Taking Employee Engagement to the Max

Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement
2013 Customer Champion Wells Fargo's George Larribas encourages employees to deliver exceptional service, upping engagement and positively impacting customer experience.

Delivering a great customer experience is a must for organizations to succeed. A lot of this success depends on employees and their ability to listen to customers, understand their needs, and deliver on the brand promise.

The best companies are making sure their employees understand the importance of their role in delivering a great customer experience and savvy business leaders highlight and applaud exemplary action. George Larribas, executive vice president and head of client delivery at Wells Fargo Treasury Management, is one such leader who believes that creating a customer-centric organization requires rallying employees around a singular focus, in this case delivering what he calls "A+ service and support," a customer-centric servicing strategy that focuses on exceeding customer expectations and ensuring a "customer for life" focus.

A lot of emphasis is put on training. For example, customer-facing employees are encouraged to "flex/change" their conversation to mirror customers' emotions, which improved customer experience scores, with 70 percent of clients saying they were extremely satisfied with their interaction with an agent. "One of the biggest differentiators in the marketplace is our people and how they provide customer service," Larribas notes, adding that customer service officers are coached on how to connect with clients in a professional yet personable manner.

The A+ service and support system, developed following the merger with Wachovia, is helping integrate teams across all business units. For example, partnership meetings allow different client service teams to discuss the top 10 customer issues and then focus on successes, where improvements are necessary, and also outline the necessary steps. Initiatives led to 100 percent customer retention during the merger.

Performance is measured through surveys on the bank's customer service, which are then evaluated by cross-functional teams to identify training opportunities and areas for improvement, as well as recognize those who deserve it. Unless they're used properly, such surveys can be counterproductive. Rather than scour the surveys to catch any deficiencies on the part of employees, Larribas uses them to highlight great service and then rewards exemplary behavior, helping align employee engagement with customer service to create a culture of service.

Many times, employees are held back from delivering an optimal customer experience because of outdated KPIs. For example, focusing on average handle time can be detrimental to customer service. Larribas understands this and is a firm believer that longer call times create a real opportunity. "If your performance metrics reward for minimizing call handle time and speed to answer, it reinforces behavior that is not in the customers' best interest," he says.

Employees, especially frontliners, can be an important source of information and their knowledge should be leveraged. This is why Larribas was involved in creating the brand's Innovation Zone, which allows customer-facing staff to submit ideas to improve both the customer experience and their own work environments.

While customers are willing to share information, they don't want their input to fall on blind ears. Larribas strongly believes that data should be thoroughly mined, allowing client service teams to gain the necessary information to conduct more informed conversations with customers rather than going into interactions without any information. Wells Fargo Treasury Management's case tracking process and databases provides this data and the goal is to create an even larger profile database that will allow service teams to inform relationship management and product teams, allowing them to better understand the customer experience and the overall impacts of system and product changes.

Such attentiveness to the customer experience reaps results. In fact, during last year's merger, when the team answered more than one million calls and closed 1.8 million service requests over a year, not a single customer was lost. Instead, customer satisfaction scores went up from an already high 9.1 to 9.4.

Further, by making sure that CSOs were taking responsibility for the customer resolution, the A+ Service and Support initiative has led to misrouted calls being slashed by almost 50 percent, allowing customers to get the needed help immediately. This has also led to an increase of 2 percent in cases resolved on the first touch while same-day resolutions have increased by 5 percent in 2012 over 2011. Further, staff turnover went down by 2 percent.