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The Impact Of Performance Goals On Customer Service

Does this sound familiar? “I can’t possibly complete all of this work and meet the goals to receive a raise. It just doesn’t seem fair. I don’t think management understands what it takes to actually do this job”. Employees today are experiencing more stress than ever in this era of economic uncertainty. It’s very important to align workload and performance goals for long term positive employee morale, long term profitability and long term productivity. Your customers (both external and internal) are impacted by your performance goals. Here are a few issues to consider.

Performance Goals – Is That The Right Number?
When establishing performance goals, take into consideration the total process required for task completion. Base goals on outcomes over which the employee has control. Where the employee has accountability for additional tasks, factor this into goal setting for the employee’s primary responsibility. This will lead to setting realistic goals. Spend time with the employees as they actually perform their duties to get a “real world” feel for what it takes to perform the job. Include the employees who actually perform the job in establishing goals. An environment of mutual respect will exist as the employees will feel that they were able to participate in creating their own goals. The level of service provided to the customer is higher when employees are not overly concerned and stressed out daily about meeting performance goals. Taking these steps has a three-fold effect: 1. Improvement in employee morale. 2. You may be able to create a better process. 3. You should be able to determine if the stated goal is the right goal.

Quality Vs Quantity – Which Is Primary?
Does your reward system encourage quality work? A reward system based on unrealistic performance goals tends to promote quantity over quality. As employees struggle to meet the stated goals, quality will surely suffer as short cuts become the norm in completing tasks. This can lead to poor work audit results, rework (how much does this cost at your company?) and customer dissatisfaction. Employees are prone to display a sense of hurriedness when interacting with customers if the workload and performance goals are not balanced. Those employees choosing quality over quantity will become frustrated as their efforts to perform the job properly are rewarded with inquiries regarding their inability to reach the stated goal. In the quantity over quality environment created by unrealistic performance goals, long term productivity is sacrificed for the short term goal. Focus on systemic thinking and make this a high priority when designing reward systems. Reward actions that insure fluid cross-functional handoffs. This helps to build a culture of wholistic, systemic minded employees who understand the impact of their work to the product/service system.

Work Environment – Is This A Healthy Place To Work?
It is very important to create a positive work environment as your bottom line is directly impacted by employee morale. An environment where performance goals are fair and obtainable fosters an atmosphere of teamwork as employees do not feel the need to protect their “numbers”. Unrealistic goals lead to either unwillingness – for fear of not meeting their own goals or inability – due to unrealistic work load – to truly work as a team. Long term employee frustration usually results in a lower quality of work which ultimately impacts the external customer. Stress levels increase possibly leading to health issues. Employee turnover increases as well as some will seek relief from an atmosphere they deem unfair and unhealthy. This directly impacts your bottom line as the level of customer service delivered suffers via productivity lost to the need to hire and train new employees. How much does a dissatisfied customer cost your company? Promote employee quality of life versus “my work is my life” mindset. Give employees a reason to feel good about coming to work.

Performance goals and reward systems are key components of the business environment. Strive to base both on a “real world” workload. Your long term success depends on it. Your customer will feel the impact of performance goals and the workload. Balance these two in order to insure that the customer is positively impacted and gets great customer service.

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Sales Tactics Do Create Customer Experiences

How often have you heard this statement from customer service personnel within your company – “I wish those salespeople would think about what they’re doing when making promises to customers. I’m tired of being yelled at for something that’s not my fault.” It’s important to remember to only promise what can be delivered when interacting with potential customers – especially when they are purchasing big-ticket items. Here are a few things to remember when using promises as sales tactics to sell products and services to customers.

Promise Only What Can Be Delivered
During my years in the corporate world, the issue of “Why did the salesperson promise that without verifying if we could meet that commitment” would often arise. That statement was usually followed up with “They only think about their commission!” While it’s understandable that salespeople are motivated by potential commissions, it’s critical to make sure that sales guidelines are in place to ensure a positive impact to those persons within the organization that have to service the customer. Whether it be customer service, accounts receivable or any other department that interacts with customers, salespeople must understand and adhere to the policies and or procedures when in the sales mode. Should the need arise for special consideration in order to “get the deal”, check in with those persons who will be impacted by whatever the consideration is before making promises to the customer. Remember – customers view the people within your company as “the company”.

Develop Internal Relationships
Years ago when beginning a corporate stint as an account manager/project manager, my first week was spent meeting those persons with whom I impacted in performing my role. My first question was – “How does what I do impact you?” That question was followed by this one – “What is it that you want me to do to make your job easy?” This question was followed by this one – “What is it that you don’t ever want me to do?” Asking these questions allowed these persons to elaborate on what they were held accountable for and how performing my job could either bring positive or negative consequences for them. By taking time to develop internal relationships, one communicates “We Are A Team” to others within the company. Yes, it takes additional time to ask these questions, but it’s well worth it later in the relationship!

Be Accountable for Your Actions
Should issues arise due to sales methods, it’s the responsibility of the salesperson to be accountable. I think salespeople should be kept abreast of every issue related to promises made, but not kept, that arise with their customers. Doing so would assist in understanding the impact of one’s actions. Persons required to service the customer after the sale should know that they will receive the same internal considerations afforded to the paying customer. When salespeople are held accountable for their sales methods, the level of employee morale increases as one does not fear having to regularly interact with customers who were provided unfulfilled promises during the sales process.

The sales component of a company’s business model is most likely the original experience for potential customers. Make sure that your salespeople understand their impact to the total customer experience by making sure they Promise Only What Can Be Delivered, by requiring them to Develop Internal Relationships and by encouraging them to Be Accountable for Their Actions.

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Marketing Does Create Customer Experiences

Recently my wife contacted a carpet cleaning company for service after receiving a promotional mailer. During the conversation she was informed that this particular promotion was not available after a certain date, which by the way was the previous day. After hearing this news and reviewing the mailer, my wife advised the representative that she did not see the “good until” information on the document. The representative apologized and stated that yes this was her company’s error. My wife then asked if the promotion would be honored because of the error, to which the representative replied “Ma’am, yes we will honor your request. Believe me; we’ve received a multitude of calls because of this mistake.” Marketing plays an integral role in the success of any business. It’s necessary to promote one’s products or services to gain exposure and hopefully new customers. It’s also important to remember that your marketing efforts do create customer experiences. There’s more to a marketing campaign than just creating a marketing message. Let’s examine this a little further.

Whose Involvement Is Required? – Unless one is a soloprenuer or ultra small business, it’s rare that the marketing department develops, implements and processes the influx of phone, walk-in or internet traffic. Usually customer service personnel are tasked with responding to customer inquiries, order requests, etc. in regards to the marketing campaign. It’s crucial to identify what internal services are required to make the marketing campaign a resounding success! Asking simple questions such as what are we promoting? How long will the promotion run? What are we asking our prospective respondents to do? What will we have to do internally to process respondents? In answering these and other questions, you will certainly identify the persons or departments necessary for a seamless campaign implementation.

Say What You Mean To Say – In the above carpet cleaning company scenario, the representative was in the hot seat. It appears that she may have been instructed to hold to the deadline, even though it was not included on the promotional. If the customer did not bother to mention the fact that the deadline was not evident, then don’t offer to honor the promotional. If the customer does mention that the deadline was missing from the promotional then go ahead and honor it. The fact that the deadline was missing from the promotional assisted in creating my wife’s initial experience with this company. Make sure that your marketing material contains all the necessary/intended information for prospective respondents. Imagine how many more calls the company may have received as respondents sought to take advantage of the promotion before the deadline if it was plainly visible on the mailer. I wonder how many respondents actually mentioned the missing deadline and how much it actually cost the company to honor the promotion. Your marketing materials are often potential customers’ first experience with your organization. It’s best to start any relationship off on the right foot.

Are We Ready? After laying out all of the plans, make sure that the persons handling the hoped for traffic are fully educated on the marketing campaign. Pricing, product/service features, shipping times, refund process and guarantees are just a few items to cover during your marketing campaign education. Persons assigned to speak with campaign respondents create a customer experience through their ability to confidently answer questions and process new sales. If your marketing campaign requires respondents to receive service in their homes as in my wife’s scenario, are you adequately staffed to do so in a timely manner? Your ability to quickly provide whatever campaign respondents purchased is crucial to the success of the marketing campaign. When utilizing the Internet for marketing purposes, how easy is it for respondents to get the same information provided via an inbound phone call? Is the purchase acknowledged and a timeframe given for expected receipt of goods/services? As more and more of today’s customers are utilizing the Internet to make purchases, make sure this option receives attention in regards to your marketing campaigns

Developing and implementing marketing campaigns are integral part of an organization’s growth. Remember that the reason for marketing your products/services is to get people to take action. Make sure that your marketing campaigns are created with the understanding that they create customer experiences. If one takes the time to determine Who’s Involvement Is Required, reviews marketing materials to insure the marketing message Says What You Mean It To Say and considers what’s required to process responses in order to say Yes when asked Are We Ready?, then there is a great possibility that great customer experiences are sure to follow!

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(CACV+CT+EFMP)=GCE*C=CR A Customer Experience Formula

While assisting a client with developing a customer experience strategy, a formula crossed my mind. Now I can hear someone asking – Errol, a formula related to customer experience? Bear with me on this – CACV + CT + EFMP = GCE*C = CR. Let’s walk through this.

CACV – This component of the formula means the Creation and Application of Core Values. When any organization takes the time to create core values, that’s a step in the right direction. What’s even more important is the actual application of the core values. Actively practice your core values. Make sure that they are more than just a list posted on your website or in the company conference room. Incorporate core value indoctrination into your new hire training. If you contacted customers and asked if their experience with your company was a reflection of your core values, are you confident that they would respond positively? Yes – it takes time to develop a great set of core values. However in doing so, you’re determining the future of your company. When making decisions, one should take into consideration how the outcome is aligned with the core values. Every department, every employee and every customer is impacted by your core values.

CT – Now this component is one that must not be overlooked. CT represents Comprehensive Training. Companies that practice this component have a higher potential to retain customers as well as employees. Properly conducted, comprehensive training provides employees with the tools necessary to provide a great customer experience. Comprehensively trained employees tend to perform their duties with the entire organization in mind. Having received a broad overview of the organization, their actions more often than not bring about positive results for both the customer and employer. Confidence in one’s ability to successfully perform daily tasks is paramount to a new employee. Training criteria should include teaching the new employee the fine art of internal customer service. Make sure that they can identify who and what is impacted by the performance of their tasks. Help them to understand what services they provide within the organization. Place their finished product (whatever it may be – sales invoice, service ticket, purchase order, etc.) in their hands and compare it to the requirements of those who will utilize it next. Doing so enlightens new employees on the importance of realizing that someone will probably use what you create.

EFMP – according to Tom Peters, the famous leadership expert, the number one cause for employee dissatisfaction is the quality of the first line supervisor. The EFMP component of the formula requires an organization to Exercise Fair Management Practices. What must an organization do to ensure that this happens? Here’s several ways to get this accomplished. 1. Develop job descriptions that accurately reflect the position duties. 2. Add performance standards which act as the barometer for measuring how well one is performing. Be careful with this one! Be sure to take all tasks into consideration when creating performance standards. I know from personal experience that this can be a major contributor to employee satisfaction. When employees feel that performance standards accurately reflect what they face on a daily basis, your customers are the beneficiaries. Should you leave this one out, shortcuts and mistakes are sure to follow. You can count on an increase in your rework rate. What does rework look like in your organization – a second phone call from the customer, a second dispatch of a field technician or perhaps an escalation to a supervisor/manager? There’s a threefold effect of inaccurate performance standards – employee frustration, employee turnover and poor customer service experiences. 3. Utilize the job description and performance standards to conduct an objective performance review. It’s important to discuss an employee’s performance based on solid information. It’s dangerous to solely utilize personal feelings to rate someone’s job performance – that’s why it’s necessary to create accurate performance standards. 4. Provide management training, especially first time management training. One should not assume that because an employee is great in their current role, that they will make a great manager. This position requires one to wear possess multiple skills – coach, leader and mediator among others. Remember that employees are people – you have to be willing to deal with the whole person. Now I hear someone saying “I expect employees to be professional once they arrive for work.” I feel the same, but the great leaders spend time understanding what motivates each individual for whom they’re responsible. I think it should be mandatory for managers to regularly spend time side by side with their direct reports. This creates a better work environment as both persons can gain mutual respect for one another’s role within the organization.

GCE – When an organization focuses on developing the first three formula components, the fourth – Great Customer Experiences – is sure to follow. Creating and applying core values, providing comprehensive training and exercising effective management principles trickles down to the paying customer. When employees receive the proper product/service training coupled with a comprehensive view of the organization and how their role contributes to the organization’s success the paying customer is beneficiary. When fair management practices are in place, employees will more likely than not go the extra mile to create great customer experiences. When an organization sound internal interaction practices in place, it’s almost a given that the paying customer receives outstanding service.

C – As I’ve said before, this component of the formula is the one that keeps the customers coming back. Consistency is necessary for any organization to be successful. Can you consistently provide a great experience? Will your customers receive the same level of service from all of your employees? Can they count on you to provide a great experience irregardless of the time of day they choose to visit or call your location? If your organization has multiple locations, will your customers receive at great experience at every location? When chatting online, will it matter which employee is providing assistance? No matter how often a customer chooses to do business with your organization, a great customer experience is what they expect to receive. What is the outcome (product) when you multiply Great Customer Experiences (multiplicand) by Consistency (multiplier)? Let’s continue on to find out!

CR – This is the product of Great Customer Experiences multiplied by Consistency. Customer Retention will remain high as long as an organization consistently provides great customer experiences. How many of your customers are repeat customers. How many of your repeat customers refer you to prospective customers. Are you able to identify the revenue created as a result of your ability to retain customers? Customer retention drives the long-term business success. When one thinks of how much is spent to gain a new customer, it quickly becomes apparent that it’s much more cost-effective to retain present customers. Should you feel that it’s okay to spend more time seeking new customers vs. satisfying your present customers, think again. If one has a great product or service concept yet neglects the customer after the sale, that’s not conducive to business longevity. You can have the best marketing campaigns to gain new customers, but what will your customers experience once they buy into your organization. Should your sales strategy not be followed up by great customer service, it’s just simply a waste of marketing dollars. Customer retention is the key to long-term success.

Okay now, let’s go over that formula again – The Creation and Application of Core Values + Comprehensive Training + Effective Management Practices = Great Customer Experiences * Consistency = Customer Retention. Make sure to include all of these formula components to get the best end result!

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