Archive for the ‘Building Trust’ Category

In praise of complaint handlers

June 11, 2014

Listening-Dog-BlueHaving watched the documentary series ‘The Complainers’, I applaud complaint handlers or ‘the human punch bags’ dealing with the litany of venomous abuse from over 1,000 complainants on a daily basis. Call handlers now make up one in five of the British workforce and they came across as the most sane and tolerant people on the planet, as one agent said ‘it’s like playing Russian roulette here.’

Probably no great surprise to learn that over 38 million complaints were lodged against UK organisations. On a positive note, complaining is good – it keeps driving up standards, it allows customers to have a voice particularly with the growth of social media empowering us all to enjoy and savour the power to complain. It can in a nutshell, change industries. Also, a customer complaint doesn’t have to be a negative experience and how organisations respond to their customers’ problems can actually build stronger advocacy.

At the end of the day the human brain is around 100,000 years old and its needs are very basic and primitive. So whilst we are faced with new technologies, systems and processes all designed to improve things, our brain remains pretty much static in how it operates. We are still programmed to demand a human to human interaction, otherwise we feel emotionally disconnected, disloyal, frustrated and untrusting.

So do leaders truly recognise the power that their front line complaint handlers have in their hands? And how do they support them respond to each customer letter, email or call with a positive mindset and solution driven approach to drive advocacy?

CEB research, conducted in 2013, showed that how the customer feels about the interaction matters twice as much as what they actually do during the interaction. So how we connect with the customer on an emotional level is hugely important. The research concluded that customers want the experience of a company to be easy: to deal with their issues first time, to not pass them around from pillar to post, to not make them repeat information, to take ownership of issues, to not just deal with the immediate issue but to look for issues that they might not be aware of, to build some warmth and to emotionally connect with customers.

So whilst we will never get rid of the uber-complainers who simply want to cathartically lash out at someone, we can reduce valid complaints by ensuring we adopt some new human to human techniques within our front line training, the first two of which are based on the CEB research:

  1. Don’t just resolve the current complaint, head off the next one – you’ve all heard of First Time Resolution, following on its tail is Next Issue Avoidance. In dealing with complaints, NIA anticipates why customers might make contact in the future. So go beyond the FCR. The question advisors should ask themselves is ‘how can I make sure this customer does not call back?’ according to Harvard Business Review research, this approach has been shown to reduce call volumes by 20% to 30% in 12 months and improve customer retention
  2. Use the Intensity Reduction Formula – Our usual response in dealing with angry customers who are complaining is to remain calm and passive. Passive is a low energy state and anger is a high energy state. Reframe this by talking about what would happen if you approached an unhappy person whilst you were in a fun state, you would probably annoy them. The reason is that these states fall at opposite ends of the spectrum. Depression/unhappiness is a low energy state and fun is a high energy state. So the trick to taking the heat out of a negative comment made by a customer, and preventing the conversation from becoming more heated or negative, is in our ability to match the customer‘s energy but use non-confrontational language.
  3. Work in imagination not memory – complaint teams often suffer from an epidemic of expertise, often they are technical experts and this can result in them becoming so experienced that they forget to nail the basics: listening, questioning and understanding specific needs.   In our experience many complaints are escalated because they were never properly understood at the first point of contact. Front line teams need to step into the customers shoes and adapt their communication to become super personal, relevant and effective: working with imagination, not just memory. Doing the right thing for the individual customer is the result of a combination of working with what feels right in the moment and using a little bit of imagination with everything you do.
  4. Provide agents with Experience Engineering skills. Based on science from the USA, this is all about arming staff with the skills to address the emotional side of customer interactions and differs greatly from traditional soft skills training both in terms of focus and outcome. This involves actively guiding a customer through an interaction designed to anticipate the emotional response and pre-emptively offer solutions that create a mutually beneficial resolution outcome.
  5. Deploy Empathetic Listening – As individuals we hear sounds all the time, but we’re not always consciously aware of what we hear. However hearing is not listening and as we know, listening, showing genuine interest in them and empathy towards customers is a vital skill when dealing with complaints. This means listening to understand, rather than interrupting, being present in the moment, becoming interested in listening to others. Don’t waste time trying to anticipate what a customer might say or how they might respond – far better to hear them out, listen and then use a pause to formulate your next question and to demonstrate attention and reassurance.
  6. Be aware of your personal state – where does your ego go when faced with a conflict situation? How much self-awareness do you have around ‘that’s where you’re heading’ and how do you manage your personal state in order to remain in the right mindset to find a win-win scenario where your client trusts your response. Understand and believe that a complaint is an opportunity not a problem, this will drive a stronger emotionally connected conversation with a positive mindset and language that is outcome driven.
  7. Create a peak ending – Customers have a positively memorable experience based on peak moments during a conversation – where conversations reach a high and a personal connection is felt and a positive memorable ending to the customer interaction. In what has come to be known as his ‘peak-end rule’, Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman pointed out people could remember only two things during an experience process: how we feel at the peak (no matter whether the ultimate experience was good or bad) and at the end. These peak-end feelings summarise our whole experience process and are stored in our brain at a subconscious level. We remember only the peak and the end.

At the end of the day, dealing with complaints is centered on dealing with highly emotional conversations and in that point in time, how it’s handled creates loyalty. It boils down to human needs; we want to be heard, understood, and we want empathy and a solution to our complaint. If we can achieve this, we can build trusting and successful relationships, which will drive customer retention and attrition and greater employee engagement. These front line champions have a lot to be thanked for.

Briege Kearney - Director - Client Development - Blue Sky Performance Improvement Briege@bluesky

http://www.blue-sky.co.uk

 

 

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Communication – the key to building trust

October 16, 2013

Lydia HewettI’ve worked with many household names, usually when they are trying to change their working culture to move in a new strategic direction and in my experience the companies that do this successfully do it openly, honestly and in an adult way. In other words they trust their employees and management team to create shared goals and together agree how they are going to get there. Sounds easy doesn’t it? In reality it’s a brave and often avoided move, as Stephen Covey says in ‘The Speed of Trust’:

“Trust is the least understood and most neglected variable of our time.”

Unless a company has always had an open and honest culture with trust at the core, then creating trust is a challenge. It means getting everyone talking, getting everything out in the open – believe me, when you start asking people to talk about what’s good and bad about their work place, they rarely hold back!

For management teams this sudden honesty can be terrifying, all sorts of issues they thought had disappeared rise to the surface, but this bravery is always rewarded. As Covey says:

“How we do what we do makes all the difference.”

The brave organisation spends time getting past issues out into the open, talking through the proposed changes and taking time to explain the reason behind them. Crucially they’ll also listen to and value the opinions and issues they hear back. Your people are the most important resource and they know detailed aspects of your company that as a manager you will not. By trusting their judgement and ideas, you engage them in the process of change, you talk through issues that if ignored become barriers to successful transformation, and you get a range of invaluable ideas that help the change be a long term, lasting success.

It’s an adult process and a hugely motivating thing to be involved with. I’ve lost count of the number of times people from all levels of an organisation have told me after a session that this is the first time they feel their voice has been heard, or the first time they really understand where their company is headed and what’s expected of them – it’s powerful stuff.

The key to generating trust is to keep your courage, yes, you’ll have to come through some difficult conversations and face up to some issues that it would be easier to ignore. In reality it’s a spring clean, by getting your house in order and everything into the open, you create strong relationships based on shared trust and common goals to work towards a shared future, I for one want to be part of an organisation that operates on these terms.

Lydia Hewett

About Lydia:

Lydia started out in-house, recruiting staff, managing employee communications and developing HR policies for a FTSE 100 business as it went through a complex demerger.

She moved into her first consulting role in ad agency JWT’s employee communications arm, principally working on NHS change projects. A move to PwC was followed by five years in their consulting arm. Here she worked for various household names as well as for smaller organisations, specialising in employee engagement, culture change and communications.

She is CIPD qualified and has coached managers, designed communications strategies, implemented corporate restructuring programmes and managed complex global change processes.

www.prospectplaceconsulting.com

The great trust gap

October 8, 2013

2013 has been a terrible year for organisational trust.

The Jimmy Savile inquiry highlighted a worrying lack of accountability within the BBC and even the police. Edward Snowden’s data-privacy whistleblowing suggested the governments not only don’t trust us, but we shouldn’t trust them. And the new Governor designate of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, declared that trust “screeched out of the parking lot” in 2008 and banks need to undergo deep cultural change to restore public confidence.

Frankly, these scandals of mistrust come as no surprise to most of us, whether you’re the waitress in a bakery or the CEO of a bank. The CIPD’s quarterly report found that only 36% of employees trust senior leaders and 58% had adopted a ‘not bothered’ attitude for work. The symptoms of mistrust – hostile gossip, fruitless meetings and incompetent leaders – are daily realities for many in the workplace.

Yet high trust is a key characteristic of profitable and sustainable businesses. Trust not only provokes customers to buy, it encourages employees to stay loyal and turns process-clogged organisations into lean, mean collaborative machines.

It’s time we spoke up about the lack of trust in our organisations and took responsibility for change. Here are the three steps we take at Blue Sky when turning rhetoric into reality.

1.    Take the trust blinkers off

Start noticing the unquestioned low trust behaviours that happen within your business every day. Examples to look out for include leaders talking the talk but not demonstrating the competence or the character to live up to their senior role; widespread grumbling behind the backs of colleagues; a reluctance to make decisions; not owning up to mistakes and making self-serving decisions.

Click here to read more »

2.    Break trust down into its elements

Steven M.R Covey brilliant book The Speed of Trust emphasises that trust is a behaviour rather than a trait. By breaking trust into 13 characteristics, including talking straight, righting wrongs, confronting reality, clarifying expectations and practicing accountability, he demonstrates that trust is under our control, and that it can be rebuilt, step by step – if we can find a way to commit to it.

Click here to read more »

3.    Get buy-in from within

Finally, trust has to become a priority truly embraced and evangelised by people at all levels of an organisation to ensure cultural change. Naming the behaviours you identified in step one, and citing the evidence that show the impact of trust on the bottom line (for example, people are 87% less likely to leave an organisation with high trust) will help win over cynics. With senior leaders as your champions, you then need to ensure that trust coaching spreads through the ranks. As role models begin to emerge, the groundswell of trust will begin to grow.

Click here to read more »

You can share your own stories on twitter #DoTrust or through our LinkedIn page and of course your own blogs and social presences.

Elke Edwards - Blue Sky Performance ImprovementElke Edwards

I am Director of Learning at Blue Sky, so am firmly placed to share with you our approach to performance improvement at every level from your contact centre staff to your CEO. I know that for businesses to achieve major success, their people need to work towards organisational objectives, not individual or departmental ones. I love the work I personally deliver for senior teams that are positioned to support this behaviour from the top down.

Do you know what trust looks like?

September 25, 2013

Part Two in a series of four articles on rebuilding organisational trust and driving employee engagement

Last week, I looked at building your awareness about the low trust behaviours that surround you every day. We’ve had some fantastic conversations starting to build around the topic, so head over to our Twitter page and look for the #DoTrust hashtag or our LinkedIn page to benefit from the stories and tips shared so far!

Please contribute to the conversation as we move onto the next stage in the trust process – breaking trust into manageable chunks.

What do we actually mean by trust?

Trust-Tuesday-email-two-blog-imageWe use the word trust all the time, but it never loses its emotional punch. If someone says they don’t trust you, it hurts. A lot.

I’m a big fan of the Stephen M.R Covey book The Speed of Trust. In it, he discusses how we continually and subconsciously make decisions based on the confidence we have in a person or an organisation. This confidence is made up of character (a person [or organisation’s] intent and integrity) and competence (their capability, skills and track record).

Have a go at the following exercise:

Relax and take a moment to think about somebody you don’t trust. Imagine them in front of you (really try to imagine them; their clothes, their posture, their expression).
Now, think about why you don’t trust this person. Let me ask you four questions:

  • Is it their intent? Do you believe they’re always out for themselves? Or do they play for the bigger team? What motivates their actions? Is it good?
  • Are they straight? Do they do what they say they’re going to do? Do they say one thing to you and another to somebody else? Do they have integrity?
  • Do they have the knowledge and expertise required for their job? The technical, leadership and people skills? Can they make the right decisions?
  • Do they have relevant experience to bring into their current role? Will they be able to tackle unknown problems? Do they have a track record of success?

So what did you discover in going through that process? Is it their character or their competence that results in a lack of trust? Is it both?

We all have people in our lives that we don’t trust – the key question is whether you want to rebuild trust with them. Many of us hate giving those who have hurt us a second chance, but sometimes second chances can have magical results.

If you want a more trustworthy organisation with more engaged employees, you have to behave in a more trustworthy way. You have to commit to building trust on an individual level before you can expect it to scale. And trust is based on our experiences, so common sense tells us that for trust to be changed, behaviours must be changed first. We don’t need to buy sophisticated computer systems. We need to change what we do.

This is both scary and exciting, because it means we’re in control. And the first step in changing behaviour is naming behaviour, which takes a lot of guts.

Stephen M.R Covey talks about the 13 behaviours that build or destroy trust. Let’s highlight a few:

  • Talk straight – and demonstrate respect to your employees and customers alike. Many businesses are afraid of transparency, but it can have an amazing effect. Admitting that you’re in the middle of a change programme and you don’t know what the end’s going to be, or that the CEO is on his way out but you’re recruiting carefully, actually creates more trust and stability, not less.
  • Right wrongs – admit mistakes. Apologise. Demonstrate how you will change. It’s as simple as that. A reclaimed customer is more loyal than one who never had a bad experience in the first place, so it’s not just the right thing to do – it works.
  • Get better – when coaching the board of a very successful company, our team was recently told “whatever you do, don’t tell anyone you’re coaches. Don’t even tell reception.” Why? “Because we can’t let anyone know our exec board are being coached.” Why not? Is getting better wrong? Or is it reassuring and inspiring?
  • Confront reality – does your CEO get to hear the bad news? Does he want to? We recently did a diagnostic on a leadership team and were told to “take out a lot of the bad comments – he won’t be able to take it.” That’s a scary prospect.
  • Clarify expectations – spend time to let people know what is really needed from them. All too often, people come unstuck for the lack of a proper briefing.
  • Practice accountability – consider Jimmy Savile. What about all those people who knew what he was doing and didn’t speak up? Bad people are simply a fact of life, so it’s up to those around them to stand up for what is right.
  • Extend trust – recently, an ex-senior director of AOL let slip that 75% of AOL customers were paying for dial up broadband service, even though AOL offer it for free. They had signed up years ago, when it wasn’t, and nobody had called to explain. This charge accounts for 80% of their profitability. Trust isn’t passive – it has to be earned. Are you proactive in whistleblowing untrustworthiness?

Trust is behaviour. Behaviour is under our control. But do you want to act?

For me it is [as my 10 year old would say] a no-brainer! I remember my Girl Guide motto “It’s your world – change it.” But once you’ve identified what you need to do, how do you make sure it will really work?

Next week, I’ll look at the practical things you can do to rebuild trust in your organisation. Until then, let me know the least and most trustworthy behaviours you see occurring around you every day…

You can share your own stories on twitter #DoTrust or through our LinkedIn page Blue Sky Performance Improvement and of course your own blogs and social presences.

Elke Edwards - Blue Sky Performance ImprovementElke@bluesky