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TD Magazine Article

A Customer Focus Equals Success

Increase return on investment by elevating customer service practices.

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Fri Jun 14 2024

A Customer Focus Equals Success
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The BEST Awards recognize organizations that demonstrate enterprise-wide success as a result of employee talent development. The winners use learning as a strategic business tool to get results. View the entire list of 2024 BEST Award winners.

Increase return on investment by elevating customer service practices.

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When it comes to talent development initiatives that directly affect the bottom line, programs focused on improving the customer experience tend to have a dramatic effect on return on investment.

For India-based ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company, customer service was critical as the insurance provider's business volume expanded. In addition, with increasing competition in the market, the company believed it was necessary to assess loyalty metrics that affect business decisions. With that in mind, the organization, which is a Best of the BEST winner (earning a BEST Award more than 10 times) launched a Net Promoter Score to gauge and evaluate customer loyalty.

To design the appropriate initiative, the TD function engaged with the customer service team to better understand daily routines and challenges when it comes to customer interactions. After that research, TD concluded that customer service staff needed training not on skill building but on cultivating a service-first mindset and team accountability.

The TD function created learning workshops, branded as SERVex, that focused on explaining the concept of Net Promoter Score and equipping the customer service team with the knowledge and resources to manage walk-in customers, handle complaints, deliver excellent service, and understand customer behaviors.

The TD team focused efforts on the CARP (control, acknowledge, refocus, problem solve) model for helping the service team gain the capabilities to manage customer expectations, including contending with difficult customers. In addition, the workshops built a sense of ownership across the service team. As a result, team members' understanding about how their work affected customer satisfaction and loyalty increased.

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After the SERVex workshops, TD closely monitored customer service levels for three months and introduced skill drills into the flow of work for additional support. The efforts proved beneficial because the company's Net Promoter Score significantly increased during the first 11 months, customer escalations decreased by 28 percent, and first-call resolution improved by approximately 18 percent.

Turnover turnaround

Customer care associates for North American insurer USAble Life must navigate up to 16 software applications to analyze and answer questions about benefits, policy rules, billing, and claims processes. Answers depend on the nature of highly customized group insurance benefits outlined in individual policies. The strain of the work resulted in years of high turnover, so HR and TD designed a solution to address turnover, staffing, and onboarding for the frontline customer care team.

The recruiting team met with management to implement new assessments, retention awards, improved job postings, and career progression for experienced associates. Coupled with those efforts was a learning program that addressed the key capabilities for success: emotional intelligence, empathy, listening, problem solving, and analytical skills. The solution also included team development workshops and individualized training and professional development.

The focus on training and team well-being yielded notable results:

  • Rolled call rate (when one agent passes a customer call to another agent because the agent is unable to help) decreased by 69 percent.

  • Internal quality scores increased from 70 percent in 2022 to 92 percent in 2023.

  • Staff answered all customer calls 91 percent of the time in 30 seconds or less, exceeding the goal rate of 85 percent.

  • A new monthly customer feedback survey indicated a 98 percent customer satisfaction score.

In addition, between July 2022 and July 2023, attrition decreased from 31 percent to 0 percent, promotions increased from almost 13 percent to 61 percent, and team engagement in developmental initiatives skyrocketed from 5 percent to 60 percent.

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"I'm very proud of the work we do to support our employees and even more proud seeing our employees grow. That growth is critically essential to our ongoing success," says Chris Hinesly, director of customer care.

Workshopping the problem

At technology giant Cisco Systems, TD is a strategic imperative with tremendous buy-in from the C-suite, and the company includes TD initiatives in overall goals and measures. So, it wasn't a stretch for leaders to use TD for customer support training.

The Ultimate Case Ownership Initiative is a program that TD implemented across the organization's 7,300 case managers to improve the key behaviors that directly affect customer satisfaction. Experts and leaders at the highest levels of customer support, the Critical Accounts Program (CAP) team, both supported the workshop and delivered it to participants.

The workshop was based on the Rummler-Brache methodology of improving customer satisfaction from an organizational, process, and individual behavior perspective. Using scenario-based discussion and storytelling, the instructors discussed best practices for implementing ownership and accountability when working with customers, leading calls, and collaborating inside the company.

The workshop also helped capture escalation and hand-off inefficiencies and reinforced higher-level behaviors to use the CAP principles to drive team efforts in a "do whatever it takes" approach to resolve a case before the end of shift. In instances where someone else would need to handle a case, workshop participants learned how to escalate effectively on behalf of their clients.

The initiative has been quite effective for Cisco. Customer communication improved by 10 basis points, and the company's timeliness score increased by 12 percent. After program completion, senior leaders took the feedback related to the initiative and invested in technology and process improvements to level up operations.

"Every dollar we invest in talent development is money well spent," states Chief Operating Officer Maria Martinez. "We have been able to meet our strategic goals, rapidly reskill our workforce to meet the needs of the changing market, and lead innovation in the industry."

Certifying service

Prioritizing customer centricity led Procede Software to launch its Enablement Certification. The goal was to improve consultation skills and product knowledge for customer-facing employees to help them better solve customer issues. The initiative is so important that the company's leadership team guided the employee development committee in program design, focusing on sales enablement, product, and solution training.

Internal product marketing training coincides with new product releases and provides employees deeper insight into sales enablement, product insights, and customer applications. Procede hosted a sales enablement lunch & learn prior to the annual user conference to prepare staff with real-world scenarios they would encounter with customers. Employees practiced specific sales and positioning skills, which provided the necessary tools to engage effectively with customers.

The tangible outcomes have been transformative. Infusing consultative sales enablement skills into every customer-facing role has turned each employee into a brand advocate. Furthermore, by diversifying the responsibility of sales enablement, any employee who learns of a customer challenge is now adept at recommending tailored solutions.

Those efforts have translated into elevated customer satisfaction, deeper customer relationships, product adoption, and, consequently, organic growth, the company reports. The support customer satisfaction rate has improved nearly 2 percent year over year, and Procede experienced a record high in qualified sales opportunities resulting from its annual user conference.

"Our enduring commitment to nurturing and empowering our employees underscores our belief in their potential to drive the future success and sustainability of our organization," says Deanna Cocco, chief customer officer.

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