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Barney Ely, Director at Hays

Customer satisfaction has always been important for businesses. But in a world of social media and online reviews, it’s more vital than ever before for organisations to make each interaction positive. For the latest issue of the Hays Journal, we spoke to global experts to discuss how this can be embedded in the culture of a business.

Top down encouragement

It may sound basic, but the easiest way to find out what customers want is to ask them. Jon Feingold, Chief Commercial Officer at Gazprom Energy, says getting input from customers is essential when it comes to working out what they really want. “It’s hard to deny things need to change when you hear a complaint directly from the mouth of a customer,” he says. “You might think you’ve done a great job, but it’s what the customer thinks that really matters, so feedback is crucial.”  However, seeing it acted upon needs to be encouraged from the top down. Feingold continues: “By HR and leadership teams encouraging employees to think like the customer, they can help to develop a culture of customer centricity, considering customer challenges, opportunities and possibilities rather than simply looking at processes and procedures.”

Get flexible

Following processes can be an important part of solving many customer issues, but allowing staff to take control of a situation and use their common sense to resolve problems can be just as effective. Moving away from formulaic stock answers and process-driven responses is beneficial to both employees and customers. “While many front-line staff realise that sticking to the script isn’t always the right approach for the customer, the truth is that many are restricted by process and protocols,” points out Nigel Shanahan, Founder of customer engagement specialists Rant & Rave. “While they are encouraged to solve problems for the customer, they’re rarely empowered to do this proactively. Customisation is about empowering those people so that they can think on their feet and recognise the needs of the individual customer. And making it a formalised target for staff can also help.”

Use data

Collating feedback from as many sources as possible gives a much wider view of your customer service offering. Irish hotel chain Dalata Group, for instance, uses the guest feedback platform TrustYou to collate comments and service scores from customers, across a range of sites, as well as monitoring individual forums such as TripAdvisor. “It gives scores in areas of the customer experience such as food and beverage service, the bedroom facilities and cleanliness, as well as overall staff friendliness,” says Dawn Wynne, Group HR Manager of Dalata Hotel Group.

Data like this can sometimes be a worry for staff, so be sure to use the numbers to reward good service, as well as tackle areas that need improvement. “The collated information is fed back to the hotel teams and feeds into our recognition programme,” she explains. “Our employees are rewarded for delivering exceptional service, and if they are mentioned positively in a review, it is celebrated and they are rewarded with a prize such as a shopping voucher.”

Care for your staff too

If staff are experiencing difficulties in their work or personal life, it can be very hard for them to always give customers a positive experience. You must offer your employees the support they need to get the best out of them. “We believe that you’ll only ever make your customers feel as good as your employees feel,” says Kathryn Austin, HR and Marketing Director, Pizza Hut Restaurants. “Through our partnership with the School of Life, our staff are encouraged to tackle issues such as anxiety, depression, confidence and communication to help build a more collaborative working culture which is able to recognise and adapt to customer needs. Similarly, through our work with Heartstyles, a life indicator tool, our employees are encouraged to consciously develop more effective behaviours that focus on promoting empathy, compassion and self-belief to better connect with those around them.”

Educate the whole business

If employees are not in direct customer facing roles, make sure you show them how their work effects the lives of customers. If they are removed from seeing the happiness good service can bring, or the anguish poor service can cause, they may not understand why their work matters. “Helping them to understand how their product or service affects the lives of customers is vital,” says Lucy Adams, CEO of Disruptive HR. “One major telecoms company recently got a group of customers together with their engineers. They spent time finding out about their lives and how having a lost mobile signal impacted them. It made a huge difference to how they worked through their priorities and how they thought about their roles. Sometimes, just giving your people the insights and allowing them to work it through for themselves can be very powerful.”


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Barney is Director at Hays Human Resources, the leading UK HR recruiting experts, leading a team of 80 HR recruitment consultants in 40 locations across the UK.

Barney also has operational responsibility for Hays offices across the South of England, with responsibility for teams placing professionals in over 20 industry sectors, from accountancy and finance to construction, IT, marketing and education. Across many of these sectors, Hays also has further teams dedicated to public services, not-for-profit, executive and international recruitment

Barney is an active partner to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), sitting on the CIPD People Management Awards panel.

Barney joined Hays in 1993 as a business graduate and has spent much of his career recruiting for blue-chip organisations and SMEs.



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