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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen uncovers the secrets to establishing employee and customer engagement with expert Suzzanna Rowold. Suzzanna has over 12 years of leadership experience and is currently working on a PhD with a focus of entrepreneurship and innovation. Listen to the podcast below to discover how Suzzanna transforms CX teams to excellence.
Tips for Hiring Talent and Lowering Turnover Rates
Hiring is one of the earliest engagement touchpoints in which an organization can set clear and specific expectations for interviewees and incoming customer experience agents. The hiring process for a high-performing CX team in organizations can be quite difficult, especially with high turnover rates. Recognizing how brands with high turnover rates struggle to efficiently produce the best CX, Suzzanna says:
So really looking at the cost of turnover for an organization, if you have constant turnover, how can you be effective in customer service? You can’t because you’re constantly training new staff. So you never get up to that level of efficiency. And in looking at that, the research has shown time and time again, the United States alone is spending over $600 billion a year in turnover costs. That’s expensive.
Keeping this in mind, she offers some helpful tips for hiring managers to help keep employees motivated to stay. By detailing expectations on the job listing, setting clear standards in the interview and coaching new employees as soon as they are hired, this helps retention rates skyrocket and turnover rates lower. Additionally, Suzzanna discusses how certain modifiers can get organizations in legal trouble in some areas around the country as those modifiers on job postings tend to discriminate against qualified applicants (i.e. “You must have 4 years of experience”). To steer clear of this, it’s best to offer each applicant an opportunity to present their strengths and qualifications.
Helping Employees Identify Their Purpose
When shaping a company culture, two of the most important things customer experience leaders can do is to align their CX reps with the company values and to help reps find a purpose in their roles. When employees feel that they have a purpose in their role and when they are wholly aligned with the company’s values, time after time successful customer engagement interactions and high NPS scores shine through. Suzzanna notes when walking into a new office space, “You can tell which of those employees are actively engaged simply by their demeanor and their behavior.” Not only is it important for employees to feel they have a purpose to pursue with determination, it is also important for CX leaders to find the value within their employees and to hold themselves to a high standard of excellence. Suzzanna remarks, “So you really need to think as a leader for how and why each of those staff make a difference and how directly that difference impacts that customer experience. And that’s both for internal and external stakeholders. Both of those are extremely vital.” Ultimately, the success of a CX team reflects on the example set by the leadership.
Creating a Culture of Learning by Habit
As a highly regarded leader in the realm of CX, Suzzanna helps other leaders to establish habits of success within their daily operations. One of these habits is urging leaders to invest in their employee’s success and to provide opportunities for growth. To do so, Suzzanna advocates that leaders should regularly be having these conversations with their employees. Another habit is to create a safe work environment in which CX agents feel safe to voice their concerns or problems they may be experiencing which is crucial to smooth operations. “Nobody should feel like they’re going to be retaliated against for bringing up concerns about things that aren’t going well, let alone making a mistake, but setting up the culture that if you make a mistake, the expectation is you learn from it and we don’t continue to make that same mistake.” Creating a learning environment for CX employees and hosting a culture that encourages discussion will help employees stay in the long run. Suzzanna leaves the audience with one last helpful tip before signing off, “Don’t leave room for mediocrity.”
To learn more about establishing employee and customer engagement or how to lead a CX team to excellence, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.
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Full Episode Transcript:
Best Practices of Employee and Customer Engagement | Suzzanna Rowold
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about employee and customer engagement and the best way to do that and our special guest to help us on this journey is Suzzanna Rowold. She is currently an Employee and Customer Engagement Expert. She’s actually setting up her own consulting business, working on her PhD in organizational development. 12 plus years in leadership. Fortune 100 companies, brings a lot to the table. Suzzanna, thanks so much for joining. How the heck are ya?
Suzzanna Rowold: (00:44)
I’m doing great. How are you doing?
Gabe Larsen: (00:46)
Well it’s good. It’s always fun to have a guest, especially with somebody with your background. You have a lot of things going on right now. Tell us a little bit about some of the fun things you’re working on both current and maybe even in the past.
Suzzanna Rowold: (00:58)
Sure. Sounds great. So I’m currently in the process of completing my PhD. I’m wrapping up my last four classes before the fun dissertation starts. That’s always exciting. People think I’m insane because I cannot wait to get to the dissertation part, which is always funny. So that is actually in organizational development and leadership and I am specializing in entrepreneurship and innovation. So it’ll be exciting because my background is as a licensed clinical therapist for behavioral health. So once my PhD is done, I will have the full gamut of in individual behavior all the way through organizational behavior and can stand across that whole segment. And then in addition to that, like you mentioned, I’m in the process of setting up my own consulting business, looking into some other options of potentially teaching at college levels and things like that. Definitely something I want to get into is moving forward. And my history and experience has been working for large national companies, different markets, multiple states, tens to a hundred of employees that have reported through me. And really in behavioral health when it comes down to it, even being a leader in behavioral health, most of that scope really does have a customer experience component to it because you’re either dealing with providers or hospitals, your internal different departments, as well as those members that are receiving those services. And so customer experience and customer excellence is very much at the top of what needs to happen and really be focused on for all of those staff.
Gabe Larsen: (02:50)
I love that. Yeah. What a well-rounded, the clinical background. You’ve got the PhD. You’ve got experience in customer and in employee. Now all I’ve got to do is see if I can suck out of you some of this knowledge, your experience and knowledge because I know you know a lot of it. So, appreciate the overview, let’s dive into the topic. So throughout your career, you find different ways to be successful. You and I were talking pre-show a little bit about some of the secrets. Things maybe people don’t often think about as much in the way you’ve been able to be successful in your career. Would love for you to start at the top. What’s kind of that thing that comes to mind first? Your first secret and why you’ve been able to be successful in different elements of your career.
Suzzanna Rowold: (03:39)
Well, I think that the primary area that you have to start is understanding really the why behind what those secret tips are. And so really looking at the cost of turnover for an organization, if you have constant turnover, how can you be effective in customer service? You can’t because you’re constantly training new staff. So you never get up to that level of efficiency. And in looking at that, the research has shown time and time again, the United States alone is spending over $600 billion a year in turnover costs. That’s expensive. So that just keeps continuing to rise as well. And then you look at the other component of what are those drivers of why staff leave their company. That primary area falls to being more times than not, the lack of professional growth and development. And who’s your leader? Are they supportive? Are they providing the things as a quality leader that they really need? That is the two major areas that are going to drive that staff satisfaction, their engagement and their dedication to the customers.
Gabe Larsen: (04:49)
I love that. Yeah, it’s funny because we often think of employee engagement around just compensation and certainly there is a base of that. I’ve always found if you pay 50% below market, yeah, you’re gonna have a hard time keeping people, but assuming you’re in the ballpark, it does, right? It moves to different elements like the career path. I love the leader, the manager, somebody you trust that inspires you, that cares about you as a person, right? Those types of things, it’s harder because sometimes they’re a little softer. I think I’m with you on that being a big driver of the overall turnover. How do you feel like the engagement of employees then translates to the impact customer service?
Suzzanna Rowold: (05:43)
So really, without having those employees who feel like they are fully part of that company, they have a purpose, they really have that investment because they’re seeing it on the other side. That comes through in their every interaction. And you can tell just walking into an office that maybe you know nobody in, you can tell which of those employees are actively engaged simply by their demeanor and their behavior. And so those are key elements that people think of, “Oh, customer service is one specific area or foresight that you need to focus on.” But at the same time, when you really think about it, you’d need to look to the internal side of the organization and what those behaviors are that are being shaped.
Gabe Larsen: (06:28)
Interesting. Yeah. I just feel like that’s often one of those misconnections. They feel like they want to go after the customer experience, but they forget that obviously the employee drives that so much. So let’s dive into a couple of these employee elements. Want to start a little bit with one of your top tips around hiring and onboarding. How have you felt like you’ve mastered this and, or potentially maybe lessons learned or mistakes you’ve made to kind of overcome this barrier of just getting the right people on the bus?
Suzzanna Rowold: (06:59)
So one of the very top parts of ensuring that your onboarding is really focused to your needs is setting those clear expectations. You really need to have your job descriptions and what you’re posting for those positions be exactly what it is that you’re needing them to do. I know for myself, during the times of looking through different postings and positions, it’s very difficult at times to be able to really see, what does that mean? Every company calls it something different. Every company wants something different, there’s different expectations. And there’s always that one little catchall. So the more specific and detailed you can be to what that environment is going to look like and setting those clear expectations once somebody comes in the door is going to be very critical for that success of both that staff and the company and hiring them.
Gabe Larsen: (07:54)
Yeah, do you feel –
Suzzanna Rowold: (07:54)
And then you want –
Gabe Larsen: (07:58)
So I’m just curious.
Suzzanna Rowold: (07:58)
Oh, go ahead.
Gabe Larsen: (07:58)
Do you feel like people, where do people miss on this? Is it mostly on the expectation side of the house? Where’s the big gap when people try to tackle this hiring element? And I might be jumping just a little bit ahead. I apologize.
Suzzanna Rowold: (08:15)
No, that’s okay. So when it comes to the preceptor of the hiring, many times employees aren’t filtering their recruitment accurately, or they are creating too strict of a bucket for those candidates that they’re letting through the door. Many companies now, especially large organizations, are utilizing different identifiers that automatically disqualify people just through a computer system or through a talent acquisition staff that immediately eliminates some really great qualified people that you don’t understand their backgrounds with, or you don’t get where they really could excel because you’re only looking at a sheet of paper, or you’re only looking at a submission online. And so you really have to be cautious of those things, not to mention using modifiers, such as you must have this number of years of experience. Really, there are many, there’s many counties, there’s many states, there’s many nations that can get into a lot of legal trouble by using those specific things that discriminate against a quality candidate getting through the door.
Gabe Larsen: (09:35)
Wow. Yeah, that’s really interesting because that’s been, I feel like a big conversation lately around using science in hiring, right? It’s like, how do you do that? But what I’m hearing you say is that sometimes you got to be careful. That science can point you in the wrong direction.
Suzzanna Rowold: (09:51)
It really could. And I mean, even myself for example, my background is very unique. And so when people look at that, they immediately make an assumption about what those qualifications are, what those strengths are. And many times they couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just what people associate to certain aspects and certain competencies that may or not be accurate.
Gabe Larsen: (10:17)
Yeah. Yeah. That’s really interesting. I think that’s a really different way to look at it. A lot of people, I do think that, and it’s this whole AI conversation with data. It’s like, if you ever let the machine completely run your business, there’s probably a good chance you’re, it needs AI data analytics. How does it enable us, not eliminate us? And so I think you make a good point on that. Okay. So you talk a little bit about clerics, but continue down the hiring. How do you continue to optimize that one?
Suzzanna Rowold: (10:49)
Sure. So once you have somebody in the door, you need to shape that environment of feedback, openness, transparent communications and coaching that needs to happen right from the start. Without those things, you are shaping a culture that does not embrace them and however you set the stage for an employee coming in the door is going to be what you are going to get out of it. And same thing with effectiveness and applicable training. Really making sure that they’re getting all of those resources and tools and training necessary to be successful in that role, the minute that they’re coming in the door. And those are really, those three primary areas for that onboarding once somebody does get hired.
Gabe Larsen: (11:33)
I like that. So you got kind of the expectation idea. You’ve got the feedback, environments, coaching, and then you just have a dedicated training. Any examples you found that can kind of help us visualize a little bit more on this training example or different ways you’ve actually set clear expectations, something like that?
Suzzanna Rowold: (11:53)
So what I’ve done in previous roles is developing a whole employee life cycle of surveys. And so utilizing new hire surveys, inquiring about their experience with the onboarding, with the candidate process, looking at different, even seasoned staff surveys, are important as people are there for awhile. Also looking at the missed candidate surveys and being able to capture information from people that you wanted to hire in, but they declined the offer. And so that gives you a lot of insights. Now, the biggest catch with all of this though is you actually have to do something about the data that you’re getting. And so, as you’re doing the onboarding and as employees are going through your training programs, when you’re getting feedback about the efficiency of it, you need to make those tweaks and adjustments if it’s not hitting the bar.
Gabe Larsen: (12:47)
Hmm. Yeah. That iterative process seems like that’s always something cognizant of it’s just iterate, iterate, iterate. Okay. So we hit a little bit about hiring, onboarding. Where do you go next as far as some of your secrets?
Suzzanna Rowold: (13:01)
So next is really looking at the focus of aligning the individual to the purpose of their roles, as well as their purpose and contribution to the team metrics and as a whole for the organizational strategic goals. So you really need to think as a leader for how and why each of those staff make a difference and how directly that difference impacts that customer experience. And that’s both for internal and external stakeholders. Both of those are extremely vital. In the past, I’ve created a career mapping to where as part of the regular quarterly reviews, staff looked at what their role was and worked with their leaders to really identify concrete on a document that they kept at their desk to be able to see how those things linked. And so maybe one person deals with providers and that level of satisfaction builds into some of the team metrics for maybe an NPS score that somebody needs to have as a measurement for their overall goals, which then ties into the success factor of expanding network when it comes to an organizational standpoint. And so really showing staff how, especially your frontline staff, how those pieces link and how they really contribute to that overall goal and effectiveness because they need to know their values.
Gabe Larsen: (14:30)
Yeah. So it’s about really getting, it’s kind of what you were saying almost [inaudible]. We just have to align people with that overall vision, the strategy, where the company wants to go. It is funny. It’s, I sit in sometimes these Kustomer town halls and things like that, and I’m always amazed to see leaders present the numbers as if people care about them. And I say that a little bit with an offensive joke, but I know and don’t get me wrong. The number the company has to grow with, it’s capitalism at its finest, but to kind of have that be the front and center like, “We hit our number. We didn’t hit our number,” rather than have kind of like this mission goal. Like, “Are we actually helping 10,000 new businesses turn themselves around?” Or something that people want to aspire to? I am always, and I’m guilty of it, but I’m just, I was in one the other day. And I was thinking, “Does this person actually think that anybody cares about the LRR?” Some data metric. What does that even mean?
Suzzanna Rowold: (15:45)
Well and [inaudible]. Nobody knows what that means. Nobody even knows if you say, “Oh, we have an NPS score of 40.” Okay well, where does that relate to the rest of the nation? Is that good? Is that not?
Gabe Larsen: (15:58)
That’s right. That’s right.
Suzzanna Rowold: (15:58)
Nobody knows what that means.
Gabe Larsen: (16:00)
Yeah. But bringing the two together. If you can connect, because I love the big picture vision and I love when I go into organizations and they have that just transformational mission that they keep moving towards and kind of aspiring to. But then to your point, tying it together with what the frontline is doing is awesome. Examples of how you figured out how to do this? This one’s a little harder. It’s a, how do you kind of bring this one to bear?
Suzzanna Rowold: (16:30)
Well, and as I mentioned, I mean that really is something that needs to be discussed with your employees in both a team concept, as well as an individual concept when you’re having those lunch and learns, your supervision, your department meetings, those need to be the things that are openly talked about because not only do your staff need to know how those relate, but the leader needs to believe that that relates and they need to be able to demonstrate and show that and show that the leader actually values the fact of what purpose each of those staff bring. The reality is no company is going to be successful without those frontline workers. They are your largest volume of staff. They’re your largest workhorses. Like you need that support and efficiency at those levels and they need to know how their behaviors and their expectations trigger over to the bigger picture. And so many just don’t.
Gabe Larsen: (17:27)
Yeah. There’s so many that just don’t. Very true. Okay well, I want to continue. I want to make sure, our time’s close, I want to get to secret three, where do you go for secret three?
Suzzanna Rowold: (17:41)
Sure. So in secret three, this really comes into where you have to invest in your employee’s success. You need to provide opportunity for growth and development. You need to regularly have those conversations. Developing a culture of learning is extremely important for not only internal satisfaction, but external satisfaction with the company. Creating a safe atmosphere for a fail fast mentality. Nobody should feel like they’re going to be retaliated against for bringing up concerns about things that aren’t going well, let alone making a mistake, but setting up the culture that if you make a mistake, the expectation is you learn from it and we don’t continue to make that same mistake. We improve and we continue to drive forward for what our purpose is.
Gabe Larsen: (18:29)
Suzzanna Rowold: (18:30)
I mean, really for myself and for any of the teams that I’ve ever been over, my thought is you don’t leave any room for mediocrity. So if that’s what you’re expecting, that’s what you’re going to get. Just like they say, what you measure is what you get. So set the bar high and strive for it and work together as a team to get there.
Gabe Larsen: (18:53)
Oh, fun. Yeah. I really liked the fail fast mentality. It just, it’s a hard one to get into a culture, but when it’s working, it really creates a different, really creates a different atmosphere. How have you kind of, any examples of how you brought this to life or brought this to bear in different organizations?
Suzzanna Rowold: (19:09)
Yeah. So with this, what I have done in the past is set up an annual customer service training theory and that focused on building quarter after quarter with advanced skill sets, leading up into pulling that into culture. As well as running different decision-making and solution-focused, problem-solving rounds so that when some staff were dealing with certain challenges, it was an open forum and discussion to be able to piggyback off of each other and being able to demonstrate how that can be generalized into more common scenarios that staff are facing. And really helping them understand how to have effective and meaningful resolutions without jeopardizing that integrity of the relationship with whichever stakeholder that was. And really looking at one of the things that are my absolute favorites for this area is a quote by Aristotle. So, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” The leaders need to role model that because after all, all of their staff’s success is a direct reflection of them. And if you look at it that way, that creates a bit of a different mindset for how you’re interacting and developing your staff to really be that extension of you and success.
Gabe Larsen: (20:37)
Okay. Well said. Really fun secrets, Suzzanna, appreciate you jumping on and talking to us about these different things you’ve found to be successful in your career. If somebody, if we, as we wrap here, if somebody wants to reach out to you and get to know you or continue the dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?
Suzzanna Rowold: (20:56)
LinkedIn works great. That’s probably the easiest way to find me.
Gabe Larsen: (21:01)
Awesome. Awesome. And we can, and we’ll make sure we put that in the show notes. So Suzzanna, again, want to thank you for the time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Suzzanna Rowold: (21:10)
Thanks so much, Gabe for having me. Have a wonderful day.
Exit Voice: (21:18)
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