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I Want to Be a Customer Service HERO Monica Postell

wonderwoman I Want to Be a Customer Service HEROI'm inspired. I want to be a HERO, but not just any kind of hero. I want to be a Highly Empow­ered and Resource­ful Oper­a­tive.

I learned about this cool des­ig­na­tion from a Har­vard Busi­ness Review arti­cle (July/August 2010) by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler enti­tled "Empow­ered".  In the arti­cle the authors described the way employ­ees at com­pa­nies like Best Buy, Black & Decker, and E*Trade have proac­tively taken the ini­tia­tive to use read­ily avail­able tech­nol­ogy to do things like improve inter­nal train­ing, avert cus­tomer ser­vice prob­lems, and strengthen their brands.

What I really liked read­ing is the recog­ni­tion that there are lots of smart, ded­i­cated peo­ple out there with great ideas who are capa­ble of mak­ing things bet­ter for cus­tomers and cowork­ers if given a fight­ing chance (aka if empowered).

"The cru­cial part of the solu­tion is the HERO Compact–a three-way agree­ment for man­ag­ing tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion. In the com­pact, HERO's agree to inno­vate within a safe frame­work, man­agers agree to encour­age inno­va­tion and man­age risk, and IT agrees to sup­port and scale up HERO projects."

Although the focus of the arti­cle was on inno­v­a­tive tech­no­log­i­cal solu­tions, the authors had me at "highly empow­ered and resource­ful oper­a­tives". No ques­tion, Bestbuy's Twelp­force is a mar­velous inno­va­tion and a credit to the employ­ees who fig­ured out how to make it work. Think­ing about some of our clients, I have to say that not every orga­ni­za­tion has the tech­no­log­i­cal where­withal, the social media inter­est, or the need for that sort of inno­va­tion. But what orga­ni­za­tion wouldn't want a cadre of "resource­ful oper­a­tives" advo­cat­ing in the inter­est of both the cus­tomer and your com­pany. Couldn't there be non-technological innovations?

So that brings me back to the def­i­n­i­tion: highly empow­ered and resource­ful oper­a­tives. One of the article's cen­tral mes­sages was that to be HERO's oper­a­tives have to be highly empow­ered. Empow­er­ing and enabling employ­ees is one of the keys to launch­ing and sus­tain­ing a suc­cess­ful cus­tomer ser­vice strat­egy. The ques­tion is "How"? Here are a few sug­ges­tions listed in no par­tic­u­lar order:

  • Remove head from sand. As the arti­cle said, "New tech­nolo­gies and social media have made it pos­si­ble for a sin­gle dis­sat­is­fied cus­tomer to inflict last­ing dam­age on a brand.…Companies have to respond to cus­tomers' esca­lat­ing power…Employees are ready to do so."
  • Encour­age inno­v­a­tive prac­tices by giv­ing employ­ees a forum for bring­ing ideas to light and by giv­ing your per­sonal sup­port to ideas that can make a dif­fer­ence in the customer's experience.
  • Tap into the mother-load of CE knowl­edge: your front line rep­re­sen­ta­tives, team lead­ers, and man­agers. Talk with them and see what ideas they have or  find out what they're  (gasp!) already doing.
  • Set up a social media pol­icy and train employ­ees in per­mis­si­ble com­mu­ni­ca­tions and activ­i­ties so all their cre­ativ­ity is used for the good of cus­tomers and the company.
  • Assess the risk asso­ci­ated with any pro­posed inno­va­tion and see what you and your peers can do to man­age the risk.
  • Loop in an IT cham­pion to enable the inno­va­tion if it involves technology.
  • Stand back and get ready to cel­e­brate the teams' successes.

I'd love to hear about the HERO's at your com­pany. Who are they and what was their inno­va­tion? What was/is the impact on cus­tomer expe­ri­ence or orga­ni­za­tional effec­tive­ness? Oh, and is there a dress code? Do they get to wear red patent leather lace up hero boots to work? Maybe I should save that one for another blog post.

With a back­ground in per­for­mance improve­ment and instruc­tional design, Mon­ica Postell works with Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems in design­ing and deploy­ing train­ing and devel­op­ment pro­grams that fos­ter real cus­tomer loyalty.
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  • http://www.thegoldapples.com TGA Cus­tomer Ser­vice Training

    Empow­ered — that is so true. How many employ­ees in large cor­po­ra­tions have great sug­ges­tions to improve their jobs, improve cus­tomer ser­vice and aren't taken seri­ously or are just plain ignored.

    Great arti­cle.

  • http://glennfriesen.com/ Glenn Friesen

    Bril­liant!






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