Answering Your Questions
What Is Internal Service EX™?
What is it that an organization may be experiencing – what problems, what issues, what situations – that Internal Service EX™ was designed to remedy?
“ Friction among teams from back office to front office. A culture of dysfunction, I would even say. Employee attrition. And HR just being very active dealing with friction among teams. They’re not working and playing well together and they know it, but they don’t know what to do about it. Ultimately these conditions cost an organization revenue because it costs them productivity. So most organizations hire great people, thinking that’s how to fix the problem – but those people don’t stay. “
If employees are feeling friction among one another, what’s the likelihood of that spilling into the relationships and interactions they have with customers?
” It’s very likely, because that’s not an isolated event. The frontline employees are depending upon that back office. Let me play out a scenario that actually occurred at a credit union: A member whose spouse had recently passed away came in. She needed to get the details worked out. Of course, she’s coming into the branch and the member service rep that she was used to dealing with is certainly not qualified to handle the technical details. That’s why the back office exists. So they’re calling into the back office, “I’ve got this situation,” and they’re looking eyeball to eyeball with the member. Only for the back office to say, sorry, they’ve got to do this, they’ve got to do that. No compassion, no help, no support, or the phone isn’t even answered. They all go out to lunch at the same time. So these things are, frankly, easily remedied if the credit union can capture things like this.
Another example, going from front office to back office: A credit union said, okay, we need to tighten up lending on mortgages. We want the underwriting to get a little leaner, more strict on the underwriting. Underwriting says, “Got it.” Then feedback is coming from the front office: “Every deal we send back there they turn down, so I’m telling people now we don’t do mortgage loans anymore.” Can you imagine the impact on that credit union? This is a communication where people are hearing things differently. They’re acting differently on mandates and objectives even within the credit union. So Internal Service EX™ gives them a listening post to capture these types of things so that they can correct it from many different perspectives. One employee might say, “I hate to come to this branch and work in the drive-thru; I think this is why people are quitting, there’s no air flow here.” It can go from very practical and tangible to very strategic, with all of those nuances. These things aren’t fixed when you do a “happy face” survey to ask the employees, “How happy are you with the company?” and you do that once a year. No, you need to hear directly from peers how well they are serving each other when they depend upon each other. “
What Need Does IT MEET?
” Organizations come to us when they realize that they can’t keep good people, or HR is realizing that there’s significant friction among back office and front office teams. And they don’t know how to fix it. They’ve tried many things, including motivational promotions or motivational initiatives, to try and get these teams working and playing well together but the reality is that they don’t know how to really create that change.
When you are in a situation where you’re having constant turnover of people, or HR is constantly dealing with friction between back office, front office, etc., then we have to say, wait a minute – it’s not just the front line that’s involved in serving the customer. That front line is dependent on the back stage. The front office is dependent upon the back office. The front stage is highly dependent – think about the theater – on the backstage. If you have a weak backstage team or there’s a lot of conflict between front office and back office and they don’t all understand their roles and how to align toward engaging that customer, here’s what will happen: quality people are going to say, “It’s just too difficult to work here. They don’t deal with their people issues. I can’t get what I need to deliver on my goals and objectives.” And so a quality individual is going to go on and work for a quality organization. What we have to see at the core of the organization is that we have teams, not necessarily at the individual level, we have teams that are serving each other according to, again, a set of practices that are core in having a healthy culture. “
HOW DOES IT WORK?
What’s the first step in capturing data about how well employees are serving each other?
” We identify what is the gold standard for that organization. Much like mystery shopping, actually: what is the standard for how the employee should be serving the customer? So the same thing: What is the brand standard for how they should be serving each other? If they don’t know, we can help them with that. We’re going to use the same SERVQUAL science as with Service & Sales CX™, but the questions under those dimensions are going to look different because we’re serving people we’re working with day in and day out.
Before we do the first survey launch, we are developing those frontline managers on how to coach and to begin to coach to the expected behaviors. In Service & Sales CX™, we do a benchmark and then launch with frontline and middle managers. With Internal Service EX™, we don’t want that kind of surprise because we want to create an environment of support, buy-in, and a real positive approach toward giving that feedback. “
What preliminary discussions do you have with a client around Internal Service EX™?
” The start of that is to ask, first of all, who’s responsible for serving whom? Isn’t that the first step? If I’m going to ask you to give feedback, who am I going to ask you to give feedback on? If he’s in the feedback group, who are the functional groups that he depends upon because I’m not going to ask someone to give feedback on people he doesn’t even connect with or rely upon. That reduces the credibility.
What we begin with strategically is to announce that we’re going to deploy a survey, so that employees can identify who they depend upon and who they give service to in the organization. We call that process dependency mapping.
Our Business Solutions team deploys a survey to the employees asking questions like, Who do you serve in the organization? Who do you depend on? Then we ask the executive sponsor to validate this first survey: Would you say this is true? And they respond, “We never realized it even looked like this. This is incredible!” So it’s an incredible asset that they’re getting in their hands. “
Do you conduct some kind of training in advance of the survey deployment?
” We hold a series of strategic sessions with the executive team. A program like this has to have top-down support. We’ve learned by experience that you can’t come in sideways on this. You can’t come in through HR. We use the Melcrum Employee Engagement model for adopting best practices around engagement and then I’ve created an employee element for that. We’re basically aligning them to their objectives for this initiative and getting complete buy-in at the very top. This is a series of three strategic executive sessions by webinar, generally lasting an hour or so. A part of that is to assign/appoint what we call an Internal Quality Action Team or an IQAT. This would be a special forces-type team that can solve problems that managers cannot solve that inhibit or are barriers to them serving these other teams well.
Internally, we’re making recommendations on who should be part of the IQAT, based on the types of positions that typically constitute this very nimble decision-making team. Then we are showing them that not only do we have coaching guides and executive guides, we have IQAT guides. And we’re walking them through the guide so they know exactly what to do. This is not something we’re doing off the top of our head. This is exactly the best practice for doing this, and doing this well. “
Are there other special things that happen before the survey is deployed?
” Before the survey is deployed, the entire employee group in the organization is receiving a “field guide” and employee digital handbook on why this initiative is underway, exactly how they’ll benefit, how the organization benefits, and what good, constructive feedback looks like. They also learn that not only will they be asked for that feedback, but there is an open listening post at any time that they wish to give feedback. Because we say that they’re going to talk, so let’s give them a constructive way to do that.
We have now integrated or implemented the purpose for the solution and how to act on the feedback throughout the organization. We have also provided all employees with a very engaging ebook on why the organization is entering into this and how it will benefit them, the customers and the organization, what that feedback will look like, what the actual tool is, why they’re being requested to give feedback, how we use it in a positive way, and what good actionable feedback looks like. That’s happening throughout the organization. Prior to this we have had at least three strategic meetings, generally by webinar, with senior level leaders. These tend to take about 30 minutes, but it’s basically aligning to the purpose of the program, the objective it is intended to achieve and the strategy around it. That’s an opportunity where they can tweak it if they wish.
Now we have the strategy that’s coming directly from topline leaders. So we have that push, so to speak, behind us. Then we are rolling this out directly with the team leaders. In a positive and very impactful way we are rolling these gold-brand standards out among their teams so that they begin to realize, going back to team building, it’s not just what we’d like you to do or what would be nice to do. This is the expectation as a part of this team. This is an expectation as a part of this organization. This is an expectation as a part of your specific contributions to this organization. We teach them how to actually roll out expectations in a positive way. We give them tools to begin to coach to these expectations. And then the accountability is when the measurement comes in. “
How does a client look at the data that comes in from the surveys?
” It’s in the same Portal as Net Referral+ CX. We call Net Referral its own platform, but it comes through the same Portal. The client is always seeing all of their data through the same Portal, so managers are accessing that so that they can coach and develop. We are synchronizing and rotating who is getting surveyed, which department is getting surveyed, and in what rotation, and then when they will be resurveyed to see the degree of change. In all of that, degree of change is reported all along the way. A part of this is to find out if these managers can really lead change inside their teams. So it’s synchronized after it’s launched and the organization is readied to receive that data. “
WHAT SETS IT APART FROM OTHER PRODUCTS?
What are the biggest differentiators of Internal Service EX™?
” First of all, I don’t think that the term “differentiators” applies with Internal Service EX™ because I don’t think this product exists elsewhere. There are engagement surveys where there’s a focus on what the employees feel about their organization. Those are very vertical. This program, you have to think of it as being very horizontal. It comes all the way back into the organization at the core and basically it’s assessing how well teams that are dependent upon each other are serving each other.
Let me give you just a little backstory. Years ago, we had one client with our mystery shopping program who came to us and said, listen, we love what you’re doing in really bringing about change on the front line. We love how you’re doing it. We love the results. We love how we can coach to it. Can you do something for us like that on the back office? That’s what kind of started Internal Service EX™. I started to explore how we could do that. Originally the client said that they wanted “back office shops.” That’s how they said it. I began researching all the different possibilities for how we could do something like that. Specifically, what are the objectives and what could be the problem in doing something like this? It’s one thing to have the customer give you feedback. It’s an entirely different thing to get that feedback from your peers that you’re working with day in and day out. Not only to get it but also to give it. So the idea behind it is that we needed to find out what are the barriers that are keeping employees from performing their best when they’re depending on other teams.
The first launch of Internal Service EX™ was with one of our credit union clients. They knew that this was data for us and we needed them to work with us. They were already a very trusted partner and we started by asking, What should it look like? What are the attributes of employees who are working well together? Nine months later, they called me and said, “Now Rhonda, I’m going to tell you why we’re not going to continue this program.” I said, “Alright, I’m listening.” They said, “Here is why we’re coming off of this program. And here’s what you need to do to make it a great program.” So they told us exactly what that was: first of all, you can’t come in sideways; this has to be top-down. Top-down buy-in from all top executives is critical, and alignment to that needs to happen very carefully at the very beginning of the program.
The second thing they discovered was that not all of their managers were mature enough to handle this direct feedback and to use it in the right way. So there needs to be another layer between managers getting this feedback and using this feedback. Out of that we developed a deployment that’s very thoughtful, careful and successful in really transforming the organization in terms of how well internal teams serve each other. From that came a number of things, including the Internal Service Quality Action Team, where we bring in another layer within the organization and equip them to view the data and the feedback, and to remove barriers.
Now fast-forward: that credit union has just re-signed with us again on Internal Service EX™. They said, “Based on all that you’ve done and accomplished, we’re ready for this now, again.” So we’re bringing Internal Service EX™ back into that credit union. “
How is Internal Service EX™ different from a traditional team-building program?
“ In traditional team building, the hope is to get people in sync, liking each other, understanding each other and going away applying some skills toward understanding. Where Internal Service EX™ is different is that we’re identifying these core elements – 15 core elements across five dimensions. And again, we’re using the SERVQUAL science which, by the way, has never been done. There have been people who have asked on blogs, Has anybody used SERVQUAL for internal teams? Would somebody please develop something for internal teams? And I’m saying, “We are already doing this!” We decided, if we’re measuring the front office with SERVQUAL, let’s use that science on the back office. So in that back office we’re using the same SERVQUAL dimensions: Reliability, Responsiveness, Assurance, Empathy and Tangibles. Within that we said, What are the primary behaviors that we would say are basic? Responsiveness: Are you returning emails? Empathy: Do you seem to care about how you’re viewed? We’ve had to go through a number of iterations. An organization might be on a different iteration, mirroring more of the behaviors that service shoppers would be looking for, like use of name. I don’t care if you use my name when you’re in peer-to-peer work, so you don’t even need to be my best friend, and I don’t need you to be my best friend, which are typical Gallup engagement questions. Rather, we want to make sure that Rhonda can get her work done if she depends on John, period. That Rhonda can get her work done if she depends on marketing, if she depends on HR, if she depends on underwriting. Whomever I have to depend on to deliver to the customer, I’ve got to make sure that there aren’t barriers for me to be able to perform my very best at the organization. Then we’ve identified what those typical barriers or attributes are that that organization needs to have well in hand.
That’s the first part: where it’s different from team building is that we are identifying the key behaviors or the core behaviors in serving each other well.
The next part would be, now that we know what those particular behaviors need to be, we’ve got to say who is best in the organization to actually help the teams learn, demonstrate, and master those behaviors. We don’t believe that that transformation comes from a training team, either from the outside or the inside, training your people en masse. We believe that that front line or that line manager is closest to their team and they are there to get their results through their people. That manager, that team manager, that team leader is the one who has the responsibility to invite, inspire and equip their teams toward change and these behaviors that frankly are perfunctory. They’re not complex selling behaviors. So we begin with equipping, educating, inspiring those team leads, those managers, on what these exact behaviors are that will create greatness inside the organization and then equip them with the field guides to be able to actually begin to coach to those at the group level.
Then they know that, generally four times a year, we’ll be inviting those that are receiving these services from you to give feedback relative to how those services are being experienced by those you exist to serve inside the organization. When you get your first feedback, we’re also going to equip you with field guides and our on-site training and development. We’re going to equip you on how to take that peer-based feedback and use it in a very positive and powerful way to bring about change. So you’re coaching what has happened over the last month, three months. You’re going to have internal voice-of-the-employee feedback based on your team. There should be no surprises in this because we all know our team’s weaknesses, right? And we know our teams’ strengths. And so when the feedback comes in then they are leveraging that feedback in such a way to strengthen the coaching and the training. Then this continues as a cycle. We don’t believe transformation happens with one-shot measurements. The old adage, what gets measured gets improved, we disagree with – what gets measured and gets acted on appropriately gets improved! In rotation, they will see their ability to lead change among their teams because every three to four months with the same SERVQUAL science, and the behaviors under that, they’re going to get additional peer feedback. When you get your initial feedback, I tell them don’t be concerned if it’s low because now it’s your opportunity to say, watch me lead change in a positive way in my part of the organization. “
WHAT KIND OF RESULTS SHOULD WE EXPECT?
Ultimately, how do you connect employee accountability to the organization getting greater levels of results from their managers?
” Not only are the managers empowered with this, they learn coaching skills at the group level that they didn’t possess before, that they can then apply to other coaching environments. They have very hard measures on whether their teams perform in particular ways: What are their strengths, what are their opportunities, and what are you doing to help coach them so that they are meeting consistently and sustainably with the organization’s gold-brand standard of internal service? “
With this program fully implemented, what do you think is the real impact on the
” The impact on the bottom line would be we know what the cost of turnover is. But what is the cost of just having an unhappy and unpleasant work environment? When people don’t like what they do, when they cannot deliver because of – I’ll just have to say it – plainly, they are relying on someone to deliver for them according to their expertise, and what they get from that person are shrugs, what they get from that person is non-responsiveness, what they get from that person is not accurate, they’re not able to deliver on their part of the organization’s purpose. This is leading to that employee turnover. They just don’t even want to be a part of the organization, or they become complacent and apathy sets in across the organization. What tends to happen is that it becomes so dysfunctional they don’t even know where to begin to fix this. The bottom line impact is what would naturally happen when you are an organization of excellence versus an organization of dysfunction and all the directly related costs that go along with trying to treat dysfunctional teams with either new managers or training that’s not effective or moving people around.
Now the other side of that is the reality that if you’re not serving a customer, you’re serving someone who is. Where there are employees who are not being served well or where the dysfunction is allowed to continue, that will be felt by the customer. You can’t shield that. We all know that. They might fake it for a bit, but ultimately that bleeds through. What consumer wants to do business with an organization where the apathy is there, the rudeness is there, or the unhappiness is there? That then equates to loss of revenue because they don’t want to continue to do business in that environment. The tension is there – you see the tension, this internal tension that is not productive. Sometimes that tension can be very broad, very high – tides of tension – and you can’t even fix it from the inside. You’re too close to it. You need someone from the outside to come in to diagnose and fix this, and to set you on a very sustainable path toward excellence. “
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