps that will help you achieve it.
To kick things off, let us ask a few questions about you:
- How good a salesperson are you?
- How well do you know your customers?
- How confident are you about gaining commitment from them?
In this context your customers are your people, and by selling them the customer experience, we mean asking them for the buy-in you need.
The good news is there’s lots of research out there in to how and why people buy. In this article we have used this to describe how your people might buy in to change. Specifically we’ve looked at some of the psychological steps they might go through before committing to you and your plans. This allows us to share a series of top tips that we trust you will find useful.
First of the buyer’s steps is to ask am I interested?
We all respond to marketing. We watch TV ads. We read flyers, posters and direct mail, even if we deny it. We browse. Things catch our eye. We respond to messages that are clear, focused and relate to our experiences. That’s how engagement begins.
So, in order to help your people engage with your plans, it’s important to ask some key questions:
- Is your message clear? Is there clarity around what you are expecting to gain interest in?
- Is communication focused? Are all channels of internal communication aligned and supportive?
- Is communication presented in terms that are relevant and attractive to your people?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to the above, then you are increasing the chances of engagement and buy-in from day one.
Our first top tip therefore is to brand your customer experience change programme. However you go about change, build a proposition that is clear and focused on your people’s agenda. That way you can design internal communication that supports the overall goal of generating interest.
If you gain interest successfully your customers will move on to our second step of buyer behaviour – I wonder if..
As buyers, once we’ve walked past the window, seen the television advertisement or read the direct mail, there’s an important stage before we move forward. We wonder to ourselves: “Will they have it in my size? Will that work for me?”
This is a stage that good sellers remember and support in their approach.
In the context of attitudinal and behavioural change the secret is a little bit of patience and a lot of availability.
Top tips for you – and importantly your wider management team – include:
- Be visible. Be ready to answer questions, fly the flag, be a champion.
- Remember it’s normal for people to think in their terms not yours or necessarily the business’s. In other words, get on their personal agenda.
- Be positive but realistic. If getting something ‘to fit’ will be hard work, say so. Focus on how much better the outcome will be as a result.
If this works then buyers will naturally progress to our third question – can you tell me the details?
The challenge here is that all buyers don’t want or need to know everything at the same time.
Successful car salesmen recognise that while one customer will want a breakdown of safety features, the next might want to know the 0-60mph performance. Unsuccessful car salesmen will make assumptions about what’s important, rather than ask the customer any questions or let them get a word in when listing the car’s features.
It’s the same with sharing the detail of changes you have planned. Things to remember when you plan briefings and training include:
- Bite-size chunks work more effectively, enabling people to absorb information at their own rate.
- Check understanding and buy-in as you go. Ask questions and get feedback.
- Brief positively – this is still part of the sales journey.
The next step for buyers is to come out of the theoretical and in to the practical by asking what will it be like?
It’s here that, as buyers, we picture ourselves using the new service, wearing the new shoes or hanging the new curtains.
Only by thinking into the future can we make a judgement call as to whether the product or service will work for us – or indeed be worth the effort of changing.
When you are selling a new way to handle customers, your people will also ask themselves a series of questions. Will this work for me? What will I sound like? How will customers respond? Will I be able to fit this in with my current workload? Will I be successful?
Our key tips include:
- Be prepared. Include impact on direct and supporting work streams in your plans.
- Know your stuff. Get subject experts on your side and involve them in briefing your teams.
- Be open to suggestion. If there is resistance and anxiety to change, you need to listen, find the causes and – if necessary – change your plans.
It is only after going through all the above stages that your people will be comfortable joining you on your journey.
We’ve christened this stage count me in! and it represents considerable success. We therefore recommend some kind of graduation activity. Those who say ‘count me in’ should be recognised and celebrated. Importantly, this is not about completion of training alone. Graduates should have demonstrated they have said ‘count me in’ by using new skills and displaying the right attitude.
This is also the right stage to create customer service champions who can be ambassadors for the new way of doing things – through a pilot phase perhaps.
Of course saying yes isn’t the end of the buyer’s journey. There are still potential hurdles to overcome such as payment, delivery or installation. As buyers we ask ourselves questions about the specifics. What if they want to deliver on a Tuesday? What if my cheque doesn’t clear? What if it doesn’t fit?
In a similar way your people need to be reassured the translation of ideas in to implementation will run smoothly.
This sixth stage is therefore what if? and our sales tip is again based on preparation.
Work together with your people – potentially the champions identified in the ‘count me in’ phase – to define what a future day in the life of your contact centre will be before actioning any changes. Collaborate on design, test and pilot stages because the more input your people have, the smoother transition to the real world will be.
Even after managing the ‘what if?’ stage there is more buyer psychology to consider.
It’s human nature to consider the credibility of the people we buy from. Buyers invest trust as well as logic in making a decision. Often when we pull out of things at the last minute it is because we fear our trust is being abused. The final step of buyer psychology is therefore to ask do I trust these people?
‘These people’ of course refers to you and your management team. By this stage your people will have demonstrated a significant level of trust in you. The fear is that their aspirations will be dashed somewhere between the theoretical and practical.
You can overcome this by proving the theory works yourself. Lead by example and live and breathe the customer experience messages you’re championing. Ask yourself: do I walk the talk?
The good news is that your people will be able to recognise you’ve changed in the way you want them to because, of course, they are your customers.
So the final stage of selling the customer experience is down to you – and your own ability and passion to deliver the customer experience you want for your organisation.
So if you’re about to launch a customer experience change programme, then remember the following seven steps of your customer’s buying journey.
- Am I interested?
- I wonder if..
- Can you tell me the details?
- What will it be like?
- Count me in!
- What if?
- Do I trust these people?
Naturally, the selling doesn’t stop with these seven steps. However successful you are, there’s more customer / people psychology to manage in order to ensure the change is sustainable. We can summarise them in two key questions:
- Am I comfortable?
- Am I being successful?
If the answer to either of the above is no, then all your hard work might well have been in vain. As any successful organisation will tell you, the secret is matching your sales strategy with an equally good retention strategy.
This is the key message we’d like you to take from this article. If your customer experience is designed around winning and keeping customers, there are practical steps you can adopt to winning and keeping your people too.
Jo Thomson is managing director at training and change management business The Procter Consultancy
Tel +44 20 7385 5085
Website: www.procter.co.ukThe following comments have been posted relating to this article:
Hi Jo, your observations are indeed very impressive and sure will help CE as well as sales. (posted by Binod Mathews)
Hi Jo, Fantastic article we shall be building a module around your comments. Great article many thanks. (posted by Craig Bingham)