I recently had the opportunity to meet with Bryan Pearson, CEO of Loyalty One (the parent company of Air Miles and other loyalty businesses), and one of Impact99‘s CEO Think Tank participants, over coffee. Of course, I took full advantage of our meetint to pick his brain about employee engagement. Bryan is a great thought leader in the realm of Customer Loyalty, and his bestselling book, The Loyalty Leap, is a great read and guide for any marketer or Customer Experience Specialist. I believe that you cannot achieve customer loyalty without first developing it within your employes, and I was curious about what Bryan’s take on that was. LoyaltyOne is certainly a leader in Customer Loyalty, and has been named one of Canada’s top employers for the past three years, and this year was named one of Canada’s most influential brands. Bryan shared some of their secrets about building customer loyalty from the inside out, starting with employees in their Customer Care Centre.
1) Make your employees customers.
It is important that your employees understand your customers’ point of view. At LoyaltyOne, every employee (not just those in their contact centre – which they call the Customer Care centre) must be or become a card holder. They use the program themselves and become advocates of it. This helps them to solve problems and make decisions when dealing with questions or concerns from customers.
2) Share the strategy and interdependence of the organization
During onboarding, LoyaltyOne’s Customer Care centre employees receive education on how the organization works, and how their role and what they do affects their colleagues and customers. This shared sense of purpose helps to guide daily decisions so that they are in the organization’s and customer’s best interest.
This understanding of the importance and interrelatedness of their roles has also helped LoyaltyOne provide a flexible work environment for their call centre employees.
3) Want to improve attendance? Stop managing it.
In LoyaltyOne’s Customer Care centre, they have created a flexible work environment. All employees understand how they are scheduled, according to call volume, and although they are given flexibility around when they show up or leave work, this policy and level of freedom is not abused, because they realize the impact on their coworkers. The number of sick days taken by Customer Care employees has also dropped substantially since implementing flexible work.
4) Reward the right behaviours that enhance customer loyalty.
Customer Care employees at LoyaltyOne are measured according to customer satisfaction and of course, sales. A third party measures after-call satisfaction from the customer. While call times are measured and discussed,they are not mandated or rewarded. This maintains the focus on building customer loyalty, not on meeting a quota or number that is counter to the customer experience.
5) No scripting. Just empowerment and coaching.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed the blatantly scripted questions and answers that you often experience when calling a service or help desk. It can be awkward, inefficient, and frustrating to say the least. At LoyaltyOne, the Customer Care employees do not use scripts. From being advocates of their programs to being educated on their offerings, they are enabled to assist customers and resolve questions or concerns to their best ability. Representatives are continuously coached, often virtually, with managers listening to calls and discussing improvements. This non-scripted customer experience is not only better for those of us on the other end of the phone line, but also engages and empowers employees more effectively.
Besides these 5 insights and practices that Bryan shared, there were some other “customer loyalty from the inside out” factors I noticed at LoyaltyOne.
First, upon entering, there is a vibe in the office. The lighting, furniture and overall atmosphere give off a contemporary tech-forward, and energetic feeling immediately.
Secondly, Bonnie, LoyaltyOne’s receptionist, is an absolute delight. She greeted me enthusiastically, offered me coffee or a beverage, and efficiently handed me a personalized name badge. While I waited for Bryan to meet me, Bonnie asked me about my weekend plans and shared hers. She was personable and friendly to everyone who came in. Your receptionist can build or kill your customer or vendor relationships. Bonnie is definitely a relationship-maker.
Finally, I believe culture is created by actions, not intentions. Bryan not only talks the talk – he walks the walk of employee and customer loyalty. When he arrived in the foyer to meet me, he took the time to joke with employees and vendors who were waiting, and once again offered me a coffee – which this time I accepted, and he proceeded to make for me. He lives LoyaltyOne’s focus on building long lasting relationships. Bryan is passionate about customer loyalty, and that passion comes out in conversation and action.
Culture starts at the top, and it is plain to see that LoyaltyOne’s “best employer” culture starts with their CEO.
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