The future of HR is in its ability to make customers happy. A growing number of companies are realizing there’s more to human resources than recruiting, supporting, and retaining employees. HR has a unique ability to help recruit, support, and retain customers as well.
SHRM has found that HR professionals at the most successful companies understand their customers better than other companies. They also take a customer-centric approach to human resources.
If the saying is true that every department is the marketing department, then the ultimate test of HR is to make your company more successful in recruiting, supporting, and retaining customers. After all, it doesn’t do your company much good if it excels internally but flounders externally.
HR directors are in a unique position to delight and retain customers in ways that no one else in your organization can do. Let’s take a look at some of those opportunities.
Tearing Down Silos
Human Resources directors can improve the customer experience with their companies simply by increasing collaboration and communication between key departments.
At some companies, customer marketing and services like technical support are within the same department. Normally, Marketing and Technical Support don’t talk much to each other, and they exist in their own silos. These companies have realized that tearing down those silos creates new opportunities to serve customers better.
When you align these departments so closely together, you put your finger on the pulse of your customers. As a team, you can make your customers happy, capture a testimonial from them, and write a success story within days.
In many companies, the Marketing department is so far removed from Customer Support that it isn’t practical to get a success story or testimonial without a lot of effort. And the Support managers are so far removed from Marketing, they don’t even think about getting permission to quote their customers when they do give great feedback. It’s just not part of what they do.
Customer support will reach a whole new level of service as well. Account managers can share color and context with the technical support team about the customers that are being technically supported. For example, an account manager might say, “This customer is an evangelist for us. Here are the issues they’ve been having, we need to be sure we’re addressing them.”
As a result, your technical support team approaches their work as more than merely resolving a ticket and closing it out. They provide more complete support, because they understand the broader needs of customers.
Voice of the Customer
As you tear down silos within your organization, you create the opportunity to understand the voice of the customer (VOC). VOC research provides a 360-degree view of your customers. The idea is to go beyond customer surveys and to do a deep dive into every available channel that can provide insights into your customers. That might include:
- Social listening
- Product usage
- Customer service data
- Online reviews
Take advantage of every channel that can help you to assemble a complete understanding of your customers, their context, and their pain points.
Consider holding a weekly VOC virtual stand-up meeting. This can be a short 15-minute call with one purpose: to share what you’re discovering about your customers. This helps everyone who engages with customers to keep their finger on the pulse of their top concerns.
Hiring and Professional Development
It probably won’t surprise you to say that this customer-centric approach to HR has implications for the way you hire and train your employees.
If you’re building an integrated team of customer success professionals, you’ll look for a specific set of characteristics in your applicants. Your ideal candidates will be customer-centric and will value cross departmental collaboration. They’ll also be good communicators who can share knowledge and make key connections that help improve customer experiences.
You may need to restructure job descriptions and work more closely with department managers to understand their staffing needs. Spend time with marketing and customer success managers. Find out what their goals are and talk with them about strategies to fill open positions. Identify with them the types of people to look for. Collaborate together to develop a hiring plan that helps you achieve your customer success goals.
Also reevaluate your professional development program and find opportunities to develop the skills that can improve customer success and customer delight for every job role.
When it comes to improving employee performance, no one has the expertise or the insights that your customers have. Customers can spot problems and identify solutions that your internal programs won’t provide. Your customers know better than anyone exactly what they want and expect when engaging with your company.
If you want to train your employees to provide the best possible sales and service experience, tap into your greatest training resource: your customers.
Many companies use customer feedback, support call monitoring, and NPS scores. That’s a great first step, but it leaves all the interpretation on your company. Take customer feedback up a notch by inviting deeper input from them.
For example, invite key customers to help design performance appraisals and training programs. Not only will you reach a whole new level of employee development, you’ll also increase customer retention and loyalty.
One area that’s easy to overlook is your corporate policies. Some organizations have policies that are so tight, there isn’t room for employees to improve customer engagement. Only certain people can use social media, or customer interactions are limited to specific job roles. Perhaps individual contributors don’t have authority or autonomy to make real-time decisions that could help make customers happy.
Review your company policies to make sure they allow you to make the changes you want to initiate so that your people are empowered to serve customers more effectively.
HR’s New Value
In an economy where customers can easily flip back and forth between providers, cutting churn rate is essential. Every department becomes the marketing department, and that includes Human Resources.
As an HR director, you have an opportunity to prove your value to your company and make a meaningful impact on business growth. By taking a customer-centric approach to HR, you can make strategic adjustments within your organization to improve customer engagement and retention.
As you explore innovative ways to impact your company, trust IDI as your partner. We’ve been in the human resources and payroll industry for more than 30 years and we have the expertise to provide solutions you can count on. Discover what IDI can do for you!