Time to Start Listening to Front-line Employees

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by: John Caddell

I have a colleague who runs a small outsourced contact center in the Pacific Northwest. I told him of my project to find and use stories from call centers to get more useful customer input. He said, "It’s a great idea, but nobody listens to the reps."

Then, as I wrote about last week, a bank that is renowned as a great place to work told me that an idea to have tellers share via internal blogs customer interactions they found interesting was a non-starter: "We just put into place a policy to limit the access our employees have to the internet."

Well, it’s time to start listening to the reps. It’s time to let tellers blog about what they experience.

We generally accept that having happy employees at the front lines can help revenues, because happy employees convey good feelings to the customers they meet, making those customers feel better about who they’re buying from, etc.

But it’s now clear that in addition to courtesy and helpfulness, front-line employees also know more about what customers want, what they like and don’t like, how they feel about the company, than anyone else. Because "the reps" hear it, every day, direct and unfiltered.

Back in the day, the only way an executive could access this insight would be to visit stores and talk to employees and customers him/herself. This still happens. But with cheap, ubiquitous data-sharing technology like blogs, RSS, wikis, social sites, etc., there’s nothing standing in the way of systematically gathering and immersing oneself in detailed, rich information about customer interactions–even if you’re the CEO.

And don’t you think getting the chance to communicate, and being listened to, might increase the job satisfation of the front-liners?

An executive at a large US insurer told me that at their quarterly management meetings they listen to selected recordings of customer calls. "It’s always a shock when you hear what customers say directly. We’re so far removed from the customer."


Original Post: http://shoptalkmarketing.blogspot.com/2008/08/time-to-start-listening-to-front-line.html