Jeff Melton: Make It Easy for the Front Line to Do the Right Thing




In the age of social media, how do you ensure that your customers write positive stories about their interactions with your front-line employees? Jeff Melton, a partner in Bain's Customer Strategy & Marketing practice, discusses how to maximize the "magic moments" that happen when an employee solves a customer problem, and why those moments benefit an entire organization.

Read the transcript below.

JEFF MELTON: Social media is full of comments about companies. And most of those comments about companies are comments that are about individual interactions that happened between a company and a business, but it's not really the business. It's interaction between the customer and the flight attendant, the agent in the call center, the field service technician who visited them. Companies every day put their reputations and their economics in the hands of their frontline service workers and their back office service workers.

These are real people. They come to work each day bringing the problems that they have at home. And they go home each day to their family, to their child, bringing with them the outcomes of what happened at work that day.

They are people like the agent in the call center in the Philippines with whom I sat, who was feeling incredible stress at her job. She'd taken a two-hour ride, jitney (bus) after jitney, to get to work. She's feeling incredible stress at her job, because it's hard to do her job.

She's talking to a customer, the customer's got a complex problem. On her screen is a clock, and it's ticking. That clock is telling her to get the heck off the phone when all of her natural senses want to stay there and solve the customer's problem and get that magic moment.

And that moment when she does something that solves a problem for a customer is magic for her. She gets that great reinforcement that gives her self-worth. So as the CEO of that company, you want to capture that magic moment. You want to create as many of those magic moments as you can so that that call center agent in the Philippines is excited to come back to work the next day, and wants to give more of herself to your business and to your customers.

To do that, you have to make it easy for her to do her job well. Give her the right tools, give her calls that she can handle. Provide triggers that help her find the next step, the next stream that she needs to go to to solve the customer's problem. You also need to provide positive reinforcements quickly when she's done what you want her to do, when she's performed the desired behavior.

Companies that do that well create thousands of service workers who are doing the right things with customers every time. That makes for great social media stories. Customers who buy more, tell their friends. It makes for lower costs because there are fewer mistakes that need to be fixed, fewer complaint letters that end up on your desk. It creates better financials as a result and happier shareholders.

It creates employees who are actually investing of themselves their own discretionary time, their own discretionary energy, in improving things. And it makes that woman go home each night a better mother, a better friend, a better sister, a better daughter. And that makes the world a little bit better place.

Read the Bain Brief: Organizations Don’t Change Behavior, People Do