Measuring the Effectiveness of Employee Engagement

2014 Customer Champion Gavin Woody, vice president, operations at A Place for Mom, quantifies the customer experience by providing agents with the tools and knowledge required for quality customer service.
Customer Service

To deliver quality customer care, companies must think like their client base. For Gavin Woody, vice president, operations at A Place for Mom, successful service means blending thoughtfulness and authority to ensure minimal stress and maximum satisfaction.

Each day, Woody leads the company's 200-person customer qualification contact center team, which provides free nationwide assistance to families looking for senior housing and elderly care. These agents determine the caller's interest and desired location so they may connect the family with one of A Place for Mom's 300 senior living advisors, who will then refer suitable senior communities based upon client preferences and requirements. Overall, Woody's team serves two customers: families and advisors. Thus, Woody constantly urges himself and his staff to ask themselves how they'd want to be treated if looking for care for their own aging relatives.

In his effort to always do what's right for the customer, Woody observes numerous data points, such as NPS and customer satisfaction, to develop his understanding of how the customer feels. Woody actively listens to recorded calls, as well, so he may comprehend the customer situation and how his staff handles various types of inquiries. At the center of Woody's customer strategy lies his enhanced quality assurance program, which takes the company's old, business-centric approach to task, adding an equal focus on the customer experience. Woody established what "good calls" should sound like, creating the standard by which to measure all such interactions and building the trust and rapport necessary to sustain customer engagement. Since implementing this program, the percentage of families connected directly to an advisor has climbed from 88 percent to 93 percent, boosting employee confidence in their ability to assist.

When measuring employee engagement, Woody assesses sentiment both quantitatively and qualitatively. For example, the team's call center employee retention rate has drastically improved since integrating this added emphasis on the customer experience, dropping from more than 7 percent to less than 4 percent. Employee roundtables and feedback systems, on the other hand, provide granular insight into how employees perceive the customer experience, as Woody places great value on the ideas that come from staff members who work the frontlines each day.

From this data, Woody and his team have discovered great success and opportunity for change. In the last year, move-ins-the number of families helped-grew 30 percent, while revenue jumped 40 percent and NPS increased by 11 percent. These numbers indicate that this renewed focus on customer centricity and experience resonates with the company's client base. A Place for Mom hopes to perpetuate this momentum even further by redesigning its approach to IVR.

"We plan to test not having an IVR message at all within the next few months by connecting callers with human beings right from the start," Woody notes. "We want to be thoughtful about our market and, often times, those calling us about senior care for their 90-year-old dad or mom are usually between 60 and 65 years old themselves. With the older generation, people don't really like automated recordings. We think that putting humans on the line builds trust right out of the gate because, in today's world, the face of many companies ends up being automated recordings with complex routing systems. Therefore, what you gain in efficiency, you lose in satisfaction."

Unfortunately, however, staff members outside the contact center run the risk of becoming desensitized, as many will never work directly with a family to find the best senior care options for their loved ones. Thus, to uphold engagement and ensure all employees are functioning at peak levels, Woody instituted a voice of the customer program that requires every staff member (director-level and above) to spend at least one hour per month working side-by-side with an agent as they help families start the process of finding senior care. Such strategies remind leaders who they're helping, thereby creating a companywide focus on those callers seeking assistance in their time of need.