As a leader, you have a significant impact on employee performance. Service management focusses on the links between leadership, employee performance, stable customer experience and the financial results of the company.

 

In the struggle for customers, so-called ‘price wars’ arise, with companies vying to be best placed in terms of being the cheapest. Industry by industry exposes itself to massive price pressure, while profit margins shrink.

But customers also price comparison to choose where to buy, rather than considering the ‘big picture’ before the decision is made. ‘The big picture’ is about more than price – it may include employee product expertise, interest in customer needs, complaints, service, warranties after the purchase and, not least, the purchase experience itself.

Most businesses will claim that they are consumer orientated and put the customer first. Easy to say – not so easy to do.

However, if you do deliver a customer-first experience in a ‘big picture’ context, you’ll have a more competitive edge in price-sensitive trading conditions.

This article is about directing employees towards intensive in-store contact that creates positive experiences for customers on a daily basis. Are there any shortcuts to good service management and good customer experiences? Sadly, no. Successful achievement in this field means gaining good customer feedback over time – and a constant quest to improve in their eyes.

Many executives ask if there any smart moves that can make them lead their employees towards top performance with customers? And thankfully, there are several smart moves you can make – but doesn’t mean anything is a quick fix. These six steps, on the other hand, are a very good start on the road to good service management. We call it service management in practice.

First and foremost, the company must have a thoughtful customer approach. This means, among other things, that the company has a clear relationship with what values ​​they should create for its customers, what service concepts they should have and what quality they will be delivered to the customer. This is the corporate customer strategy and forms the basis for how we practice service management in practice.

 

Step 1 – Learn what drives customer satisfaction and loyalty

If you don’t already know, get acquainted with what impacts customers’ satisfaction and loyalty. This is essential in order to provide good service management. Can you find out what your customers think is important?

We like to compare these drivers with a big tree. Imagine that the roots represent the most important thing you do to your customers. These are customer expectations that are very basic and which customers require fulfilled every single time. If you do not deliver these experiences, there is a high risk of losing your customers. However, if you deliver, it is not a guarantee that customers become loyal. The customer thinks ‘That’s the least I expect’. Without the roots, the tree will fall.

The trunk of the tree symbolizes the competence of the company. What do customers expect you to do? What skills do you need to give the customer good advice and offer the right purchase? Do you have the skills to offer your customers what you say you can? But even here, you don’t gain loyalty just because you deliver. Customers expect to get help with and expertise about the products and services sold. Still, there are many companies that don’t deliver. But those who do simply can’t do enough.

Customer satisfaction drivers are like a tree.

At the top of the tree, the performance of the employees, their behaviour and ability to build relationships plays a crucial role. Here you surprise the customers with a little extra and the customer thinks ‘wow – I wasn’t expecting that’.

Delivering customer experiences, when they’re seen as additional benefits, strengthens customer relationships and increases competitiveness. The top of the tree symbolises performance that strengthens the relationship with the customer. This is where loyalty is created, provided that solid roots and trunks are in place.

‘Once you know the tree for your industry and your business, you can facilitate the employees who will deliver the content of the tree to the customers.’

Step 2 – Find out how well you perform in the customers’ eyes 

To provide good service management, you need to know how good customer experiences really are in your business. Preferably, you need access to this information continuously – every day, without fail.

Putting systems in place to gauge ongoing customer feedback is probably the best investment you can make – assuming that you are using the knowledge to run good service management and that the information goes to those who actually handle the customers every day. If you don’t have access to this type of information already, start tomorrow. Set time aside to interview 3-4 customers a week. Make a simple questionnaire based on the driver’s tree and ask customers how they perceive your company. You will be surprised at how much useful information you get. This obviously does not replace a continuous customer survey, but is a good start to gain more knowledge. And that’s what you’ll need for Tip 3.

 

Step 3 – Create arenas for learning and exchanging experiences

This is the very essence of good service management. You have identified the gaps between what customers think is important in the business and what you actually deliver every day. Now the real work begins: using this knowledge for learning and sharing of experience. And firstly, you’ll need some meeting places where learning can take place.

‘Creating arenas for learning and development does not mean having a complex meeting structure and a lot of time away from daily activities – on the contrary, this is about exploiting the little moments during the day.

For example, it is about creating pep talks that take a maximum of 5 minutes each day. Highly-focussed chats where only the most important nuggets are discussed. If you want to spend more time and resources, maybe a weekly talk is right. The most important thing is to establish arenas for customer orientation and to provide room for learning customer feedback and own experiences.

My experience is that very many businesses stop after Step 2. They think the job is done, so Step 3 is not implemented. Measurement becomes the answer and the solution. Graphs, comparisons and rankings become sole topics occasions where employees and managers meet. First place is celebrated and everyone else is loser – while most people go home thinking ‘must do better’.

The ranking becomes more important than the learning – and the motivation for customer orientation is gone.

 

Step 4 – Give pep talks

What is a pep talk? Here, PEP stands for Planning Effective Performance. In short: look ahead to ensure better outcomes. At its simplest, a good pep talk is about three main questions:

  • What have we done that worked well?
  • What have we done that did not work well?
  • What will we do next time?

A properly-implemented pep talk is fully focussed on what’s going to happen in the future and does not dwell solely on what’s been done. The length of a pep talk may vary, but for it to be workable, I recommend most businesses short sessions of 5-10 minutes either daily or weekly. The team should gather at agreed times with employees well prepared for what they should contribute. The manager and staff should share their knowledge and experience. Pep talks with a clear theme and the strong involvement of employees will contribute to high degree of implementation and commitment around what is agreed.

 

Step 5 – Provide good service delivery

It is the manager’s responsibility to arrange the workplace so that employees are able to deliver what is promised to the customer. What inhibits and what promotes service delivery? As a service manager you have a responsibility to remove inhibitors.

‘A concrete step is simply to ask the employees if they have what they need to deliver the quality of service we want and what the customers expect.

Examples of key questions are:

  • Have the employees received enough training?
  • Do they have the equipment and tools they need?
  • Do they have enough time?
  • Do they have sufficient authority?

 

Step 6 – Use the coaching leadership style

It would be odd if the use of a given leadership style solved challenges in the field of service management. And it doesn’t. The so-called coaching management style is just one of many tools you have.

But several of the above steps are a coaching approach. When performing good pep talks, facilitating service delivery and creating venues for learning and experience sharing, you rely on moving into the employees’ universe.

‘Coaching means watching the world through your employees’ eyes.

We are talking about five typical behavioural features that characterize the coaching leadership style:

  • Be tenacious
  • Create clear expectations above the employees
  • Give good follow-up and feedback to the employees
  • Stimulate co-operation between employees
  • Stimulate independent development and show recognition of good achievements.

As a service manager, you will benefit from taking this step seriously. Take part in training in this area, read up on the topic and try out different tools of leadership. Be curious about how you can act as a coach and support independent action rather than controlling the employees.

Good luck with your service management in practice.

In order to show your employees how to change, it’s important to understand the social tendencies that occur when people are in groups. One of these tendencies is conformity – and it can help improve results.

Conformity occurs in all groups to varying degrees, but to exploit it positively in your business you must first understand what it is and why it occurs.

 

What is conformity?

Man likes to think of himself as an individual, but it is a fact that we are pushed to fit in and to do what we believe others expect us to do. Individuals behave in accordance with current norms in specific groups, such as at the workplace. Our behaviour changes so we appear to be ‘normal’ for the others in the group.

Conformity can also give rise to group pressure. Man has a strong need to belong to a group, and matching a group signals that ‘I am like you and I follow common rules’.  Conformity can even occur when a person is alone – because we comply with norms even though no one else is present.

The purpose of conformity is often harmony, and to avoid the discomfort that people feel when one stands out from the rest. Acceptance is one of the most basic human needs and even the most independent person can give in to fit in. Conformity occurs instinctively in us – without this mechanism, mankind could not have survived, since from birth we were completely dependent on others to live.

‘Most are terrified to be rejected.’

Conformity means adapting behaviour or attitudes towards what appears to be socially acceptable in the group. Although many people imagine themselves to be unique individuals, most of their actions, most of the time, are based on social rules. Conformity can be simple things like stopping at a red light or going to work. Without such norms, the whole community would collapse.

 

How to use conformity to improve results in the desired focus area

By consciously controlling and utilising conformity, one can ensure that the entire employee group focuses on changing behaviour to improve results in a desired area. A consistent management that is clear about what the business’s focus areas and goals are, and what is expected of each individual, is a highly effective strategy for performance improvements and change processes. A conscious focus on best practice and the goals the individual has put in place affects the group.

For example, in a retail business, the focus area may be to make even better customer demand coverage.

 

Step 1: Arrange regular meetings where the focus area is talked about each time

‘The boss’s focus is my focus’

Through social control in the form of fixed meeting points with carefully considered content, we can use conformity to our advantage. These meetings can take place in many forms, with formal or informal frameworks. For some businesses, a weekly Monday meeting might be an effective forum to talk about areas of focus. For others it may better to have a chat on the floor when the day’s first shift is over. The most important aspect of these meetings is continuity and frequency – if spoken about and discussed regularly, conformity will establish itself as an area of ​​focus for the whole group.

Within a retail business, Step 1 would mean the leader setting up regular meetings, relatively close together, where results for the previous week would be presented. The meetings would also identify which behaviour changes would lead to better results in certain areas.

 

Step 2: Let role models talk about their working methods

‘My best colleagues’ skills teach me to improve’

Repeated discussions around the focus areas are the first step to using conformity as an effective tool. But it’s important that meetings don’t concentrate solely on managers.  Role models on the staff – i.e. those considered the strongest in the group in a particular area – can achieve powerful effects when they convey how they work on best practices to achieve their goals. It will then be natural for the rest, thanks to the natural pressure to conform, to try to do the same.

In retail, the manager would present results for the strongest in the group and ask them to describe how they have worked during the past week to bring about those results.

 

Step 3: Round the table

‘What everyone in the group talks about, including me, is invaluable’

To actively improve results and raise performance levels, it’s most effective to get the whole group to talk. When everyone has to give their results, and say how they’re working to improve them, people develop a better understanding of best practices relevant to the areas focussed on. Conformity will, in many cases, drive all employees to implement best practices actively in their daily operations in order to have something positive to report on the next meeting.

For a retail business, this would result in performance in the areas of focus during the previous week being presented. Then everyone present would relate how they had worked on best practice and behavioural changes to try to improve the outcome.

 

Be aware of conformity

In some situations – where a business is changing and uncertainty arises, for example – conformity is a factor to be controlled. It will always exist, but if we do not control it, there are other informal and uncontrolled influences that will. And at worst, these can be counter-productive to our efforts to incorporate best practices and performance improvements.

We have many years of experience in large-scale behavioural change. Read more about how the Maze method works here.

An expert survey shows which eight measures will dramatically increase your success rate in leadership development.

 

We can all agree that successful management and leadership development is not easy. In light of this, the American flagship business publication McKinsey Quarterly has asked what measures 510 executives across the world think are most effective in making the most of managerial development. The results show that in practice there are over 50 different measures that should be implemented to get the top effect of a management programme. But don’t worry, some measures are better than others – and their cumulative effect has even greater impact.

It seems that in order to increase the management development success rate to 80%, more than 40 measures have to be taken; to increase the success rate to 30%, you must carry out over 25 measures.

‘But what makes the choice of action simple is that there are a few measures that are much more important than all the others. These measures have a formidable multiplier effect.’

Top 8 measures with large multiplier effect:

  1. Focus on leadership behaviour that is most critical of performance
  2. Ensure that the management programme covers the whole organisation
  3. Ensure that the programme reaches all management levels
  4. Encourage individuals to practice new behaviours to become better leaders
  5. Review how to develop managerial skills
  6. Develop formal HR systems to enhance the leadership model
  7. Demonstrate best practices/role models for good management (e.g. coaching)
  8. Create projects that challenge participants; apply learning in new settings
Source: Feser, C., Nielsen, N. & Rennie, M. (2017) McKinsey Quarterly: What’s Missing In Leadership Development?

 

Eight steps in a list can make leadership development seem simple. But at Maze, we’ve seen that many businesses are struggling to get the full effect from their management programmes.

‘Good management should lead to something concrete and produce a measurable result in the form of an improved KPI.’

Given our experience, there were few surprises on McKinsey’s list. Focus on concrete behavior, including the entire organization, best practice and high levels of training are something which we know works – these measures are pivotal in the Maze method.

We base our business on what the best practice management is in relation to a chosen KPI- for example focussing on customers or employees or implementation of processes. It’s about specific management activities, which can be copied by all, and be measurable.

Using statistical methods we find which of many different activities actually give the greatest effect. We focus all the effort on those and follow-up over time with system support. The entire organisation is involved, and all levels of the organisation are part of the follow-up process; feedback on management is an important tool. As part of the follow-up, the manager will also practice, and rehearse, to become a better leader, through commitment and follow-up to his own leader.

System support ensures continuity, and is supported by our training options, training companions and gamification. And together with our customers we create a welcoming, workable social setting for good training.

‘We work hard to improve a chosen KPI, no matter which KPI and where in the value chain we are.’

Do you want to get more out of your leadership development? Contact us today for a no-obligtion chat about how we can help your business.

There are three prevelant myths about management tools that we meet again and again. They’re rife in every industry – and here’s where we lay them to rest once and for all.

 

1. ‘Nobody answers survey questions honestly’

Several of our customers originally thought that surveys were a waste of time, both for customers and employees. We beg to differ.

It’s not about honesty

Our experience is that that most people are quite honest. But if some of their answers aren’t, what does that really mean? The most important aspect of a survey is not necessarily the degree of honesty – it’s the conversations about the results and the specific goals the business is based on that matter most.

‘Conducting surveys is an excellent opportunity to start a dialogue with your employees about the desired focus area and their own aspirations about future performance.’

In addition, honesty is about a number of other factors. How the survey is formulated, frequency and the employee’s/customer’s reaction to follow-ups after conducting investigations help influence what responses you receive. We understand this very well, and work actively to ensure you make the most of your research.

 

2. ‘A lot of customer feedback is on things we can’t do anything about’

The feeling that customers provide feedback on areas that you can’t influence is one more reason that surveys seem like an unnecessary management tool.

Focus on the right place

There will probably be some feedback that does not directly affect you and your employees. But we also know that there are many more responses that will concern you and your working environment. These are the ones to emphasise.

‘Focus only on the feedback you can influence. We guarantee that it’s more than enough to work with.’

Customer feedback is important initially for finding focus areas, and then as a measuring instrument to see that all the hard work pays off. This also applies if parts of the information affect areas you have no influence on.

And discovering some things you can’t react to immediately can still be worthwhile. For example, knowing that some customers think prices are too high can be effective to keep in mind during customer interaction.

The points you actually can’t act on, you’re safe to ignore, or pass on up the chain. Perhaps top management can do something about it – but your focus should be on things you can change.

 

3. ‘Giving employees my feedback does more harm than good’

Some executives and middle managers may fear providing feedback to their employees. There is a feeling that it may undermine staff skills, or that honest feedback has more of a negative than a positive effect.

Feedback is essential – but must be given correctly

Feedback is a vital part of development and follow-up when you want behavioural change in your business. We have seen over and over again that frequent – and accurate – feedback leads to a number of positive consequences.

It is important to understand that independent work and feedback are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, we find that most people are highly motivated by constructive feedback from their leader. Motivation and guidance lead to more efficient and targeted employees, who work better both independently and in teams.

‘Saying “you have done well” is an ineffective way to provide feedback. Saying “you do well when you ask questions to uncover customers’ needs” is much more constructive’.

Feedback needs to be concrete, specific and focussed on behaviour that can be changed. With immediate delivery, feedback can be your most important management tool.

 

Read our 10 tips on how to provide effective feedback here

 

Measuring the customer’s level of satisfaction immediately after an interaction with a seller gives Telia’s store managers the opportunity to provide instant feedback to employees. This is a useful tool to motivate and improve results already with the next customer interaction.

 

Specific customer satisfaction measurement provides useful feedback

Customer satisfaction has always been important to Telia which is why they have used different measurement methods in the past. After Maze got involved, the telecom company chose to specify the surveys, focusing on exactly what the customer experiences during the in-store visit.

“Previously we have used measurement methods that are not as channel specific as this. We now measure specific conditions in the store, such as how the customer is received and what questions the employee asks” says Gunnar Brattli, chain manager in Telia Norway.

He explains that measurements such as asking the customer how satisfied he/she is with mobile reception in the store is not relevant to the sales staff.

“We wanted to isolate the part of the customer experience where the seller’s behaviour can influence the outcome. We were curious to see how the customer is met and what guidance is given until he/she leaves the store.”

What to measure?

Through collaboration with store managers and sales staff, Telia revealed 20 success criteria based on the behaviour of the highest performing sales representatives. These provide a best practice standard to ensure the best possible customer experience.

“The best sellers are very conscious of asking questions to reveal different customer needs. Asking the customer if they actually receive these questions makes it easier to unveil the sellers’ improvement areas” says chain manager Brattli.

“We compare this to sports – the right kind of behaviour gives better results.”

Telia use the Maze system to ensure useful performance feedback to every part of the chain, from the sellers themselves, to regional and central managers.

“Maze provides a very good solution to visualize how employees perform, based on the success criteria. It is all about reducing variation in performance by teaching the rest of the sellers the behaviour of the best sellers. If we reduce the gap between the best and the rest by half, the effect is a major boost in overall results” says Brattli.

Instant measurement allows for instant feedback

In order to obtain information about the customer’s shopping experience, Telia benefited from the services they provide.

“As we are in the telecom industry, we work with phones and have access to the customer’s phone number. We have developed a system where anyone who changes or buys a phone subscription in one of our stores receives a link to a short questionnaire via SMS. The customer can evaluate how he/she experienced the store visit on a scale from one to seven” says Brattli.

After the customer’s assessment, it is all about getting the information back to the front line. The solution became an app that continually provides store managers an overview of how the store is being considered by their customers. This gives the individual store manager a unique opportunity to provide instant feedback to its employees.

“The app provides the store manager with an overview of sales numbers on different products as well as the number of new ambassadors or frustrated customers. This makes it easy to motivate best practice and behaviours that deliver better results” adds Brattli.

Read more about 10 ways you can deliver feedback efficiently.

Continuous feedback creates motivation

Shop Manager at Telia CC Vest, Michaela Westin, says she has experienced significant changes after the Maze system was introduced to her store.

“It is a great tool that gives me quick access to information that I can use for follow-up, feedback and improvement” explains Westin, an adds:

“Constructive criticism from real customers gives us what we need to get better”

She has also noticed how the immediate feedback from customers increases the overall enthusiasm with her sales staff.

“If I forget to update sales staff on how the customers are rating us, it does not take long before they request feedback. Since they always get the positive feedback that comes directly from the customers right away, it really helps them to stay motivated. They get immediate confirmation that they are doing a good job, she concludes.

See all our case studies here.

How to give feedback

Our 10 ways to give feedback efficiently will quickly help you realise the full potential of both you and your employees.

Feedback is an efficient and crucial tool for learning, well-being and further development. It is therefore not surprising that most businesses and relationships need more of it. With the right  culture and forums for open and frequent feedback, you have an optimal starting point for improving relationships and achievements, both individually and collectively. We have collected our best tips to help you provide the most effective feedback to your employees.

What is feedback?

Feedback is information that a person receives about a particular part of his / her behaviour. For feedback to be efficient, it should not be delivered alone – it pays to combine feedback with a consequence, such as positive reinforcement or praise. Without a consequence, the likelihood of change will be less. There are few organisations today that provide enough feedback, and if they provide feedback, this is usually only information.

“Information or data is not feedback – because it does not tell us what behaviour needs to be changed.”

Lack of feedback is the key reason why there is variation in behaviour and the consequential performance amongst employees in a business. Without understanding how one performs, it’s hard to improve performance the next time. By setting clear goals for the individual’s performance, it will be easier to measure and thus see how changes in behaviour have a impact on performance.

10 ways to provide effectual feedback

1. Give specific “how-information»
2. Provide feedback on behaviours that the person can control
3. Give immediate feedback
4. Provide individual feedback
5. Encourage self-monitoring behaviour
6. If self-monitoring isn’t possible, feedback should be collected and delivered by the manager
7. Focus on improvement
8. Make the feedback understandable
9. Visualize the feedback
10. Feedback should be a request for reinforcement

What is reinforcement?

When systemising feedback, praise should be used to enhance an activity, response or behaviour. In this case, praise is used as a positive reinforcement because you want more of the current response or behaviour that you are complimenting. On the other hand, feedback can be used to promote a negative boost, as you want less of a response or activity that does not help the employee achieve his goals.

Open and frequent

Open and frequent communication is necessary for teams or individuals to function optimally. Likewise, it is important for managers to receive feedback in order for them to do a good job. Effective feedback has benefits for both the provider and the recipient, as well as the entire organisation. Feedback is an essential part of learning and in many jobs, there is a huge lack of performance feedback. By using effective feedback, it will act as a significant management tool that will lead to behavioural change.

What can an employee do to get feedback?

1. Ask directly “How am I doing?”
2. Then ask “What can I do to enhance my performance?”
3. Have comparable goals

What can a manager do to get feedback?

If a manager is interested in getting feedback from employees, he or she should ask. It can be daunting to ask for feedback, just because the leader does not necessarily like what the employees have to say. It is important to know the purpose of the question beforehand and ask in a way so that employees feel safe to answer honestly and openly.

 

See how our customers starting to use effective feedback as a tool to enhance performance