By Spring Point Director

Reading time: 3.5 minutes

More times than not, improving customer experience requires changing how people think and work. It’s not surprising then, that addressing organisational culture is one of the top challenges. At the core of this challenge is how to create behaviour change at scale, often within short timeframes. From our experience, a leader-led approach is a strategy worth considering.

For example, we partnered with an iconic Australian organisation providing postal, retail, financial and travel services to deploy a leader led CX capability development approach to more than 8,000 employees within a four-week period. Due to an impending product change impacting customers and merchants, this solution needed to be implemented as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible, without significant central coordination from a capacity-constrained Learning & Development team.

The need for a greater customer experience focus was in response to significant digital disruption impacting the organisation’s industry, prompting it step up its commitment to putting the customer at the centre of everything they do. As a result of industry changes, a role that previously had minimal impact on the customer now has increasing influence on their overall experience of the brand. Specifically, this experience depends on incumbents’ compliance with a range of new systems and processes designed to improve customers’ level of convenience, choice and control. Customer experience is also greatly influenced by incumbents’ knowledge of different products and services, and whether they have a mindset of ‘going the extra mile’.

To increase awareness and capability relevant to a superior customer experience, three one-hour conversation-based modules delivered by leaders four to six weeks apart were developed, each anchored to different ways incumbents could take action within their roles to have a positive impact on customers. A leader led approach was used to emphasise the strategic importance of delighting the customer, and to fit the learning in and around work, given the operational target audience could not be taken ‘off the floor’ for significant periods.

Fast track six months later, and the approach was deemed highly impactful in engaging thousands of employees across a national network within a relatively short timeframe in why delighting the customer matters, sparking significant action planning at a local level to build and sustain momentum. Reflecting on the experience, several design features contributed to the success of this leader led approach, some of which were intentional and others that were realised through trial and error. These include:

  1. Link to what leaders already know. The three customer-focused modules were deliberately designed to look and feel like ‘Safety Time’ sessions Facility-level managers were already familiar with and had developed comfort and confidence delivering over time. 
  2. Consistency is key. Each module followed the same format so that session structure was one less thing that leaders had to think about. In addition, each session incorporated short animated videos to present key information. This helped to ensure consistent delivery of key messages and reduced pressure on leaders to know certain details inside out or to memorise content.
  3. Demonstrate what good looks like. The 200 leaders or so involved in delivering this learning all took part in ‘previews’ of each module. By putting on their participant ‘hat’ first, leaders could get a feel for the experience as a learner without being distracted by how to deliver the session. Leaders were also able to observe a skilled and experienced facilitator in action for each preview, in order to learn from the role-modelling provided.
  4. Provide plenty of opportunity to practice. It’s inevitable that leaders will have different comfort and skill levels in facilitating the learning of others. To address this, each module preview was followed by a targeted group coaching session where leaders had the opportunity to work through any questions or concerns, as well as practice delivering different components and responding to more challenging anticipated questions.
  5. Encourage planning and preparation. To support leaders in individually planning and preparing to deliver their sessions, A3 sized ‘planners’ were created to summarise each session and learning objectives at a high level. This practical tool complemented detailed session plans and facilitator guides and were completed during the group coaching sessions. The A3 planners contained plenty of space for leaders to capture their own notes, examples, stories and important points to remember for each activity to make these as relevant as possible for their teams.
  6. Focus on how to continue the conversation. Leaders were supported to continue customer-focused conversations with their teams through a variety of embedding tools. These included Yammer for sharing tips for improving the customer experience and socialising Facility-level results, visual boards, Customer Huddles, 1:1 feedback conversations and monthly awards for customer service. ‘Learning loops’ were also designed, with Facility Managers required to feed forward the best ideas for delighting customers arising from their sessions to their network senior leadership team, who in turn were asked to present the best of these ideas to state senior leadership teams.

Since this initiative has been deployed, our client has experienced a 2% Net Promoter Score (NPS) increase month-on-month compared to last year, combined with greater energy and focus on the customer across its network. Buoyed by a successful proof of concept for leader led learning, the organisation plans to continue and expand the approach in the future, to promote both the ‘stickiness’ of learning and the engagement of a significant part of its operational workforce in strategically important issues.