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What if you invested in your employee community to really get customer-focused ?

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Making your company customer-focused is not just about rolling out an IS project. It’s about effecting a far-reaching transformation of the whole company, something which can only succeed if it has the support of the staff. To achieve this, our preferred method here at InsideBoard is to learn from practices found outside the world of business. After all, employees are consumers too. 

If customer care was as prevalent in reality as it says in the advertisements, then every consumer’s life would be pure heaven. Far too often, finding a truly customer-oriented business is still more like going on a quest for the Holy Grail.

Yet it isn’t as though there were any lack of suitable tools. It is now almost 30 years since customer relationship management software (the famous CRM tools) first made its appearance. Significant progress has since been made in terms of power, performance, ergonomics, etc., not to mention the flexibility brought by the Cloud in recent years.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that making your company customer-focused is not just about rolling out an IS project. It’s about effecting a far-reaching transformation of the whole company, something which can only succeed if it has the support of the staff. To achieve this, our preferred method here at InsideBoard is to learn from practices found outside the world of business. After all, employees are consumers too. Why would their behavior inside the company differ from their behavior in everyday life?

Now today, marketing is becoming increasingly community-based. It makes use of the type of viral promotion technique implemented by ambassadors who are true fans of a particular brand or a product. The idea is to replicate this dynamic within the company, and mobilize employees so that they support the transformation project and play the role of internal ambassadors.

“Take inspiration, within the company, from community initiatives that have proven themselves externally.”

If a collective transformation process is going to work, it is essential that every employee sees that they have a personal interest in its success. There is no doubt that, ultimately, the process will result in increased customer satisfaction and increased efficiency, which will in turn be of benefit to everyone in the end. Sales staff, in particular, will be able to sell better and faster as they will have fewer disputes to deal with. But the results are not immediate. We estimate that it takes between 12 and 18 months for a CRM to deliver all its intended effects. This length of time is often fatal to CRM deployment, because employees grow tired of waiting and eventually lose interest in the tool.

To avoid such pitfalls, we recommend a process of continuous remotivation, based on psychological mechanisms like collective emulation, the taste for challenge and the need for recognition. The goal is for each employee to take pleasure in using the CRM because they can tell they are making progress, and to draw attention to such progress with the aim of raising their profile in the eyes of their peers and line-managers. With our solution, for example, badges can be awarded when someone “unlocks” a level in the CRM software, much like in video games. Some of our clients also issue certificates or diplomas confirming the role played by those taking part in the project. We find that sales staff are proud to display these awards in their office or at their sales outlet, as they substantiate their expertise. It is also an excellent way for Human Resources to spot the talent present in each employee and optimize career paths.

“An appropriate motivational program of activities can bring out the hidden talent in everyone.”

The second condition for success is to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) throughout the project. However, you have to make sure you are measuring the right KPIs at the right time. During the initial CRM adoption period, therefore, it is misleading, and even counterproductive, to measure the success of the move towards a customer focus in terms of commercial efficiency, as the CRM has not yet had time to deliver its intended effects. It is better to focus on the employees’ collaborative behaviors, the progress of their customer expertise and their proficiency with the new tool, by highlighting all the progress made as they increase in competence. Sales performance and marketing KPIs will come at a later stage: increased turnover and customer satisfaction, less time spent processing customer requests, etc. In addition, it is important to ensure that these KPIs are accessible to all, firstly for the sake of transparency, but also to avoid creating a “tunnel effect” and to be able to show both employees and management that the project is making progress, even before it achieves the sales and marketing ROI.

“Measuring performance means always looking for the right indicators by celebrating every little victory.”

In the end, a company’s customer focus is not the mechanical result of introducing a CRM tool. If it is to be a reality rather than just a slogan, teams must sign up to a genuine program of internal transformation. The key to success is having managers and teams who work side by side and are in it for the long term. For this to happen, they need to be able to rely on relevant success indicators and appropriate, continually evolving motivational tools. It is only in such conditions that a true collective company intelligence of customer relations can emerge.