Focus on metrics shouldn’t be at expense of employee welfare

shutterstock_159879407When you think of Amazon, great customer experience always springs to mind – packages arrive when they are supposed to, and when there’s a problem, the customer experience team resolves it quickly and efficiently. However, as a recent New York Times article discusses, Amazon may be offering its customers a quick and affordable shopping experience at the expense of its employees’ health and wellbeing. As this highlights, data-driven convenience and efficiency aren’t the only—or even the most important—building blocks of long-term customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Amazon has offered memorable and impressive customer service from its infancy, from sending free gifts and thank you cards in the 1990s, to its excellent returns policy. Amazon’s CX innovations span Prime membership, with its ever-growing list of customer benefits, to the Kindle Fire HD’s Mayday function, which allows customers to engage Amazon’s customer service agents over live video chat to new technology, such as Amazon Echo and the Dash button, which make it easier than ever for customers to engage with Amazon’s universe of products and services from the comfort of their homes. As a result, it’s unsurprising that Amazon ranks highly when it comes to customer retention, and their Net Promoter Scores (NPS) suggest a customer service operation that is efficient and effective.

However, as the tales of internal employee travails demonstrate, a high degree of efficiency and innovation doesn’t come easily. There is a high-intensity environment in Amazon’s warehouses and employees are worked hard and there is a data-driven criteria within the company’s management ranks, which undoubtedly trickles down to the legions of customer service representatives.

Quantity over quality?

The contact centre industry has been subject to scrutiny for years for the work-life imbalances that can be caused by an overemphasis on agent yield. Even when operations are managed “perfectly,” data-driven decisions can be at the expense of the happiness of employees.

While, to an extent, data-driven thinking is important for business success, too much focus on results can be at the expense of employee well-being. Of course, it’s important that contact centre employees are in a happy work environment, as they are engaging directly with customers all day long. Sentiment is easily transmitted from one person to another, and there are few bigger turnoffs for customers than having to resolve an issue with a disengaged, irritated, or clearly miserable customer service agent.

Moreover, labor costs are the most expensive part of every contact centre operation. In an industry where annual attrition rates average over 30%, considering how to retain talent in the contact centre requires a shift in HR strategy. Instead of managing performance on outdated metrics, which don’t truly impact on customer experience, today’s CX leaders are looking at the entire customer journey, the customer “effort” expended to engage with the company, and focusing on the customer to better impact customer experience.

While efficiency and rigor can at first glance produce good results, it doesn’t make for a healthy customer service strategy in the long run, which yields competitive advantage and growing wallet share from customers. Why? Because it overlooks the direct connection between employee engagement and customer satisfaction.

Genesys solutions are extremely effective at reporting data in a myriad of forms about all manner of customer interactions and how they are handled. However, data isn’t everything. Customer experience is, first and foremost, a matter of human relationships and data can be used to help strengthen and develop those relationships.

Apart from providing a great selection of products and services, CX leaders are building business models on what we might call company-culture-driven customer service, which applies to the entire enterprise and not just the customer service or contact centre “department.” When customers engage with the contact centre, they inevitably get a taste of the positive, enthusiastic spirit that the company prides itself on. And it feels authentic. By cultivating an environment of happy employees, companies will breed happy customers.

Simply providing customers with convenience may keep them coming back until they find a better deal elsewhere, but if it’s lifelong loyalty you’re after, you’ve got to give your customers reasons to love you. Just like in any other human relationship—it’s about what’s inside that counts.

The fact is, customers will not choose to shop with you if they are inherently against the company culture – especially the mistreatment of employees. While it’s hard to say for sure what life is really like for Amazon employees, given the conflicting views on the matter, it’s worth remembering the importance of the human factor at the heart of all the data that makes a modern business thrive.

By Paul Segre, CEO, Genesys