Standout customer experience occurs when employees act autonomously.
Empowering employees has numerous benefits; it improves customer experience and can ultimately lead to increased retention and loyalty.
Even in environments where control is tight and there is an increased focus on operational efficiency and cost saving, empowered employees can provide excellent customer experience and manage costs.
The problem with focusing exclusively on control as a method of achieving strategic objectives is that it can create rigid processes and over-engineered rules. This, in turn, leads to a ‘follow the rules’ mentality that often works against the customer. No one kept waiting on a customer service line wants to hear: “These are the steps I have to follow.”
Empowered employees will also feel more connected to the business, have more job satisfaction and their confidence will grow.
Dan Pink’s 2009 book ‘Drive’ shunned the carrot-and-stick approach to motivate customer service teams. He argued that people are self-motivated when they do the work they enjoy. He said ‘intrinsic motivation’ is based on three key factors: autonomy, mastery and purpose.
So, how do we keep a handle on costs as we empower employees? Is there a sweet spot between the potential chaos of empowerment and the control of punishment and reward?
The challenge comes when trying to achieve this balance within an existing rigid, managed structure.
The key is to loosen the reins but not let go completely in order to control cost. These guidelines will help when empowering employees:
Step 1: Visibility. Give employees visibility of the Management Information (MI) used for decision making
This step requires little change. Offering an insight into overall goals and objectives and the factors that influence them helps employees understand how and why decisions are made and the drivers behind them. At Clarasys, we foster a culture of openness and trust by allowing employees to view KPIs across the business.
Step 2: Celebrate the highs and lows of changes to the metrics influencing management decision making.
Sharing when things go well and also when things didn’t go as planned is important. Bringing employees into this discussion makes them feel valued and part of something. We do this through our monthly company meetings, giving us a sense of purpose and a sense that we’re all in it together. This helps employees become more mindful of their actions.
Step 3: Encourage individuals and teams to think about the impacts of their actions on these metrics.
Feeling invested encourages individuals to think about their impact on figures. Promote and encourage these conversations, evaluate how changes might have an impact and what the effects of historical changes have been. Teaching and guiding will build a foundation of understanding. At Clarasys we use our internal communication tools to share learnings from successes and failures; it promotes self reflection, builds mastery, and helps others to make decisions in similar situations.
Step 4: Give ownership over elements of the MI.
Introducing the previous steps will motivate and excite employees. To keep an environment of controlled autonomy it’s important to introduce parameters and set boundaries to gradually increase ownership.
At Clarasys, our expense policy is ‘do right by the company and its employees’ and we don’t have strict approvals. While this could be chaos – champagne all around – because we have visibility and understanding of the impact on our profitability we make the right decisions. As our experience increases we are given increased ownership; starting with our own personal expenses and increasing to a team’s expenses and an account’s expenses. This allows us to test and learn and any mistakes we make initially will only have a very small impact.
As with any change, it is important to keep in mind that moving the goalposts for established team members is challenging and can leave staff feeling unsettled. It can also tip the balance too far on your metrics if you don’t manage this well.
The key here is to start small and don’t try to change everything at once. Test what works and give people a little bit of ownership at a time.
If you would like to discuss how Clarasys can help your organisation or would like to test the extent of our expense policy, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.