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Digitally Irresistible


Mar 9, 2023

Equip Frontline Employees With Everything They Need to Provide an Excellent Customer Experience

On this week’s episode of the Digitally Irresistible Podcast, we welcome Lori Brown. Lori is a seasoned customer experience executive with more than 25 years of experience in the BPO industry. She is a respected thought leader, CX consultant, and keynote speaker.

Lori helps brands develop and evolve their CX strategy, enabling them to meet the rapidly changing demands of their customers. She embraces innovative technology that enables CX leaders to develop frontline employees into effective representatives of a brand, creating smiles for the customers they serve.

On this episode, we discuss what it takes to equip frontline employees to succeed in delivering a great customer experience.

Frontline Employees Are the Lifeblood of CX

Good customer service has been a passion for Lori since her early days working in retail—selling wool coats in Florida. She worked her way through college managing a retail store. One night at 9pm as she was closing up, a customer crawled under the security gate and said she really needed to buy something for an important meeting the next day. Lori explained that the store was closed and she turned the customer away.

The next day, when she got to work there was a stern voice message for her from the regional manager. He explained that Lori needed to immediately apologize to the customer she turned away, send her a dozen roses, and let her know that she’s welcome in the store any time. Lori learned that without customers, the store is simply an empty box. To this day, Lori embraces the lesson that customers are always Number One. Frontline employees have a duty to make them feel welcome each time they interact with the brand.

Lori’s experience in retail ultimately led her to the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry where she was able to leverage her background in retail customer service. More than 20 years later, Lori still has a strong passion for the industry, customer service, and the frontline employees that make an excellent customer experience possible.

5 Key Elements Frontline Employees Need to Deliver a Great Customer Experience

By listening and creating an environment that empowers frontline employees, CX leaders can address the changing demands of customers and keep frontline employees motivated to deliver great CX. Frontline employees know what customers want and technology can provide real-time insight into what they’re hearing to help them deliver the best customer experience possible.

Lori has identified five interconnected elements to help create an employee experience that results in excellent outcomes for the customer.

1. Data

Data has played an important part in Lori’s BPO experience over the past 20+ years, and for the last 12 she’s noticed a greater focus on speech analytics and interaction analytics that provide insights to better understand customer behavior as well as how frontline employees support them.

This goes beyond surveying customers and simply capturing data. Data-driven decisions include capturing, understanding, and then acting upon and continually measuring data. Data empowers educated decisions because you can't run a business on assumptions.

2. Environment

The start of COVID necessitated that BPOs quickly and securely transition from work-in-office to work-at-home environments in order to maintain seamless customer service. Within days, BPOs addressed opportunities to provide reliable work-at-home environments and now, several years later, companies need to think about the hybrid contact center environment that exists today and how they can optimize it for their frontline employees.

BPOs need to ensure they have consistently high levels of employee engagement for agents working at home, as they would in the office. They need to creatively implement ways to provide a supportive environment and a customer service culture with flexible work environments. It is essential to cultivate an environment where employees can freely share ideas and engage in peer discussions to emulate best practices of the work-in-office environment. 

Happy employees with high levels of employee satisfaction provide great customer service. Frontline employees should feel valued and cared for in any work environment. 

3. Technology

Investing in technology to enable a collaborative environment as discussed above is one way to help employees feel valued. Another way to harness technology is through coaching tools that share best practices with agents, tells them how many times they’ve used a best practice, and how many more they need to use in order to meet their metrics.

Technology such as this helps frontline employees feel valued when they know the company is committed to their growth and success. Coaching tools, data analytics, and other technologies equip agents to better serve customers with more complex issues which sets them up for success. Such tools can also enable supervisors and leadership to provide more effective coaching and feedback to frontline employees, resulting in happier employees and happier customers.

4. Policies

Policies set direction for a business. If the goal is to be a customer centric organization, the policies and procedures should drive customer centricity. It’s important to consider the full downstream effect when creating policies to make sure they align with the original intent along every step of the customer journey to provide the best customer experience possible.

Lori shares a personal example of this from a recent trip to bring home a new puppy during the busy holiday travel season a week before Christmas. She tried to check in for her flight from home in Ft. Lauderdale and couldn’t. She called the customer service line and the agent stated that the airline’s pet policy required customers to check in at the airport when they have a pet ticket. Lori explained that she would only have the pet with her on the return flight home and she didn’t want to get to the airport three hours early at Christmas time just to tell them she didn’t have the pet with her on the outbound flight. But the agent made it clear that the policy stood and there was nothing the agent could do to change it for her. This is an example of an unanticipated scenario where a policy didn’t serve the customer well. 

5. Empowerment

In this example, the frontline agent Lori was speaking with could have been empowered to provide a great customer experience by enabling Lori to check in recognizing that she didn’t have the puppy yet. But instead, the agent was required to uphold the policy. Although the airline had invested in hiring the right people, training them, and providing technology to provide a great customer experience, the agent was not empowered to bypass the policy, resulting in a frustrating experience for the customer.

There are times when it’s necessary to uphold policies due to regulatory and compliance mandates, even when it impacts the customer experience. In some other instances the frontline agent could be empowered to improve the customer experience in the moment. 

Lori points out that policies should maintain a focus on customer centricity and agents should be empowered to intervene on the customer’s behalf, with proper guidelines, to ensure a great customer experience.

Integrating the 5 Key Elements Throughout the Employee Experience

Data from interaction analytics can empower employees by providing tools to understand customer interaction and to support the employee experience. This fosters trust and feedback from frontline employees, making it possible for them to create an excellent customer experience. By acting on data, creating an environment and culture conducive to great customer service, utilizing technology, assessing the impact of policies throughout the customer journey, and empowering employees to deliver rewarding customer experiences, brands can ensure employees feel valued and customers keep coming back.

What Lori Does for Fun

Living on Ft. Lauderdale beach, fun is always just footsteps away for Lori. When she’s not at the beach, she’s still enjoying the fresh air and sunshine practicing her newly discovered golf skills on the course and at the driving range. 

To learn more about Lori, visit her on LinkedIn and her website at lbrowncxconsulting.com.

Watch the video here.

Read the blog post here.