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CustomerCare News The Promenade at Coconut Creek

by XXX xxxxx

Fall 2011


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Emerging strategies to improve customer and employee satisfaction Nullam a consequat quam. hendrerit arcu. Suspendisse potenti. Duis Morbi consequat porttitor imperdiet.

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velit, interdum a cursus in, fermentum vel purus. Nullam urna ipsum, sodales vel

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egestas ultrices, nisi urna varius mi, quis consectetur nisl urna a dui.

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turient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.


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The Best Companies Get Results Through People page 14

Etiam dolor quam, volutpat at convallis et, feugiat sed tellus. Nunc eleifend augue

et ante laoreet commodo. Nam nec sapien turpis. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et

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Smithson linkes to knock off early, going on expensive golf junkets paid for by corporate lobbyists.

quis tincidunt dictum, urna nisi egestas

sapien, nec laoreet magna orci at ligula. CCN

est mollis dictum quis ac lacus. Etiam

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ultrices eros, in sagittis felis tellus in

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Customer Service: Should the Airlines Go Back to Basics? page 22

at eu est. Phasellus quis quam dolor, id tempor ante. Nunc laoreet convallis ornare. Curabitur id nunc erat, a volutpat tellus. Cras eleifend ultricies odio, a

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eros, in sagittis felis tellus in purus. Suspendisse non tortor sapien. In at magna eu odio aliquam condimentum at eu est. Integrating Customer Service Into Every Day page 18

A Celebration Media Publication

Can an Employee Recognition Program Build Customer Loyalty? page 08

CustomerCare News

Fall 2011

Emerging strategies to improve customer and employee satisfaction

Subscribe to Customer Care News Magazine Latest Reading on Customer Care page 5

No cost for your next digital edition. Read about what others are doing to improve their online reputation and evaluate their own customer service progress. Research shows that the reason customer satisfaction is so important is because of its impact on the many factors that affect a company’s bottom line. It generates higher customer loyalty, repeat business and increased revenue. In general terms, more satisfied customers make happier business owners, shareholders, employees and managers. The more a company focuses on customer care, the more it reaps the rewards of higher customer satisfaction. This creates a customer who will be more loyal, spend more money, treat staff better and spread the word online and in everyday conversation. Happy Customers beget Happy Bottom Line and Reputation This Management Happy Stakeholders. should be the call of every company in America. page 6

Thus, was created to shed light on issues and trends in the area of customer satisfaction and customer care. The publication will cover the leading industry providers of education and resources, which are vital to assisting companies in improving their customer satisfaction scores. As a subscriber to Customer Care News, you will be engaged with the latest solutions to underlying problems that inhibit the best intentions as they relate to improving customer care. Read each issue by subscribing to the magazine. Do so by going to our website at or e-mail us at

Customer Care News Magazine 32000 Northwestern Hwy.,Suite 128 •Farmington Hills, MI 48334 Engineering Students and E.I. Phone: 888-438-9528 ext 807 page 10 A Celebration Media Publication

Associate Publisher’s Letter


ost, if not all organizations and company leaders know the

importance of providing good customer service. They recognize it can cost up to 10 to 20 times more to attract a new cus-

tomer than it does to keep an existing customer. Or, that a five percent increase in

overall customer retention equates to a 25 to 55 percent increase in profitability. Statistics like these and others are readily available for company leaders. So why do companies, large and small, still struggle with satisfying their customers?

There is no need for a Mensa level of intelligence to understand that valued

and satisfied customers are paramount to every organization. Unfortunately, however, common knowledge does not always equate to common practice. For

many companies, customer service remains a challenging and neglected area leading to the loss of profits and potential opportunities.

Providing superior customer service requires several components. First, customer service begins at the top and is woven into the

fabric of the company — in other words, the organization’s culture. Slogans, clichés, and badges are all meaningless if the culture

does not support what it declares. The critical piece is how leaders treat their staff. An autocratic leader who employs the YST (yell, scream and tell) style of management and then expects the staff to treat external customers with respect and friendliness is totally misinformed. Employees will perform as they are treated. A customer-centric culture is one that treats internal customers the same as external customers.

A second element to providing excellent customer service is for companies to establish processes and systems to ensure custom-

ers are satisfied. Far too often, company policies are reactive and defensive. Instead of empowering staff to exceed the customer’s

expectations, policies are such that they pit the staff against the customer. The disempowered employee is forced to respond to an unhappy customer with the following toxic statement, “The company policy states we cannot...”.

From the company’s culture to its processes and procedures, there is one common denominator — the staff. The human con-

nection is the final element to providing superior customer service. If employees are treated as software to be downloaded in a computer, you reinforce mindless obedience. On the other hand, when employees are empowered, encouraged to truly connect with the customer, trained to provide the finest service, and supported by a customer-centric culture, satisfaction is almost guaranteed.

It becomes imperative, therefore, to provide employees with the education and training necessary to consistently deliver excep-

tional service. This involves more than a 30-minute video or “rah-rah” speech from leaders. Just as product and technical training is

necessary for employees to do their jobs, interpersonal skills training is equally important. Some of these skills include communica-

tion, team building, dealing with difficult customers and managing stress. These skills are not inherent. They need to be taught, trained and reinforced by a culture that honestly respects and values the employees and customers.

Part of customer care includes giving back to the community. We at CCN would like to congratulate a local organization that

is doing just that and has recently received recognition for its community service. Monroe Bank & Trust (highlighted on p. 18) won the 2011 Governor’s Service Award for corporate community involvement, beating out four other competitors, including Comerica

Bank and AT&T. The award is designed to recognize businesses statewide that excel in community involvement by employees and includes corporate volunteer programs, monetary contributions, in-kind gifts and employee-driven volunteer service

As you read through this edition of Customer Care News, you will gain an additional perspective on the importance of providing

exceptional customer service. Customers are the lifeblood of all companies, and how you treat them could determine your company’s survival. Enjoy!

Dr. Keith Levick


Fall 2011

Associate Publisher

Table of Contents 03


Employee Insight Drives Performance

Can an Employee Recognition Program Build Customer Loyalty?

Recent evidence shows a correlation

work and increased customer satisfaction

Associate Publisher Keith Levick, Ph.D.

Editor-in-Chief Jamie Rawcliffe

provides insight into a company’s success


Survey Says: Get it Right with Net Promoter Score


Publisher Dale Jaslove

information on customer experiences

Asking customers the right questions

Fall 2011

Employee surveys can provide pertinent

CustomerCare News

Production Manager Chris Schramm

Editorial & Materials Coordinator Anne Seebaldt

between recognizing employees’

People Power Sets the Pace for Innovation

Editors/Writers Mella Barnes

In today’s economy, maximizing the


innovation are essential

Monroe Bank & Trust demonstrates the

service into all facets of the business


company’s workforce and supporting

The Best Companies Get Results Through People

Work For, a human resources awards

successful strategies for improving the


program, highlights companies with

Training, communication and the

customer satisfaction for airlines

lives of employees


Fall 2011

effectiveness of incorporating customer

101 Best and Brightest Companies to



Integrating Customer Service Into Every Day

Customer Service: Should the Airlines Go Back to Basics?

right people can elevate the levels of

Parallels Between Athletic Coaching and People Performance: An Exploration of Shared Concepts

Aspects of successful coaching can cross over to managing employees

Never Underestimate the Importance of Education

Training employees for more than

the technical role of their job is key in

every company’s customer service success

Amy Pagett

Operations Manager Jennifer Barth

Account Manager Fran Cohen

Website Design Melissa Sherwood Contributing Writers Susan Ellerin, Ph.D.; Jerry Klein; Jennifer D. Kluge; Ross Kramer; Cathryn Noyes; Wendy Warrington Parker; Dr. Heather L. Strouse; Joan Travelstead Website Consultant Customer Care News 32000 Northwestern Hwy., Suite 128 Farmington Hills, MI 48334 Customer Care News is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. The publishers have taken all reasonable steps to verify the accuracy and completeness of information contained in Customer Care News. The publishers may not, however, be held responsible for any inaccuracies or omission of information in any article appearing in the Customer Care News. Entire contents copyright 2011 by Customer Care News. All rights reserved. Reproduction or use of editorial content in any manner without written permission is strictly prohibited.

Customer Care News

Employee Insight Drives Performance M ost organizations regularly survey employees, but these programs are typically limited to

measuring employee engagement, identify-

operations or policies in other parts of the company that affect their ability to serve the customer.

Most organizations not only miss the opportunity to solicit

ing the drivers of employee satisfaction, and soliciting sugges-

systematic input from their employees, even worse, they inad-

in-depth questions about the workplace, rarely do they ask the

critical observations. Surveys in which employees are solicited

tions for improving working conditions. While surveys include questions whose answers could most dramatically affect the

overall quality of the customer experience and efficiency of

operations. Companies miss the opportunity to ask, for example, “What stands in the way of providing the best possible customer service? What do you need to perform your job better? What

do you think is key to attracting and retaining the highest value

vertently create cultures that make employees reluctant to share for a 360-degree view of the company’s key performance mea-

sures can fill these voids. For example, STAT Resources, Inc. has just developed a new Employee Generated Optimization (EGOSM) survey program that is the first to use employee insight in this way.

A corporate EGO survey not only gives Care a voice that

customers?” Yet, apart from customers themselves, no one is

can be heard in the C-suite about what stands in the way of

employees on the front line — staff who also understand the

cross-company, also enlists the entire organization in reaching

better positioned to report on customer experiences than the operational challenges and constraints in providing a stellar customer experience.

Employees across the organization — from front-line

sales reps to backroom IT specialists — all may have valuable intelligence about what will drive measurable improvements in

world-class service and market dominance, but, if implemented these goals. Even surveys of just the Care departments can give an enormous leg up on operational and quality improvements. A lesson from the security industry

A major security company was eager to launch service qual-

products and service quality delivery. However, there is probably

ity improvements to increase customer satisfaction. Company

obstacles to success than the frontline of your Care organiza-

phone with customer service, the higher the customer sat-

no group in the company in a better position to identify the

are rarely asked to, and of course, have little if any control over

Fall 2011

tion. While Care reps can often identify these obstacles, they

research showed that the less time a customer spent on the

isfaction scores were. In response to this finding, company management offered service representatives financial incentives


to reduce time-spent-in-queue and for decreases in total average call length. Surprisingly, while the company dramatically

increased the speed of response and call completion, customer

• Take care to align rewards and recognitions with objectives.

satisfaction plummeted — along with employee morale. Why?

Benefits of employee involvement

reason that shorter calls were associated with more satisfied

tomers can be difficult, and certainly expensive. Consumers

time-satisfaction link was often simply the result of quicker

are especially delighted or distressed. Customers are growing

Had management enlisted employees in understanding the

customers, they would have learned that reps believed that the resolution time for simpler issues. More difficult and complex

issues took more time and effort to resolve. When surveyed, employees agreed that reducing time in queue was relevant

to customer satisfaction, but that simple remedies such as

removing confusion in contract terms to reduce logjams would improve call satisfaction also. Similarly, they advocated aligning incentives with problem resolution rather than speed.

Implementing changes to contract terms had positive

Collecting rich and insightful feedback directly from cus-

are often reluctant and inattentive participants unless they increasingly weary of being asked about their experiences and perceptions in every aspect of their life — from the store that sells them pens to the restaurant where they had dinner the week before. Fortunately, it is possible to learn almost as much

by asking the right questions of employees as you can from trying to extract insights from over-surveyed consumers with little motivation to provide detailed or reflective answers.

Employees offer quick, efficient and economical perspectives

impacts on customer satisfaction, but when incentives were

that research has shown are highly consistent with those of cus-

reps and teams for percent of “first-time fixes,” customer satis-

by sensitivity to organizational constraints and challenges. This

shifted from rewards for throughput to rewards to individual faction really soared.

There are three, perhaps obvious, but frequently overlooked

lessons from this:

• Before launching any improvement program, examine

tomers themselves. In addition, employee feedback is enhanced understanding is key to identifying feasible improvements to the customer experience.

Most robust employee surveying

EGO surveys replace traditional employee surveys and

and validate all assumptions.

certainly complement — and perhaps even replace — customer

sure the true drivers of quality are understood.

pany performance in four major areas, each of which has two

• Do not confuse correlation with causation — make

surveys with a structure for a 360-degree examination of commain components (see Figure 1):

• Human Capital Optimization

HR Management: Does the com-

pany offer attractive compensation, benefits and working conditions?

Employee Loyalty & Engagement: Do employees feel valued, empowered and supported?

• Customer Centricity

Customer Retention: Do we create an environment that inspires customer loyalty? Customer



Communication: How well do we

communicate with and listen to our

Fall 2011



Customer Care News

• Product and/or Service Quality

Value Proposition: What do customers GET from our

An extra benefit of mining employee intelligence

It is now commonplace to recognize the strong relation-

products and services?

ship between employee loyalty and satisfaction and the loyalty

customers have problems or need support?

employee feedback to guide improvements becomes an improve-

Care & Support: How well do we handle issues when

• Brand & Market Dominance

Brand & Positioning: What is communicated to

the market and company stakeholders to create dominance?

Sales & Acquisition: Are we effective in acquiring new customers?

Typical results can then be displayed in a radargram

(see Figure 2). Here we see a company that is quite strong in

typical employee loyalty and HR measures, but is fairly weak in

customer relationship and communication as well as care

and satisfaction of customers. Here, the very act of soliciting ment in itself, communicating to employees that their opinions are valued. In changing the communication culture of the sys-

tem and enlisting employees as partners in change, inevitably, the end result is increased morale and satisfaction. Satisfied employees are more likely to stay put, and their tenure provides

their organization with a knowledgeable, experienced and stable workforce — the kind of workforce that is most likely to lead to happier customers. And not only does improved employee

satisfaction lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, it works the other way around too: satisfied customers improve employee satisfaction. And around and around it goes. CCN

and support, resulting in low scores in customer retention.

Susan Ellerin, Ph.D., is the founder and president of STAT

positioning, value proposition, and sales and acquisition,

for STAT. STAT has worked with many high-technology,

Why is this? The company scores well in brand and indicating that the product or service being delivered is of reasonable quality and that it is successfully acquiring good potential customers. Does the company need to introduce loy-

alty programs? Review customer care processes? Overhaul its can provide insight that would help to identify problem areas and possible fixes.

financial, consumer products and services organizations over the course of its 30-year history. Ellerin specializes in focusing senior management teams on interventions that have immediate

and sustainable impacts on the loyalty of high-value customers, improved operational effectiveness, and increased market domi-

Fall 2011

communications strategies? Employee feedback in these areas

Resources, Inc.; Cathryn Noyes is the director of insight research

nance. STAT can be reached at 617-340-2173 or via e-mail at or


Survey Says C


Get it Right with Net Promoter Score

ustomer feedback is imperative for the growth of your business. Whether it’s product or

service related, you need to understand how

customers feel about their interaction with your organization.

But that doesn’t mean you should stop asking your cus-

tomers for feedback. It just means that you have to find a better way.

Marketers understand the value, which is why they spend

One minute, two questions

and through scheduled e-mails deployed at regular intervals;

to solve this problem. The concept is simple. A single ques-

posts throughout the day to monitor both positive and nega-

or friend?” — lets you know how your customers feel about

time surveying customers online after purchases are made

not to mention meticulously searching Twitter and Facebook

tive comments. Receiving feedback is timely and costly, and

results are typically so skewed that it’s unwise to take decisive action based on the data.

The biggest flaws with e-mail and online surveys are the

number and type of questions asked. Most customers would be happy to provide feedback if it:

• Didn’t take up too much of their time; and

• Gave them the opportunity to express themselves openly and honestly.

Questions such as “How did you hear about us?,” “How

easy was our website to navigate?,” and other marketingrelated questions do not belong in surveys. First of all, that

information is available through web analytics — and it will be more accurate from this source as well. Also, these questions are meaningless to customers, so few of them will take the time to answer.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) was developed several years ago

tion — “How likely are you to recommend us to a colleague your organization. Based on a scale

of 0 (not likely at





likely), responses are broken down into



egories. Customers who 0-6



While it might be tempting to survey your customers on everything from product selection to customer service knowledge to the size and color of your shopping cart icon, doing so is a mistake.


detractors, as they are clearly unsatisfied. Customers who

answer 7-8 are passive, as they don’t have strong feelings either way. And customers who answer 9-10 are your pro-

moters. They’re the customers who love your brand and sing your praises.

To calculate your NPS, simply subtract your percent-

And, while it might be tempting to survey your custom-

age of detractors from your percentage of promoters. For

knowledge to the size and color of your shopping cart icon,

percent) are promoters and 10 (20 percent) are detractors,

ers on everything from product selection to customer service

doing so is a mistake. The more questions you ask, the fewer responses you’ll get.

example, if you receive 50 responses one month and 32 (64

your NPS is +44. The number isn’t a percentage as your NPS is either positive or negative.

The higher the score, the better. But it’s important to

measure your score against your industry results to help you

gain an understanding of how you are doing compared to

your competitors, since some industries, such as health care,

Fall 2011

have relatively low scores across the board.

This question alone doesn’t provide actionable informa-

tion, nor does it tell you how likely customers are to buy


Customer Care News

from you again. So we recommend using a simple follow-up question: Why?

Using open-ended questions in surveys is generally

frowned upon as the responses are difficult to track and measure. However, asking customers why they answered the

first question gives them the opportunity to express how they

feel about anything and everything related to your organiza-

tion. You can learn more from this one question than from

100 other standard survey questions; and, more importantly, customers will take the time to tell you their thoughts. You can see how valuable this information is. Imagine responses such as:

How likely are you to recommend us to a colleague or friend? 9

Why? I was on a tight deadline and accidentally exited

your program without saving my work. I called support, and in less than five minutes was shown where the auto-saved version of my report was located. What a lifesaver!

How likely are you to recommend us to a colleague or friend? 7

Why? I was locked out of my account. It was after hours

and your online chat feature wasn’t available, and I had to

wait several minutes on hold to speak to a rep. The issue was resolved right away, but you should have other support issues available after hours.

Ross Kramer

How likely are you to recommend us to a colleague or friend? 2

Why? Your online help manual didn’t answer my ques-

response must be read and carefully considered. It’s a good

help me, so I called and waited on hold for five minutes

ers know that you value their feedback and the time they

tions, so I tried your online chat feature. That person couldn’t before speaking to someone for less than a minute. He

transferred me to someone else, and again I waited on hold for several minutes. The next person couldn’t help, either. I was finally transferred to someone who could help, but the

rep, John Smith, was extremely rude. I hope I don’t have to call again.

These responses provide real feedback you can use to

improve your customer service department and online support materials.

Unlike other surveys, you can’t simply dump these

results into a spreadsheet to crunch the numbers. Each

took to respond.

Over time, you’ll discover what your customers love about

your organization and what you can do to improve. No other survey provides that kind of actionable input. CCN

Ross Kramer is a co-founder and CEO of Listrak. He has

nearly 15 years of executive leadership, successfully launching and directing three technology start-ups. Kramer is a thought-leader within the online marketing community, lending his expertise

to conferences, seminars, articles, blogs and webcasts. Listrak provides engaging e-mail solutions, services and software to

help online retailers maximize revenue and customer

Fall 2011

Closely Monitor Responses

idea to respond, personally, where appropriate, to let custom-

interaction. Find Listrak online at or call at 877-362-4556 to learn more.


Can an Employee Recognition Program Build Customer Loyalty?


n today’s slowly recovering economy, employees are being asked to work longer hours, take on

more responsibilities and, in some cases, work at a

reduced rate. At the same time, managers are diligently searching for ways to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their employees as they

continue to reduce the number of employees,

their benefits, and reduce or eliminate employee

incentives and rewards. However, there is a grow-

ing body of evidence that suggests reducing incen-

tives and rewards may be a big mistake. A number of

studies have been conducted by long-time respected

organizations that point to a direct connection between

employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction and loyalty.

One such organization, The Forum: Business Results

Through People, affiliated with Northwestern University, has

programs in place. It cited T-Mobile USA’s rewards and

organizational performance. One recent Forum white paper

win top ranking in the J.D. Power and Associates “Wireless

long researched the link between motivated employees and reported, “Today, the body of research proving the economic

benefits of making this connection has become too compelling for even the most cynical executive to ignore. Many different

organizations, coming at the issue in many different ways, have found concrete connections between employee engage-

ment and customer satisfaction.” These connections have been

researched and verified in a variety of Forum studies of the

“The company implemented a well conceived incentive pro-

gram, with rewards and recognition the employees care about,” the MII report noted. Key to success: T-Mobile took the time to conduct extensive up-front research with its employees to determine the best rewards and program structure.

To attract, retain and — best of all — delight customers,

companies now more than ever need employees to work as a

James Oakley, assistant professor of management at the

way to reward and recognize employees, the shift must be from

Krannert School of Management at Purdue University and a

Forum researcher, studied nearly 100 U.S. companies repre-

team in a collaborative effort. Therefore, when considering a individuals to the collective whole.

Incentives are a way of life. Parents use incentives to moti-

senting nearly 5,000 employees and found a clear connection

vate their children. Companies use incentives to reward CEOs.

linkage,” he said, “is through employees’ impact on customers.

retention and loyalty. And employers can use incentives to cre-

between employee satisfaction and financial performance. “The

There is a relationship between attitude and profitability…that relationship is bridged by satisfied customers. There is a direct

Retailers use incentives to boost sales and generate customer ate a collaborative and efficient workplace environment.

With shrinking budgets, however, how can employers suc-

link between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction,

cessfully reward their work teams? An employee recognition

financial performance.”

collaboration, the focus must shift from individual recognition

and subsequently between customer satisfaction and improved Another

Fall 2011

Customer Care Performance Study” three years in a row.

healthcare, banking and insurance industries, as well as other business segments.


group, Marketing


International (MII), noted that today’s best-performing companies have strong employee reward and recognition


recognition program, which helped the wireless provider

program’s goal is to modify a person’s behavior. To promote

to team recognition. For an incentive or reward to have the desired effect, it must offer high value and be universal for

all team members. Employees will not try to earn something

Customer Care News

grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores. They can also be pur-

chased online directly from merchants, in small quantities and in bulk. Many

major retailers and gift card suppliers offer companies a discount off the face

value of the cards for large purchases, thus offering companies an added sav-

ings. Additionally, gift cards are easily inventoried and fit securely in a small safe or desk drawer.

When considering a gift card pro-

gram, employers should be aware of

several new trends, some of which are

now available and others that will be

evolving during the coming years. There are new personalization and customization options with which a company can

that has no value to them, which in turn may affect their work

custom design a gift card with its corporate logo, team logo

Employers must select a reward that motivates and

beginning to emerge (but expected to grow in popularity dur-

within the larger team.

encourages the desired behavior of the entire team, but the reward does not have to be expensive to be effective. In fact, a

small, inexpensive reward given to each of the team members on a frequent, regular basis reinforces and recognizes the team’s

desired behavior more effectively. Furthermore, the reward should provide instant gratification, and avoid disconnect between the action and the reward.

A tangible gift is often perceived to have a higher value

or other personalized messages. Several new technologies just ing the next several years) include flexible options that will enhance the rewards delivery process. These include print-ondemand gift cards and gift card rewards via e-mail and mobile

phone delivery. The key to incentives is to tie the reward as

closely to the positive performance as possible. So, the sooner a team is recognized for positive performance, the more their actions are reinforced.

An employee reward program does not have to be

than its actual cost. A gift card is a solution that is relatively

expensive, difficult to plan and manage, or time consuming

instantly to team members as a reward for collaborative efforts.

sophisticated points-based system, or as simple as predeter-

inexpensive, has a perceived higher value and can be given

A $5 to $10 gift card redeemable at the local coffee shop, for a sandwich at a favorite lunch spot, or a movie ticket, gives employees immediate recognition. A gift card also serves as a long-term reminder of the accomplishment.

to be effective. Your program can be complex with a

mined team goals and reward criteria supported by a supply of assorted inexpensive gift cards to hand out when goals have been met.

Whether you go with a sophisticated all-encompassing

Gift cards continue to be a top choice among companies

program or a simple project-based program, the benefits to

than 170 Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) distributors,

employee reward program can essentially pay for itself through

for their employee recognition programs. In 2010, more

including sales and marketing representatives, business

owners, and corporate executives from the promotional prod-

ucts industry, cited recognizing employee/team performance (20 percent), boosting employee/team morale (12 percent) and

your company will outweigh the costs. And best of all, an cost savings in increased team productivity and output. And, higher performance will be a reward in itself with a bigger and broader base of happy, loyal customers. CCN

building employee/team loyalty (11 percent) as three of the top

Joan Travelstead is senior vice president of program develop-

Launching an employee recognition program using gift

com) in Crystal Lake, Ill. Travelstead can be reached at info@

cards is relatively easy. Gift cards are readily available in local

ment at National Gift Card Corporation (www.ngc-group.

Fall 2011

five primary objectives to offer gift cards as incentives.


TALK of the TOWN Talk of the Town Awards Online Ratings Review for Companies Across America

Talk of the Town News, Celebration Media and Customer Care News are proud to present the most unique concept in online user-review ratings.

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32000 Northwestern Hwy., Ste. 128 Farmington Hills, MI 48334

People Power Sets the Pace for Innovation The following is excerpted from a recent white paper published by

the Performance Improvement Council (PIC).


top-performing employees plan to leave their companies when the right opportunity presents itself.

Innovation is an opportunity to reengage the workforce. “In

s the economy struggles to rebound from

an economic downturn, innovation isn’t your best friend. It’s your

their people and re-focus on growth. To gener-

Innovation at the University of Michigan (“How to Innovate: A

the financial crisis, companies need to re-engage

ate growth, companies must maximize the value of their people

versus minimizing their cost. Innovation is an opportunity to maximize human assets, and leaders can take positive steps to

engage their people — the human capital of business — thereby driving behaviors that encourage innovation. Introduction: putting people “on game”

The massive employment reductions during the past

only friend,” says Jeff DeGraff of the Innovatrium Institute for

Step-by Step Guide,” Fortune Small Business, downloaded April

12, 2010). A recovering economy with stiff competition will only

heighten the importance of innovation, so the time to act is now. “If you don’t take the right actions in the recession, you don’t participate in the expansion. There are going to be new winners and

new losers,” predicted Vijay Govindarajan, chief innovation consultant for General Electric (HR Magazine, Sept. 2009, p. 31).

It’s no secret that in downsized organizations, people are

several years occurred with little thought about the effect on

being asked to do more with less. As they do more, people become

consequences. As companies look for ways to grow, the need to

visibility across greater parts of the business, which results in a

employee engagement strategies, leading to potentially dangerous

maximize the talents and ideas of all stakeholders — employees, suppliers and customers — is more important than ever before.

Among its other effects, the recession has left a productiv-

ity deficit in the workforce. According to a study published by

more experienced in a broader scope of the enterprise. They gain

resource pool ripe for innovative ideas. And, innovative ideas often originate in the front-line ranks of employees closest to the customer.

the Corporate Executive Board in 2009, employee performance

Engaging people for innovation

high levels of discretionary effort in their jobs. Up to 20 percent

Boston Consulting Group’s latest survey on corporate innovation,

of employees are “disengaged.” At the same time, 25 percent of

Innovation begins with dynamic leadership. According to the

Fall 2011

has been declining, with 53 percent fewer employees exhibiting

the right kind of leadership may not be present. “CEOs are the


Disney’s Academy Award-winning Pixar Animation sub-

sidiary is an example of a culture that encourages innovation. It uses patience and encourages risk-taking to give ideas a chance

to grow. Pixar’s 1,000 employees learn a practice called “plussing” in their orientation and training. When an idea is offered, it’s

restated and added to, Estrin explains. “We don’t say no, but we say yes, and….”

Risk-taking calls for a leap of faith in people. “You need to

give people the license to take risks and to fail often enough to

realize that they will not be punished for doing the right thing even though the outcome might not be what they expected,” said Thomas Koulopoulos, author of The Innovation Zone, a study of corporate innovation. “Small failures,” he added, “encourage big most visible champions of innovation at most companies,” the

vative thinking in their people. Trust in people is a necessary

real opportunity for many companies,” (BCG Report: Innovation

collective skills and experiences of those closest to the work and

2009: Making Hard Decisions in the Downturn, p.6).

Leaders need to appeal to the unique skills and talents

condition to build grassroots innovation efforts that tap into the closest to the customer.

of their people to foster a culture of innovation. “For suc-

Fostering innovative thinking among business partners

differently about innovation and act differently to mobilize

within the firm’s four walls no longer holds true. Rather, innova-

Age of Innovation. He added, “Within the corporation, engag-

and customers. Prahalad argued that “company-centric innova-

cessful management of innovation, managers must think the organization,” wrote C.K. Prahalad in his book, The New

ing employees emotionally and intellectually in the mission of

the firm will require that each employee is treated as unique. Individual employees strive to seek different personal ‘mean-

The assumption that innovation can be generated wholly

tion is increasingly generated through collaboration with partners

tion (work within the confines of the company) is giving way to ‘co-creation,’ in which firms collaborate with their customers

and business allies,” (The Economist, April 24, 2010). Prahalad

ings’ in their work, they also bring unique skills and capabili-

referred to this collaborative effort as the “dynamic configuration

all of their roles, whether they are employees, suppliers, investors

An example of innovation based on customer input is the

ties.” Prahalad emphasized that recognizing people as unique in or customers, is the prerequisite for success in creating value for any company.

Fostering innovative thinking among employees

Leaders can create a culture that fosters creative, innova-

tive thinking. Judy Estrin, author of Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy, identified five core values for innovation to occur. They are:

of talent.”

DVD movie provider Netflix, which carved out an innovative, high-value business model based on home delivery of DVD

and Blu-ray movies, and online wireless streaming of movies over computers and game consoles. Netflix partnered with

analysts from around the globe to build a highly sophisticated analytical database, providing a better understanding of customer preferences.

Netflix built an innovative business model by actively engaging

• Curiosity and a natural ability to question the status

its customers and its knowledge suppliers. Prahalad calls this “The

• Risk-taking and a willingness to learn from failure

other stakeholders come together and collaborate on a project.


• Openness; organizations with strong silos tend to be less innovative

• Patience, tenacity and the sense of giving an idea a

Fall 2011

By fostering openness and trust, managers encourage inno-

BCG report noted, “yet fewer than 30 percent of survey respondents identified them as such, reflecting a void in leadership and a

chance to grow

• Trust, which underpins the other values



Velcro Organization,” in which teams of employees, suppliers and

Virtual teams encourage out-of-the-box thinking and engage

stakeholders beyond the walls of a company. The “new thinking” required to engage suppliers, customers and other stakeholders in innovation requires that both leaders and employees extend their networks as they think about how to solve business problems.

Customer Care News

The importance of recognizing innovators

Innovation requires people to adopt new ways of thinking,

and then to apply new ways of doing things to existing situa-

tions. Recognizing innovative thinking from both individuals and groups ensures that such behaviors will continue and breaks down the barriers to thinking about the same problems in the same old way.

The American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC)

has found that to drive innovation in products and services, an organization must develop innovative approaches to rewards and

recognition, such as creating a design team, sharing success stories and promoting innovative behaviors. The leaders and organiza-

tions providing structure and consistency in rewards will in turn motivate employees to pursue creative and effective ideas.

Leading organizations that drive innovation through rewards

and recognition subscribe to several basic principles for encouraging innovative behaviors. They include:

• Linking innovation to the core values of the organization

• Sharing success stories across the enterprise about suc-

Jerry Klein

cessful new products or approaches

• Using a cross-section of leaders from HR, R&D, and business units to develop guidelines and suggestions for

• Processes to reach outside the four walls of the company

• Recognizing and rewarding positive contributions in

• Recognition and rewards for repeated behaviors that

It is critical that organizations have a consistent structure

Innovation will not occur unless it is part of an organiza-

encouraging innovation

to develop innovative practices that are market-driven

order to sustain momentum

lead to innovation

to administer the reward and recognition system for innovative

tion’s strategy and is supported by all levels of management and

in best practices include: enthusiastic management commitment

trust, leaders empower their people. Smart businesses maximize

behaviors. Elements of recognition for innovation that are based

and leadership; clear definition of procedures; communications; and a system to apply rewards for innovation consistently and equitably.

Rewarding and recognizing innovation doesn’t have to be

expensive — a positive for today’s budget-conscious companies. An effective, well-designed reward and recognition program

leadership. By building a culture of risk-taking, openness and the value of their human capital by encouraging all employees to think creatively about the business. With the support and encouragement of leadership, organizations can engage and enable their

people to be creative and innovative, and position themselves for growth. CCN

demonstrates to employees and other contributors that their ideas


their workforce to help them grow, they need to promote and

performance marketing executives, is a special indus-

matter. If leaders want to go beyond engagement and energize

recognize behaviors that give their people a real stake in the business.

The path to innovation requires several conditions:

• Leaders who recognize people as unique and nurture

and risk-taking


Improvement a






try group of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) [], which is collectively focused on

helping companies optimize their investment in human capital through proven and innovative reward and recognition solu-

tions. Jerry Klein, vice president, management consultant for

Fall 2011

their special skills

• A culture based on trust that fosters creative thinking


Maritz, LLC, a member of the PIC, was a contributing author and can be reached at


The Best Companies Get Results Through People A Customer Care News recently asked Jennifer Kluge to provide

fter more than 10 years of conducting best

to Work For, a human resources awards program she created

regions, 101 Best and Brightest Companies

us with information about 101 Best and Brightest Companies

company competitions in several Midwest

to recognize those companies that are making the lives of their

to Work For has found that successful companies under-

lowing article highlights some of the strategies that have proved

and strength of their customer relationships, are directly

employees better as well as the community as a whole. The fol-

successful for those companies that have been deemed “The Best and Brightest.” We at CCN truly believe that learning from others’ successes (and failures) is a great way to improve your own policies and programs to ensure both your employees and customers

tied to how well they focus on the employee as a whole

person. They know that an employee who is valued and connected to his or her work is more likely to listen and

deliver the kind of value that today’s customers demand. They also know that engaged employees give higher levels

Fall 2011

are satisf ied, which will ultimately lead to business success.

stand that their business results, including the quality


Customer Care News

of discretionary effort and are more loyal to their organizations.

Using independent research methods that evaluate

company communication, community initiatives, com-

pensation and benefits, diversity, employee development, employee engagement, and work-life balance to single out those companies that demonstrate exemplary human

resource initiatives, the team at Best and Brightest has come to the overriding conclusion that outstanding companies purposefully keep employee welfare as a top pri-

ority. These companies achieve business results through

Perk Value Tied To People Perspective Experience has shown that the value of any employee benefit or incentive strategy is directly proportional to its relevance to employees. A 2010 entry from the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For demonstrates a private club’s commitment to a positive work environment and its employees’ well-being, both on and off the job, by offering the following to attract and retain employees:

meaningful policies and innovative best practices in human

resource management, proving that well-managed companies with good benefits and desirable incentives top the

list for engaging employees – especially in today’s rapidly

• Daily changing selection of free nutritious meals that include hot entrees, soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts

changing work environment.

• Free soft drinks, coffee, milk and snacks available

tend to be,” said Red Level Networks CEO David King,

• Annual holiday cash bonuses raised from mem-

“The happier the employees, the more productive they

one of Metro Detroit’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For. “Employees thrive in a healthy work envi-

ronment fostered by executives who care not just about

the work being done but also about the people.” (“How

to Create a Positive Work Environment,” Corp! April 21, 2011;

at all times bers for employee service • Free (or very minimal fee) secure, protected onsite parking • Complimentary parking to attend downtown events • Extended time off and special consideration (time off with pay) for employees who are ill,

Compensation, Benefits Go Above and Beyond

Although the economic challenges of the recent reces-

sion hindered the ability of many employers to increase wages, 68 percent of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For applicants still managed to increase base com-

grieving or have had a baby • Annual holiday turkey for all employees • Free annual flu shots and heart health screenings • Subsidized or free on-site weight management program • Retirement bonus and farewell events • Reduced rates for on-site car wash, barber shop, tailor and massage therapy • Uniform/business attire purchase assistance • Discounted catered personal on-site events • Discounted products and merchandise • Personal check cashing service • Sports, theater and event ticket/concierge service While such perks might seem a bit unusual in many work environments, they are clearly matched to employee preferences and the employer’s resources. At the same time, they allow the employees to be not only the providers but also the consumers of the

Fall 2011

very services offered in the marketplace.


pensation in 2010. Not only that, it was noted that most menu-driven benefits packages and financial incentives now go way beyond insurance coverage and merit increases to include items such as:

• Team incentives (25 percent)

Personal Well-being Is Key

More and more, today’s successful companies have

discovered the value in emphasizing the “quality” aspects

• Wellness incentives (73 percent)

human resource practices to demonstrate a genuine con-

• Referral bonuses (59 percent)

• Annual performance awards (60 percent)

• Process improvement awards (54 percent) • On-the-spot awards (58 percent)

The notable point is that these organizations concretely

Fall 2011

that customer service and performance are top priorities.

• Employee discounts with negotiated vendors (78 percent)

let their employees know how much their efforts on behalf of the company are appreciated. They understand that an


engaged workforce will demonstrate through daily actions

of their workers’ lives. These companies go beyond routine cern for each of their employees.

“For us, this philosophy of treating people the way we

would like to be treated means we have a collaborative and

nurturing work environment where people are given the

opportunity to grow,” said Plante & Moran’s Managing Partner Gordon Krater upon receiving one of Corp! magazine’s 2011 reader-selected Best of Michigan Business awards. (Corp! April 7, 2011;

Customer Care News

Clearly, more and more business leaders understand

said, “Paying close attention to what employees think

tors and that by improving the individual well-being of

and employee engagement.” (“Strengthen Commitment:

that workers are affected by both work and non-work fac-

their employees, they are more likely to have reliable, better performing workers and stronger bottom line results.

and feel will help you increase employee commitment Focus on What Employees Think and Feel,” Corp! April 21, 2011;

Companies that take care of their workers realize bet-

Work-Life Balance Grows

ter worker retention, performance and results. Experiences

tance for workers during the past decade. Of this year’s 101

that using innovative, people-focused human resource

Work-life balance issues have grown in personal impor-

Best and Brightest, nearly 75 percent offer their employees opportunities to telecommute while more than 90 percent

offer flexible scheduling that includes everything from flex-time to job sharing. Family-leave policies that often go beyond basic legal requirements are offered by nearly 60 percent of the winners while more than 48 percent offer a

with hundreds of Best and Brightest Companies prove policies and practices capitalizes on the greatest resource every company has — its human capital. Valuing the

whole person not only makes an organization an ideal place for employees to work, but it also helps that organization achieve success in the marketplace. CCN

phased return-to-work process for those coming back from

Jennifer D. Kluge, creator of 101 Best and Brightest Companies

Policies that proactively accommodate the influence of

manager, having worked for a large advertising agency, and is a

a leave of absence.

family issues let employees know that their personal con-

cerns are significant not only to them, but to their employer as well. It helps employees feel valued as a whole person rather than feeling the work/family dichotomy.

to Work For (, is a veteran HR

consummate strategic thinker, Crain’s Detroit 40 Under 40 win-

ner, and a two-time finalist for the Entrepreneur of the Year in the Great Lakes Central Region.

Community Involvement — Part of the Job

Community initiatives move an area forward and often

strengthen the local customer climate for a business. More

than 97 percent of the 2011 Best and Brightest participants

routinely make charitable donations while more than 87

percent conduct on-site activities such as blood drives and food drives. In addition, more than 80 percent sponsor

local charitable activities and more than 56 percent of the

companies formally recognize their individual employees’ community involvement. Such activities underscore community support as a vital part of both the workers’ and

the company’s roles in society, and at the same time they produce a “good will” effect among customers. Focusing on People Works

“Customer loyalty is the fuel that drives financial suc-

cess…Acquiring new customers can cost five times more

than satisfying and retaining current customers,” said cus-

tomer loyalty author Eva Jenkins. (“The Cost of Customer Loyalty Depends Upon Employee Engagement,” Customer

Service Manager (CSM) May 3, 2011; www.customerser-

Fall 2011

Diana Moss, senior director of employee engagement

for Comcast, a Chicago 101 Best and Brightest recipient,

Jennifer D. Kluge


Integrating Customer Service Into Every Day Fall 2011

Monroe Bank & Trust demonstrates the effectiveness of incorporating customer service into all facets of the business 18

Customer Care News

As part of its ongoing commitment to helping businesses excel

in customer service, Customer Care News is pleased to recognize

those companies that are implementing and reaching success with customer service programs, such as Monroe Bank & Trust.


in fact attend a service course and probably exhibited that

same behavior during the course and still received a certificate for completion, maybe even accolades. MBT has taken

c an’t believe I am stuck waiting for this train! I


John mumbled to himself as the caboose honked

vice and sales. Doug

knew I should have left a few minutes earlier,

by. Now I just need to quickly f ind a parking space. A space was

waiting for him on the street. Where’s the loose change that usually sits in the console? Which one of the kids took my change?

John frantically opened the car door. He jumped out and started to fumble through his car looking for change to feed

the meter. Just then a man walked up, introduced himself and offered to make change for John.

At Monroe Bank & Trust (MBT), opportunities for ser-

vice aren’t always about banking. Ken, part of the MBTeam, directs the employee parking lot on a part-time basis. He noticed people with business downtown often had problems finding a place to park. Instead of ignoring people in distress

such as John, he saw this as an opportunity. Ken regularly

brings quarters from home to help people so they don’t need to run to get change.

John made it to his meeting on time. He was so apprecia-

tive of Ken that he brought 13 quarters for him to “give away” to others. John may have already been a customer of the bank,






Chaffin, president and

CEO, had the vision

What used to be an anecdotal benefit when handing over your money to a teller now seems to be the driving force of sustainability in an industry that is depleted with competition and riddled with government intervention and bureaucracy.

to bring service into

the forefront of MBT’s culture. The bank’s CARE program was introduced to the organization in 2003. CARE stands for Communicate, Ask Questions, Refer/Respond and Enjoy the Results. The CARE program looks and feels just a little bit

different to each and every department, however one thing

that is the same for every department and every employee: following the program is not an option, but a basic expectation. When new employees are introduced to the CARE process, the focus is on relationship development. This is

the goal behind every interaction with every customer, both

internal and external. The message isn’t about quotas or

outcomes, rather it’s about creating win-win-win situations. It should be a win for the customer, a win for the bank and a win for the employee.

but after his encounter with Ken he is now an advocate of

Don’t treat it like an event

his days as a police officer by giving them bus money when

“required training.” The new employees are asked to attend

Service is a necessity for community banks now more

ers and situations. When they go back to their respective

Monroe Bank and Trust. Ken also helps kids he knows from they don’t have it.

than ever. What used to be an anecdotal benefit when handing over your money to a teller now seems to be the driving

For some corporations, service is treated like any other

service training. They have a great time discussing customfront-line jobs, nothing changes. There is no accountability

force of sustainability in an industry that is depleted with

competition and riddled with government intervention and bureaucracy.

Service is a solution that is simplistically, diabolically

complex. How hard could it really be? This stuff should be

innate to people because they are, in essence — consumers. Is this something that you should really have to teach, or even

verbalize as an expectation? If you assume this, you would quickly become disenchanted when simply buying gas or filling a prescription at a local drug store. You may even ask yourself as you drive off, “Why doesn’t the corporate office

Fall 2011

develop a customer service training course for these people?” It may be even more depressing to find out that the employee, who was too busy texting and chatting with co-workers, did


It has to be nurtured and modeled from the top

When these concepts were first

introduced, there were only a few early

adopters. The rest of the organization

had a “wait and see” attitude. Early on it was successful because it was talked

about and modeled at the very top of the

organization. At every employee event, Chaffin spoke about CARE. At every

meeting, Chaffin asked and requested information about CARE. His commit-

ment and reinforcement made it clear — it wasn’t a promotion or flavor of the month — this was going to be the new “business as usual.” Chaffin committed

to a bi-weekly check-in with the CEO

of the consulting group that assisted and little or no expectation for making any type of change. The reason why it’s just an event is because service just isn’t

in the company’s culture. It’s so much easier this way, isn’t it?

missed a meeting. That’s modeling from the top. Service is not one size fits all

isn’t something that can be done one time, or even annually.

for another. Regardless of what many marketers say, it is not

to service.

Ken at the beginning of this article? In another organization,

Training isn’t the end all, be all — especially when it comes

When CARE was first introduced there were training

sessions, but they were treated more like a kick-off. After each person left the session and returned to the office, the expec-

What works for one organization may not work at all

something that can be bought (not even in a can). Remember Ken’s act of service may not be regarded as that. He may even be reprimanded for not doing his job.

Often, service in banking is overshadowed by following

tation was there for things to be different. And they were.

policies, mitigating risk and the occasional slow computer.

a regular basis with one another. This included team meet-

ones. At the front lines it means taking time to understand the

Employees and managers were expected to communicate on ings and one-on-one meetings. The communication didn’t

stop at that level. Managers were expected to report to their

managers. Many corporations tend to drive information from the top down. These management routines, however, allowed

for a better flow of information, especially at the top so

the senior management team had an idea what was working

and what needed adjusting. The expectation for commu-

nication didn’t stop there. Managers were also required to observe their staff on a regular basis as they interacted with

The focus is on how to have quality conversations, not scripted customer and ask quality questions. The idea is to listen for

clues to help the customer. The goal is to become a trusted advisor not a product pusher. Behind the scenes it means taking the time to communicate with other departments and

understanding that everyone is working toward the same goal. Service is the people side of the business and these expectations must be relayed to the back office just as often as the front line.

When a customer’s loan was up for renewal, Tamara, a

their customers. The result was that managers had better

specialist in MBT’s Loan Documentation Department, had to

edge to use in coaching them on specifics. It also made

than allowing the customer to find out about it through an

feedback to give employees and also had firsthand knowl-

Fall 2011

This was a three-year commitment of which Chaffin never

Everyone can just cross it off his or her lists and go back to business as usual. Ensuring the legacy of service in a culture

it easier when it was time for mid-year and annual performance reviews.


with the training and implementation.

inform the customer about a rate increase in insurance. Rather automatic letter notification, Tamara took the initiative and

contacted the insurance company to understand why the

Customer Care News

increase was being applied. She didn’t stop there. Tamara then

after they move out of the area. During the summer of 2011,

served by other options. The end result was that she called her

at approximately 10 branches, including the Carleton branch.

requested more quotes to see if her customer would be better customer prior to sending the letter about the rate increase. She explained that there would be a rate increase, but she also

explained why the insurance company was raising the cost. She

then offered other quotes and options that she had requested on her customer’s behalf. In the words of Ellen, Tamara’s manager, “the customer was basically ‘wowed’ and forgot to

be upset over having to increase the…insurance. Instead, the personal ‘I care’ phone call became the tone of the conversation

and the customer had no problems with spending the extra money on increased premiums.”

What good is icing if there is no cake?

If there isn’t substance to your service efforts, then when

Chaffin was the master griller at employee appreciation events It’s quite a commitment for an already full schedule. When he

introduced himself to customers Amy and Lance they asked

who he was and what he did at the bank. He replied, “I’m the

president,” and Amy asked, “Of the whole bank?” He said, “Yes, of the whole bank.” Before they left they commented to another customer that these types of experiences are the reason

why they are willing to drive an hour away to bank at MBT. As impressed as they were to meet the bank’s president, it’s

the time that Rose and her team took to develop and nurture that relationship that laid the foundation for their satisfied

experience. Their encounter with Chaffin was just the icing on the cake.

There is no final destination point of WHEN you

you have celebrations it’s just fluff. Rose and her team at the

are a service organization. You have to build it one relation-

concept. She and her team have built solid relationships with

clear on how it defines service and then find ways to weave

MBT Carleton branch understand the importance of this customers to the extent that many continue to bank there even

ship at a time, over time. The organization just has to be

it into the culture until it becomes the culture. It has to be open to the opportunity to create

positive experiences, one customer at a time. CCN

Wendy Warrington Parker is the Vice

President, Organizational Development and Training Manager for Monroe

Bank & Trust (MBT). Having been with MBT since 2003, she is current-

ly responsible for spearheading change management

initiatives, developing

a corporate university, and consulting

with the bank’s various departments to develop and implement traditional

and web-based employee education

and management leadership programs. MBT Financial Corp. (NASDAQ: MBTF), a single bank holding company

headquartered in Monroe, Mich., is the parent company of MBT. Founded in

1858, MBT is one of the largest community banks in Southeast Michigan with

25 offices, 41 ATMs, and a comprehen-

Wendy Warrington Parker

Fall 2011

sive array of products and services. For more information, go online at www.


Customer Service: Should the Airlines Go Back to Basics?


s the travel industry continues to increase levels

issues are beyond the control of the individual customer ser-

often forget about the human element involved

skills, incorrect implementation of the airline’s policies and

of customer service through technology we

with airline customer service. Due to current operational and economic issues affecting the airline industry, increasing the satisfaction of customer service has not been the primary

focus for all airlines. Such oversight, however, has caused a

the control of the customer service-training department for each airline.

While the travel industry has evolved over decades of

time, we all remember when airline travel was a privilege and

travel based upon price, which is easily found through com-

become frustrating to the traveling public. So, what should the

parative travel websites. As our country continues to thrive with online travel reservations, expedited and automatic

check-in for travel, and improved information reliability, it

an exciting means of transit. In recent years, such travel has airlines do to increase customer retention? Go back to basics in the training of customer service representatives.

The key to a strong return on the human investment is

leads us to question what the human return on investment

to hire customer service representatives who actually enjoy

becoming as non-existent as the paper airline ticket?

While this does take additional time in the recruiting process

is for face-to-face customer service. Is such a value quickly Providing customer service in an industry where the

customer has little control over their purchase is difficult, to say the least. Many upsetting incidents for the customer involve delays or incidents that are outside of the airline’s

working with and providing a service to the general public. to ensure that potential candidates are the correct fit for the

position, the alternative of costly turnover can be reduced while also increasing passenger satisfaction.

There have been many debates through the years regard-

control, such as weather or unexpected maintenance. We all

ing whether individuals are born with the skills to be an effec-

sengers we are quick to become upset when an airplane has a

with education and experience. Many of the same skills are

have automobiles that break down occasionally, but as pas-

Fall 2011

procedures, and poorly trained staff are most certainly within

domino effect of customer dissatisfaction and disloyalty to

a specific airline. Passengers are much more likely to reserve

maintenance issue just the same. Many of the aforementioned


vice representative or airline. However, poor customer service

tive manager or leader or if these are traits that are learned also imperative to the customer service industry and are

Customer Care News

enhanced through various training initiatives. The following are key factors in training effective customer service representatives and ensuring that customer service maintains a high priority within the airline organization.

Customer service training and development

Annual and recurrent training promotes focus on the

airline’s policies and procedures, and increases the effective-

ness and performance of the employees. Customer service representatives need to be provided with the skills and knowledge to take ownership of the customer’s experience and

raise the level of satisfaction. Empowering customer service representatives through training and mentoring will provide them with skills for resolving difficult situations. Effective

training will include preparedness in handling demanding

situations and refining social skills for addressing difficult matters.

While it is essential to prepare customer service represen-

tatives for the incidents and issues that may arise, we must also train them for the positive aspects of their position. A warm welcome, a friendly smile, knowledge of the airline’s policies and procedures, and encouraging social skills can go a long way in diffusing a tense situation. Communication

Communication is critical in any industry. In the travel

Dr. Heather L. Strouse

While there are numerous factors that can increase the

industry, where passengers have little control over departing

performance of airline customer service, it ultimately depends

cation becomes even more critical. Passengers should be pro-

for the organizational culture in dealing with customer service

and arriving at their intended destination on time, communivided with accurate and up-to-date information when their

travel is affected or altered by maintenance, weather or other

delays. All departments within an airline organization should

be supported to optimum levels. Providing customer service

departments with critical knowledge and, more importantly, the ability to communicate such knowledge to passengers empowers effective task accomplishment.

Recognize and reinforce the right customer service

on whether the leaders of the airline set a positive direction and then in turn train their customer service representatives appropriately. If the leadership of the airline makes customer

service a priority, it will permeate throughout the organiza-

tion and be demonstrated through every interaction with the public. Creating a leadership culture that places customer ser-

vice at the forefront of the airline will in turn create positive customer service leadership through training, communication and reinforcing the right customer service. CCN

While excellent customer service may be an innate skill

Dr. Heather L. Strouse is an associate faculty member at Embry-

the correct management and training provided by the airline.

professional career has encompassed more than 10 years of

for some employees, it can also be learned and reinforced by Training initiatives, reinforcement by leadership and recognition for excellence can increase employees’ confidence and

their perceived value within the organization. When customer organization they are inherently more willing to go above and beyond for the passengers they serve.

experience in management and leadership positions as Assistant

Manager of Inflight Operations, Manager of Inflight Operations, Flight Operations Quality Assurance Auditor, Drug & Alcohol

Manager, and Manager of Emergency Planning & Response.

Fall 2011

service employees are confident and feel valued within the

Riddle Aeronautical University and Ashford University. Her

Strouse has presented at symposiums for the Federal Aviation Administration and the Regional Airline Association.


Parallels between Athletic Coaching and People Performance: An Exploration of Shared Concepts A white paper published by The Forum, aff iliated with

Northwestern University

The concept of applying “coaching” techniques to human resource management has been a recurring theme within business leadership ranks for a number of years, coinciding with the movement away from the traditional employer/employee relationships of the past toward more collaborative “team” approaches in the hopes that it would increase organizational productivity. In this paper, The Forum’s Academic Director, Dr. Frank Mulhern of Northwestern University, examines the key dimensions of successful athletic team coaching in light of the people performance concepts studied and advocated by The Forum. The goal of this work is to provide today’s business leaders with some pragmatic insights for

taining personal relationships between players and their coach. Technical expertise about a sport and in-game decision-making

are not nearly as important as a coach’s ability to build and

maintain close personal relationships with players and leverage those relationships into athletic performance. A commitment to

people requires creating a culture of trust and transparency and a strong desire to make players happy. Tommy Lasorda, former

Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, noted that “contented players perform better.”

Listed below are key dimensions of successful coaching that

reflect common aspects of people performance. We discuss each of them with regard to their relevance to the personal relationship between a player and a coach and the connections of the concepts to The Forum.

advancing people performance within their own organizations.

Know the whole person: The best coaches do not limit their


he Forum advocates a people-first approach to

managing, motivating and engaging employees. This paper investigates the prospect that people-

oriented aspects of athletic coaching may have some parallels to

management, and may offer some insights for advancing people performance. The importance of focusing on people in athletics

was highlighted by Bill Walsh, the famed coach of the Super Bowl-winning San Francisco 49ers, who told Harvard Business

Review that the teams that are most successful are those that “demonstrate the greatest commitment to their people.”

The literature on coaching establishes that the single most

important aspect of successful coaching is building and main-

interest in players to athletics. Good coaches get to know the

whole person and maintain a genuine interest in all aspects of the player’s life. Personally knowing players goes well beyond understanding a player’s physical and mental ability and extends

to a coach’s genuine interest in a player’s personal well-being. Doing so creates trust and friendship, leading to a meaningful personal relationship. The Forum places a similar emphasis on the social and interpersonal aspects of work — that is, the idea

that work can’t be isolated and treated as a separate aspect of an employee’s life, as The Forum advocates with the concept of employee enrichment — a true concern for all aspects of an employee’s life.


A culture of respect: Good

coaches create environments

where all players respect all

other players and coaches. This, too, reflects the people performance emphasis on

Fall 2011

Business Results Through People 24



among workers. A culture of respect is required for players to be mentally prepared

Customer Care News

to receive instruction, advice and constructive criticism from

coaches. Several successful coaches have noted that a lack of respect completely undermines the ability to coach. What

makes respect a challenging concept is that it is an intangible

should not be excessive or disingenuous — players can see through such communications and become discouraged.

Pride and a sense of belonging: Vince Lombardi stated that,

concept that is difficult to define and measure. However it

“Individualized commitment to a group effort is what makes

be restored. An emphasis on respect aligns with The Forum’s

tion work.” Good coaches instill a strong sense of pride in the

is obvious when it is lacking and, when it’s lost, it can rarely

people-first approach in that it inherently embodies respect for other people.

Individual attention: Good coaches provide personalized

attention to players as individuals. While this is facilitated by

the fewness of the players, it is crucial for coaches to be able to motivate and instruct players. This aspect builds on a coach’s

efforts to get to know players personally (as noted above). It is important that the individualized attention not just be about aspects that relate to athletic performance. Good coaches give

a team work, a company work, a society work, and a civilizateam and what it stands for (a city, school, etc.). Coaches need

to help players feel a strong sense of belonging to something

that is very meaningful. Pride, particularly a deep pride that is shared among players, elevates the importance of the sport

and leads to greater intensity. The idea of a sense of belonging closely relates to employee engagement and the meaningful-

ness of work — a concept discussed at some length in The Forum leadership paper in 2009.

Responsiveness to needs: Good coaches are highly respon-

individualized attention about all aspects of a player’s life.

sive to the needs of individual players and the team as a whole.

understand individual player’s feelings and emotions and

think about people performance. Management as a profes-

Since players are motivated in different ways, coaches must

incorporate that understanding into specific communications. Importantly, this dimension of coaching reveals that there is no

template or formula for optimal coaching, or, more generally, optimal ways for interacting with people. Coaches regularly eschew the idea that they have some secret process or practice

and credit their team’s success to the players and the relationships they have with each other and the coaches.

Superior communication: Closely related to individual

attention is the need for immensely effective communication. Without exception, great coaches are great communicators. In many cases, great communication means explaining things

This is a very important concept that may add to how we

sion features an approach that management is something that

managers do to employees. A responsive approach reverses that orientation and makes the manager responsive to the employees. This seems to relate to the servant leader concept as well as the idea The Forum set forth in the end of the leadership

paper about the need for organizations to borrow the consumer insight concept from Marketing and develop “employee

insight” to guide managerial practices. Coaches seem to do this

in a more fundamental way as represented by John Wooden’s statement, “Make sure that team members know they are working with you, not for you.”

to players so they understand why coaches make the decisions


coach’s decisions, they feel a lack of respect and may lessen

performance. Businesses have long invited successful coaches

information to players, in both practice and games, which

inspiration and leadership. This paper has drawn out the

they do. In contrast, when players do not understand their their level of trust. A major aspect of coaching is conveying improves the performance of individuals and the team. Coaches must create an environment for that information to be properly received, understood and acted upon. The key

people-related aspect here is that the information only has

value because of the trust, respect and commitment the coach has engendered overall.

An additional aspect of communication is the expression

appreciation to players. While appreciation can serve as a means of encouragement, coaches caution that appreciation

to be speakers, and their emphasis has mostly been on

concepts in coaching that reflect the people-first approach

of The Forum, and relate to people performance. Coaching

is inherently people-first. While coaches need some technical expertise in the game, their success is far more driven by

people-related skills than anything else. Perhaps most impor-

tantly, excellence in coaching results from what we might call “player enrichment” — a sports equivalent of employee enrichment, as developed in The Forum leadership paper. Players

Fall 2011

of appreciation. Coaches go to great lengths to express direct

There are many parallels between coaching and people

perform best when an organization supports all aspects of a player’s life. CCN


Never Underestimate the Importance of Education Training employees for more than the technical role of their job is key in every company’s customer service success Customer Care News is continually dedicated to informing business

owners and leaders on the importance of providing excellent customer care and providing information and education to help businesses improve all


n our fast-paced, competitive world, providing exceptional customer service is critical. Stellar service is no longer

a passing thought, but is the lifeblood of an organization

aspects of customer satisfaction. To that end, Associate Publisher Dr. Keith

— survival depends on it. When talking to business owners or HR

employees, who are on the front lines with customers every day, to provide

of providing excellent service. So, why do American companies

Levick weighs in on the importance of properly educating and training

struggle with applying what they know to be true?

Fall 2011

that level of customer service the company desires.

professionals, I have found that most understand the importance


Customer Care News

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) received approximately one

• Fifty percent of customers report having a negative expe-

million customer service complaints in 2010 (10 percent higher than

rience in the past six months.

the previous year), and statistics pertaining to customer service are

• A negative experience is told to three to eight people.

to struggle. Why?

• One hundred satisfied customers generate 25 new

as numerous as is the plethora of books on the topic. We continue

• It takes 12 positive stories to offset one negative story.

It boils down to education and training. Many business owners


and top leaders within companies seem to believe that common

• Most companies lose half their customers every five

that dispute that notion. From new supervisors who are thrown on

• When a customer is dissatisfied:

sense is equal to common practice. There are far too many examples


the front line and expected to run a team well to customer service

• 4 percent tell management

representatives who are required to satisfy a disgruntled customer

• 96 percent go away

without proper and ongoing education, failure is inevitable.

• 91 percent never return

Effective customer service requires the ability to combine

interpersonal, intrapersonal and technical skills. Business owners

Company leaders can no longer trust that an employee intui-

certainly recognize the importance of providing technical training

tively knows the importance of or has the skills to provide excep-

training, however, many shy away. Unfortunately, this shortsighted-

training — not a pamphlet or book to read or a crash course on

to their employees. When it comes to providing interpersonal skills

ness has a major impact on the company’s bottom line. Consider the following, shown by research:

• It is 30 to 40 times more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to manage existing customers.

tional customer service. Like any skill set, it requires education and “pleasing the customer.” Developing good customer relationships

is not an event but rather an ongoing process of understanding yourself and the customer, and then providing what the customer wants and needs.

It begins with employees understanding themselves. There is a

• A five percent increase in overall customer retention

strong relationship between how one feels and thinks about him/

• Negative word of mouth results in an 8.5 percent

following cycles put this in perspective:

equates to a 25 to 55 percent increase in profitability. decrease of revenues.

herself and the level of customer service he or she provides. The

Unhappy Depressed Negative Self Esteem

Happy Positive Self Esteem

High Energy

Low Energy Less Productive

More Productive Fall 2011


Now that human behavior is reduced to two cycles (positive and negative), where would

you prefer to spend most of your time? Most of you would say, I’m sure, the positive cycle. However, research shows that at any given point in time approximately 66 percent of work-

ers are in the negative cycle. The reasons for this are numerous. From financial troubles to health problems to work hassles, people find their way to the negative cycle far too often.

If 66 percent of workers are in the negative cycle, where do they work? An employee’s

attitude (the cycle they are in) directly influences the level of customer service. Dissatisfied Customer

Satisfied Customer

Provides Poor Customer Service

Creates Loyalty Negative Self Esteem

Unhappy Depressed

Creates Disloyalty

Provides Exceptional Customer Service Positive Self Esteem


Low Energy Less Productive

More Productive

Lowers Profits

Unhappy, Less Satisfied Employees

High Energy Greater Profits

Happier, More Satisfied Employees

Greater Employee Stability

Greater Employee Uncertainty

The above service cycle demonstrates that it is imperative for employees to be aware of

how they communicate and interact with the customer. How an employee communicates

begins with self-awareness. Is the employee aware of his/her attitude when interacting with a customer after a road rage incident on the way to work? Are they aware

Effective customer service requires the ability

and the energy they bring to the

to combine interpersonal, intrapersonal and

employee aware of the micro-messag-

technical skills. Business owners certainly

of their tone of voice, body language, interaction? Equally important, is the es the customer presents? If so, do they

know how to appropriately address

recognize the importance of providing

those messages?

technical training to their employees. When

skills, respectful listening, empathic

it comes to providing interpersonal skills

tions, etc. are what set apart strong

training, however, many shy away.

These and other interpersonal

responding, asking the “right” ques-

customer service companies from the

pack. Any company can announce

they provide exceptional service, but it is the company that truly integrates it into its culture

Fall 2011

that maintains a competitive edge over the competition. When employees are educated and

trained appropriately, exceptional customer service becomes their first and foremost state of mind and action. CCN


Customer Care News

Goren and Associates, Inc. We Believe Learning is a Process, Not an Event!

Goren and Associates Inc., headquartered in Farmington Hills, Michigan, is an organizational training, executive coaching, and consulting company since 1981. We design and develop customized courses to fit the needs of our clients. Our goal is to create a collaborative partnership with our clients. Together, we strategically assess, define, develop and deliver the highest quality and relevant learning solutions for employees. • deliver high energy, instructor-led training • certify the organization’s trainers to facilitate our coursework • work with poor functioning teams to become re-aligned, resulting in higher performance • assist organizations in managing all phases of a change initiative • deliver organization and employee assessments • provide one-on-one leadership coaching • facilitate strategic planning and visioning • facilitate executive retreats

Goren and Associates, Inc. 32000 Northwestern Hwy., Suite 128 Farmington, MI 48334 800.851.0824 www.

Our Belief Goren and Associates believes that people are a company’s most important investor. Yes, investor! They choose where, when, and how to invest their time, effort, skills, knowledge and attitude. These investors are the organization’s most valuable and vital resource. We believe that a performance driven culture where employees are treated as assets whose value can be enhanced through investments, creates a win-win return-on-investment (ROI) for both the organization and its investors.

CustomerCare News

Customer Care News - Fall 2011  

Emerging strategies to improve customer and employee satisfaction

Customer Care News - Fall 2011  

Emerging strategies to improve customer and employee satisfaction