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The ROI Of An Employee-Centric Culture

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Matt Wujciak


Why do some teams deliver performances exponentially better than the sum of their counterparts, while other teams add up to be much less? Why do organizations like Zappos or Apple, or teams like the 2018 Golden State Warriors or SEAL team six seem to just click? Of course, feeding off of other team members, reacting, innovating, and producing synergistic results depends on team culture. 

In fact, a Harvard study of over two hundred companies shows that strong culture increases net income 765% over ten years. Cultures are not predestined. They are a set of living relationships oriented towards a common goal. Group culture has more to do with what teams do than what they are.

To understand what makes cultures tick, it's important to see why cultures fail. 

Here are two examples I want to share from Daniel Coyle’s NYT bestseller, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. More importantly, I will share what you can do to build an employee-centric culture in 2021. 

Shared connection and values


The Minuteman missileers are nuclear missile launch officers who handle weapons that are twenty times more powerful than Hiroshima. In recent years, however, they have seen a high rate of failure and accidents including missiles lying unattended on a runway for hours. The Air Force treated this as a disciplinary problem and cracked down. Yet, the failures kept happening.

It’s easy to think of the missileers as lazy and selfish. However, belonging cues, (which have become popular in workforce management in 2020) give us a different picture. 

The missileers spend twenty-four hour shifts inside cramped missile silos with no scope for physical, social or emotional connections. After the Cold War, there were no real missions and few career options. They are expected to conform to near-impossible standards and small failures are severely punished. This created a perfect cocktail of anti-belonging cues. The missileers failed because they saw no cultural safety, no connection, and no shared future. 

While they were primed to make frequent mistakes with a lack of resources, communication, and general organization, the punishments made the job seem not worthwhile, creating a culture of disengaged workers. 

Today, many front-line employees, remote workers, and customer service agents tasked with facing the increasingly high expectations of the “everything customer,” around the world share some of the same dissatisfactions as the Minuteman missileers  – navigating silos with limited to no resources, objectives, or goals. And as you’ll see later, this can have a costly effect on employee turnover.  

Creating a lighthouse for employee behavior

Second (and conversely):

A group cannot function if it does not understand its purpose. Highly successful teams know their purpose and more importantly they connect their actions with that purpose every day.

Successful cultures do this by relentlessly seeking ways to tell and retell their story.

Stories embody where the team has been and in most cases where they are going. They give us rich, vivid, examples of the impact of our journey. Stories are lasting and memorable. They tell us What are we about? Where are we headed?

Adam Grant, organizational psychologist exemplified this concept well when he was asked to investigate the low performance of the University of Michigan’s contact centers for alumni donations.

He found that the work of a contact center worker was boring and tedious and the rejection rate, when asking for donations, stood at a solid 93 percent. The university had tried numerous incentives to improve call quantity and revenue (prizes, contests, etc.), but none of these efforts produced a positive outcome.

Grant decided to try something different. He made a concerted effort to connect the team to the impact of the donations they were trying to raise. In one example, he shared an emotional letter from a student who had received a scholarship through alumni donations.

Additionally, Grant invited “guests” to come and share similar, heart-warming, stories of how the foundation’s scholarships had impacted their lives. It worked. Over the next month, workers spent 142% more time on the phone and revenues increased 172%. Teams cannot function if they don’t see, hear, and feel their purpose. 

Creating engagement around a clear, simple set of behaviors can function as a lighthouse aligning behaviors with the core organizational purpose. 

As the author puts it: Leaders of high proficiency groups focus on creating priorities, naming keystone behaviors and flooding the environment with heuristics that link the two. Today, specifically in customer experience departments, technology has made this easier than ever. 

Building a customer experience culture with the employee in mind

Both examples show the importance of two things that every successful customer experience team is consciously or subconsciously aware of: linking desirable objectives that benefit an individual (and the greater group), and effective leadership and resources that enhance communication and productivity. 

Customer-centric organizations empower employees tasked with facing (oftentimes) dissatisfied, angry customers. When employees don’t feel an overarching sense of purpose combined with available resources and tools to navigate communication silos, or other common customer experience challenges, the experiences they deliver to the customer are often fragmented and filled with friction, for both employee and consumer.

Read More: Special Report: 4 Ways CCaaS Will Deliver A Better Employee And Customer Experience In 2021

For example: according to CCW Digital’s customer service research, the most common pain points for contact center employees include: swiveling across multiple systems - 56% of contact center employees say they must toggle between multiple screens to do their jobs, leaving them with no contextual assistance to do their job. When employees have to manually capture notes about customers, this can hinder not only their ability to provide quality service, but morale as well. All of these factors contribute to low employee satisfaction (and productivity), decreased customer retention rates, and costly employee turnover. 

As previously mentioned, technology is making it increasingly easier to alleviate these pain points. This includes cloud based systems, and customer relationship management software that build connection, empower employees, increase CSAT scores, and most importantly, decrease the greatest problem in customer service - turnover. 

Reducing Employee Turnover

A 2019 study by the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals showed the average contact center turnover rate to be between 30-45%. Turnover rates for all industries hovers around 18%. Anything higher can be damaging to your business, let alone 30-45%. In fact, numerous studies have shown that the cost of replacing an employee is about one-third of that employee's salary.

Standard contact center culture is poor, and it’s reflected in excessive employee turnover rates and an earned reputation of a “cost center” to brands. But just like with the Minuteman missileers and Michigan contact centers, contagious cultural problems that hinder productivity in organizations are solvable. 

For example, in the year of the 2008 financial crisis - a year in which the average turnover at contact centers was 150%, turnover at Zappos was 39%. Of course, managers attribute the retention rates to a culture that cultivates the passion, purpose, and humanity of its employees - better known as employee experience.

Successful customer experience teams invest in their employees who contribute to an ROI-driven culture. Today, that requires the technologies that empower employees to do their job - tools that help employees traverse the most common pain points listed above (i.e. toggling between multiple screens, no contextual assistance to do their job, and a need to capture notes during and after calls with customers). As we enter 2021, almost every successful customer experience culture has a contact center as a service (CCaaS), so an organization’s employees can deliver successful customer experience results, see it in real-time, and replicate the success that becomes synergistic, if not contagious

When CCW Digital teamed up with leading business communications solution provider, Avaya to learn how they were delivering empowering employee experiences that produce an ROI for customer experience organizations around the globe, Natalie Keightley, Avaya director of global solutions told me: 

“There are many choices in today’s marketplace. Customers should first determine their business objectives before making technology decisions. As a multi-cloud ecosystem, Avaya OneCloud helps to combine the benefits of Avaya, partners and leading Cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. Avaya’s portfolio offers customers flexibility and is available in a variety of deployment options – public, private, hybrid – giving organizations a choice of deployment model based on their transformation strategy and pace to cloud. Our unique hybrid approach of Avaya OneCloud means that Avaya experts will work with each business to define the right mix of these options that works best for them – and to develop a path forward to evolve each business into the future.” 

To learn our 4 ways contact center as a service will deliver a culture-driven, employee and customer experience culture in 2021, download my full report here