HR plus business alignment equals massive increase in customer satisfaction
When HR aligns with the business, then customer service improves. So finds research from UK and Ireland companies certified as Top Employers, undertaken during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of participants reported increases in customer satisfaction over a five-year period, compared to only 43% in its previous survey, while only 1% reported a decrease. The result has been an increase in revenue growth, profitability and market share among those participants, despite the disruptive impact of the pandemic.
According to the research attracting, retaining and engaging customers is the top business priority for organisations, followed by driving operational performance, health and safety of employees and innovation.
Phil Sproston, country manager, UK & Ireland at Top Employers Institute, says the “massive increase” in customer satisfaction levels has been achieved thanks to “unparalleled alignment of HR and business goals in the name of customer service”.
In particular, customer service scores are being driven directly by a revolution in HR around organisational change, performance and health at work, he says.
“To stay ahead of rapidly evolving customer demands, the focus on cultural and organisational change has been and remains the top priority for HR,” says Sproston.
“To satisfy the clear need for high-performance levels, HR has committed to improved strategies on people and talent (ranked 2nd in our survey), engagement (3) and diversity (4). Meanwhile the urgent prioritisation of the health and safety of employees is mirrored in the importance given by HR to work-life balance and employee well-being issues – up to 5 in the rankings from 14 in a single year.”
These gains are not, however, reflected elsewhere in the UK economy. The Institute of Customer Service produced its latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index in January 2021. Its barometer score was 76.8 (out of 100), slightly down on pre-pandemic levels and at the lowest level since 2015.
With many contact centre and customer service teams pivoting quickly to homeworking and volumes of interactions increasing as consumers shifted to online purchasing, the pressure on customer-facing teams has never been higher. In such a challenging and uncertain time, alignment is harder to achieve, yet more necessary than ever, says Top Employers. Without the organisational and cultural change to support good customer service, any customer-first strategy will struggle to succeed.
The change revolution
So it’s no surprise that change is now seen as a core capability among Top Employer organisations in the UK – and purpose and values are now the key drivers in the way in which organisations change. Communication with and support of employees is improving, with around eight in 10 employers providing opportunities for employee feedback and six in 10 appointing a change champion to help with adoption.
There is still some way to go, though, when it comes to taking a systemic approach to assessing impact of change (54%), providing post change follow-up to ensure adoption (66%) and capturing and systematically adopting the lessons learnt (70%).
The performance revolution
The research finds three core drivers of performance: improvement in the attention given to talent through performance management, to engagement strategy and practice and to a high priority for diversity and inclusion. However, what is changing most is the attention to detail when delivering personal development plans. According to Top Employers, this has been made possible by the growing importance of technology in delivering personalisation.
This year 84% say all their employees have the opportunity to create and follow up on the performance development plan supported by technology. Some 80% say they consistently offer extensive behaviour training to ensure employees understand, act and are comfortable with their role, while 89% say employees are actively involved in action plans for improvement.
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) has played a key role in the effectiveness of their performance, according to the organisation surveyed. D&I now ranks four out of 20 in the list of HR priorities for the organisation, sustaining its steady elevation from 11th place five years ago.
More than nine in 10 of those surveyed say D&I is key to the core business imperatives of the organisation, while 83% have a defined organisation-wide programme. Yet only just over half (52%) say they consult D&I networks to advise on policies. And, as with change, it appears evaluation is an area where HR still needs to improve. Only 58% measure the effectiveness of their D&I programme at least once every two years.
The health revolution
Employee wellbeing has been a key business imperative among Top Employers for some time, but the pandemic has resulted in greater commitment, with 80% of organisations saying their senior management is actively involved in wellbeing programmes – up from 70% in 2020. Nearly three-quarters now have a dedicated and trained wellbeing champion, up from 63% last year.
Top initiatives among Top Employers are managers encouraging team vacations, mindfulness/meditation and health days. Even those initiatives that are less popular among organisations, such as guaranteed time to unplug/take a stress relief break and discouraging the use of email outside office hours have seen a 10 plus percentage point increase in those consistently doing it.
These three areas provide a template for a more customer-focused post pandemic world, says Top Employers. As Sproston says: “Now the challenge, for all employers, is to achieve and sustain this alignment.”
Top Employers certifies 98 UK and Ireland organisations. The findings are outlined in the HR and the Customer Service Revolution report