Simple changes can produce magical results. Imagine the smile on the face of the call center manager when he realized he could increase productivity by $15 million USD in his centers, just by allowing individual teams to take their coffee breaks together?
This very simple team-building exercise resulted in a 20% drop in AHT (average handling time) for one team, meaning that support calls were being processed more quickly and efficiently.
The magic potion wasn’t in the coffee. It was in his team. They got to communicate together outside of work time, a bond was formed, and workplace motivation increased. The newly energized team members approached their work with a fresh enthusiasm that translated directly to the customers who received better, more efficient support and hung up delighted by their experience.
But what about communication between teams and their managers?
Studies have shown that a lack of employer-employee communication, like weekly reporting, can have some pretty shocking consequences, not the least of which is that 32% of people spend 20 or more hours a month complaining about their boss. This survey was taken a few years back, but there’s no reason to assume that things have improved very much.
Think of all the wasted time that could’ve been spent on more productive things, like improving customer support? Opening the lines of communication with managers can dramatically improve the situation, according to research carried out by CIPD in the UK. Not surprisingly, it indicates that opportunities to send feedback upwards result in greater employee engagement.
As serial entrepreneur Stever Robbins reminds us in the Harvard Business Review, “silence isn’t golden; it’s dangerous”. Robbins commends companies that can professionally keep the lines of communication open with their team. It is a founder/CEO’s duty to relay vision and goals to their employees constantly. If they did a great job hiring the right talent, they would all be on the same page in achieving the vision. So, as a manager or entrepreneur, “You have to impart that vision to your employees so they can help carry it out.”
Here’s another coffee story …
Caribou Coffee, a leading coffee shop in the US behind none other than Starbucks, creates delight for its customers by taking advantage of the small things. Customer delight is at the foundation of their corporate culture. This means that from their very first day of training, staff are trained to create a high-energy environment and are taught how to delight every customer that walks through their door by personalizing each visit.
Come once and you are welcomed by high-energy staff. Come twice, and the barista will most likely remember your name, face and previous order. The key to this outcome is motivating your staff and making all understand the values of the organization and the short and long term goals. This will directly translate into better communication with customers and a more energetic team.
One company who knows all about energizing their team and delighting their customers is Mailchimp. They have upwards of 2 million customers, a number which has grown incredibly quickly over the past few years, yet they’ve managed to stay on top of their daily support queue.
How do they do that? Well, Dan Kurzus, the founder of Mailchimp, believes that “a customer’s question is our chance to have a conversation, an opportunity to empower.” CEOs like Kurzus know that the missing ingredient in the support mechanisms of so many companies is genuine communication (and a little something to do with the free monkey t-shirts that Mailchimp give away on a random basis). Mailchimp staff aren’t given a script for customer calls, they’re just smart people who have been trained and who have shadowed experienced staff for a up to a year – meaning that they know the product inside out and are prepared to have a conversation with the customer.
Your support staff aren’t just people that fix bugs and solve problems for your customers. They are your front line ambassadors. The ones that are the main point of contact for many of your customers. These people need to have the personality and the drive that pushes them to go beyond solving problems, to creating a delightful brand experience for your customers.
A company-wide commitment to communication isn’t just a pledge to creating a healthier office environment – it’s a commitment to making magic for your customers and, as a result, growing your bottom line.
But don’t be afraid to start small, even if it’s just within your team. In the immortal words of Margaret Mead, “never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.
Give your customers the delight they expect – or don’t expect – by creating a happy and healthy workplace.
What do you do in your organization to encourage communication?