Customer experience makes the business world go 'round, for those organizations that fail to satisfy are ultimately doomed to fail. Hence, as customer experience initiatives shift from luxury to necessity, many brands have come to institute CX curricula in an effort to align employee behaviors with enterprisewide goals for enhanced customer service.
Brands like BMO Financial Group, Cleveland Clinic, The San Antonio Spurs, and Nationwide Mutual Insurance have created their own CX curricula, which expand upon traditional training methods by putting an emphasis on customer experience. Here, we explore the inner workings of successful CX curricula plans and the essential characteristics necessary for implementing training initiatives of their own:
Develop Programs for Varied Learning Styles
Every employee has his or her own unique learning style. While some prefer video tutorials, others prefer step-by-step demonstrations and hands-on training. Thus, with an abundance of channels to master, all companies must get to know their workforce and adjust their teaching methods to accommodate their particular learning styles. By ensuring that each program meets employee satisfaction, leaders can stand confident knowing that their CX curricula operates at the highest level.
"Know your group," says Melissa Leon, customer loyalty manager for NALCO Champion. "Know your field. Know your industry and how these people are working day in and day out. It's also beneficial to learn how they learn because you can hit on something all day long, but if that's not how they take in information, then you missed it. You can have the best videos ever, but if they're not learning that way, then you've missed your opportunity. Companies need to adjust their practices to align with the learning style of their workforce to make sure they're hitting the mark every single time."
Sam Stern, senior analyst at Forrester Research, emphasizes that companies must develop two levels of training programs. While one program must be appropriate for employees enterprisewide to establish the core principles of customer experience, the secondary initiatives must cater to each separate department. Brands fear the formation of silos, but leaders recognize that learning must be segmented if employees are to understand their given role and deliver the intended customer experience successfully. Companies must also comprehend that they don't have to eliminate their current workforce and start from scratch in order to implement these initiatives. Stern stresses that present employees want to be part of something that motivates and energizes their desire to satisfy, making them assets that, with the proper skills, will enhance the execution of customer experience initiatives.
Empower Managers to Lead by Example
Despite the enterprisewide call for CX curricula adoption, leaders must also pay special attention to their managers, for these individuals have the power to guide their fellow employees along the path toward improved customer experience. Managers have the opportunity to lead by example, indicating that these leaders need special training to maximize their value.
"Managers are the ones in the organization who have face time with all employees to reinforce the right behaviors and to get all employees focused on customers and doing the right things," Stern adds. "For managers-they're part of that CX 101 training-but companies also target them for extra training to get them modeling customer focus and how to perform their jobs so other employees can look to their role as an example of how to perform and deliver the company's focus on customer experience. It's not 'do what the company or manager says.' It's 'do as they do.'"
For instance, Stern notes that Hampton Hotels conducted research to identify the specific behaviors and job tasks that general managers expected to perform each day. By monitoring their actions, executives were able to extract nine behaviors that lead to higher guest satisfaction scores. General managers were then taught to interact with guests multiple times per day, as training reflected these findings to guarantee all employees would offer the same value and differentiated service. Research also shows that those who interacted with guests more frequently were able to anticipate their needs 20 percent more often, raising overall loyalty scores companywide.
Leon notes that these advocates and leaders don't necessarily have to be subject matter experts. Instead, they must simply be trained to spread the message executives hope to convey enterprisewide, ultimately instigating grassroots efforts from the top down via engaged promoters. Companies should also support their mission by providing research and statistics, Leon urges, that demonstrate their newfound customer experience strategy's historical examples and successes.
Focus on Effective Culture Change
Because customer experience initiatives cannot be an afterthought, companies must establish an internal culture that solidifies their enterprisewide commitment to customer centricity. Leaders must ensure that this mindset becomes woven into the fabric of their organization, as all employees must support the same standards and pursue the same overarching goals.
"Creating a CX training program is really a commitment to making customer experience a more important part of a company's culture," says Rhonda Basler, director, customer engagement at Hallmark Business Connections. Ultimately, brands must pursue effective change to achieve maximum ROI from their formal training initiatives. "CX curricula are the support system for culture change, and truly changing company culture takes, on average, five years. One-day training programs won't change culture. When embarking on your customer experience journey, realize that what you're really striving for is altering your company mindset to become customer centric. That takes vision and long-term commitment."
Basler notes that, while companies must align their priorities, KPIs, and compensation strategies to sustain their goals, executive buy-in remains crucial, for the best laid CX training programs will prove useless if the C-Suite doesn't believe in and continuously reinforce the brand's effort to improve customer experience. Successful programs also allow real-life associates to create the training plan by gathering their feedback to understand and inform future program changes. Enabling these employees to become involved in the process will help them recognize and internalize how their role impacts the customer experience. Just as consumer behaviors evolve, so must training processes. Thus, reinforcement, relearning, and application must be part of this ongoing initiative from the beginning to guarantee development and improvement.