Driving a Customer Experience Culture

“The workshops were tailored to our business, hit the nail on the head in terms of the brief and delivered some great outcomes that helped shape some huge improvements in our service delivery, commitment to our customers and some positive change in how my leaders lead their teams.” 

Testimonial from our Local Government – Leisure and Aquatics client regarding the recent training program designed and delivered by Marana.

Our Client

Our client provides Leisure and Aquatics facilities across multiple locations in their local government area.  Visitors of all ages are welcomed and programs and services are offered including learn to swim, aquatic facilities, fitness classes, gym services and a golf course.

The Challenge

The Executive Team have a comprehensive direction and strategic plan for the Leisure and Aquatics facilities and required practical skills to support People Leaders and staff to lead and drive change. Part of the strategic direction is to have a Customer Experience Culture at the core of everything Leisure and Aquatics do.

It was identified that some staff may require assistance with adjusting to and embracing culture change including new ways of working. People Leaders needed the skills and knowledge to lead and drive change and staff would require the skills and understanding to implement this into both internal and external customer interactions.

Some of the key challenges were:

  • Mystery Shopper survey results revealed that customers wanted staff to be able to assist with their enquiries at the first instance.  Staff were accustomed to helping only with enquiries for their section, and weren’t working as a whole team across the Aquatics and Leisure Team.
  • Staff understanding the importance of taking ownership for consistent service delivery and how their interactions reflect the Council as a whole.  It is important to promote that Leisure and Aquatics are not separate to Council, they are Council.
  • People Leaders required the practical skills and knowledge to create, develop and maintain a Customer Experience Culture. This includes being able to facilitate difficult conversations with staff when actions or behaviour were not in line with agreed expectations.
  • Staff required understanding of how Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) fit in with the bigger picture and People Leaders required skills to measure the quality of customer experience / service and how to effectively use measures to support a positive customer experience culture.
  • The Customer Experience Charter was identified as outdated and required revising to underpin the Customer Experience Culture change.

The Solution

For People Leaders this consisted of a two-day Leading a Customer Experience Culture program that was designed to support participants to lead, champion, develop and maintain a customer experience culture.

During the program People Leaders developed skills in identifying customer expectations and linking these to the Customer Service Charter, working with and measuring KPIs, understanding change management, skills to praise and recognise staff as well as how to provide redirection when standards are not being met.  It also included the importance of being detailed and specific when providing feedback related to service delivery.

For staff, this consisted of 3 x half-day Living a Customer Experience Culture workshops in a series that were delivered two weeks apart to allow for the application of skills and reflection in the workplace. 

The staff sessions were designed to equip staff to deliver consistently high levels of customer service and to effectively manage difficult customer situations. Participants were provided with the time and space within the workshops to practice applying methods to practical experiences they would likely encounter in their role. They were also provided with an understanding of change and strategies to deal with and drive change.

The Result

All participant outputs were captured and provided to our client to inform the new Customer Experience Charter. Staff felt valued that their input would be included in the development of a new charter. The engagement of participants in the workshop within the Leisure and Aquatics Team fostered a “One Team” approach and provided a valuable collaborative learning opportunity.

Our client has provided the following testimonial regarding the assignment:

Sarah, Mary and the team from Marana are incredible at what they do. I have never worked with consultants when it comes to training and development, that have put so much time and effort into understanding our business to tailor training and workshops to get the best possible outcomes. Sarah delivered some engaging, interactive and specialised workshops for my leadership team and frontline staff in the areas of customer experience and change management, and the team members that participated are still talking about and referring to what they learnt in the session’s months down the track. 

The workshops were tailored to our business, hit the nail on the head in terms of the brief and delivered some great outcomes that helped shape some huge improvements in our service delivery, commitment to our customers and some positive change in how my leaders lead their teams. 

The workshops were tailored to our business, hit the nail on the head in terms of the brief and delivered some great outcomes that helped shape some huge improvements in our service delivery, commitment to our customers and some positive change in how my leaders lead their teams. 

Manager Leisure and Aquatics

Making Flexible Working Arrangements Work

Working Flexibly

Over the past few years there has been a growing demand for more flexible work arrangements – and then came Covid-19.  Very quickly most of us had to work from home full-time and adapt to remote working.  Now with people increasingly returning to the office, it is clear flexible working has become the new “normal” and it is a huge incentive to attract talent and maintain the workforce.

At Marana we adopted flexible working practices a number of years ago and along the way we have learned how to make it work for us.  We are now working with clients to make their adoption of flexible work practices a success for staff, teams and the organisation and its customers and/or clients.

To start with, it is important for organisations to meet the legal requirements.  The Fair Work Ombudsman outlines these on their website https://www.fairwork.gov.au/tools-and-resources/best-practice-guides/flexible-working-arrangements.

Beyond complying with legal issues, our recent experiences with clients suggests the following approaches make flexible working positive for everyone.

1.  Decide which flexible options the organisation and its work can support and then develop a Flexible Working Policy and communicate it to staff.  For many organisations, it may not be possible to have everyone work from home all the time and it’s unlikely you cannot have some of your staff work flexibly.  It is important the Policy outlines who can apply for flexible work and what arrangements can be adopted, how to apply, what the decision-making process for an application will be and how it will be monitored and reviewed.  The Policy helps managers and staff understand the process and the reasoning behind decisions made and assists in achieving a consistent approach.

2.  Have a transparent flexible work assessment system that can review which parts of the job can be performed remotely and which in the office or workplace.  It will be important to consider the deliverables or outputs of people’s work and the customer’s or client’s needs in this. It is essential for you to have coverage for client-facing work.

3.  Check whether you have the systems and technology to support the arrangements you want, including methods for knowledge transfer and training.  Staff may need additional hardware for working remotely and some may require additional strategies and support when poor internet connection impacts productivity.  This is especially the case for some parts of regional NSW – staff often tell us about their “technology rage”!

4.  Ensure staff have a remote workspace that is ergonomic and fit for purpose.  We have heard stories of people in share accommodation working whilst perched on the end of the bed.  In other cases, clients are telling us about muscle tension and hip pain as a result of sitting for extended periods of time.  Develop a checklist of what is required for safe effective working and discuss with staff what set-up they have and what you are prepared to provide.

5.  Ensure that you have a Work-from-Home Security Policy that clearly outlines the rules regarding the use of devices and internet security guidelines. Importantly, the Work-from-Home Security Policy should provide guidance on how to work in a home environment that may be shared with others. We have heard about clients where the nature of the work is very sensitive requiring careful consideration of what can be seen on a screen and/or overheard in terms of conversations.  One client has told us when working and discussing something in a public venue, they were approached by a member of the public saying “you shouldn’t be discussing that type of thing here!”

6.  Good people management skills are critical.  Flexible working requires managers to have strong facilitation skills, being able to coach and delegate effectively, give feedback, communicate through multiple media, and focus on outcomes and performance measures rather than on time spent in the office.  This may require some management training or coaching so that People Leaders are confident in their ability to manage and/or supervise the team working remotely.

7.  Trust and empower staff to do their work without constant monitoring.  If people understand the organisation’s goals and have clear performance expectations, where they work is less important.  This does, however, require People Leaders to set and/or clarify expectations, facilitate regular feedback and encourage staff to perform at their best, which creates a high performance team culture.

8.  Ensure you have role model leaders at all levels who work flexibly and show it can work.

9.  Ensure staff don’t miss out on knowledge transfer opportunities whether it be training, coaching and job opportunities just because they are not in the office or workplace 5 days a week. Where you wish to address any performance issues, it is vital to keep in touch to build skills and confidence.  Regular coaching and one-on-ones can be conducted live online using tools like Microsoft Teams or Zoom.  Miscommunication and misinterpretation are more common online and it is important to recognise the value of making the time to travel and engage in face-to-face dialogue.

10.  Create opportunities for the team to all come together in one place and ensure time spent together is efficient. Some staff may have to alter their normal arrangements, say for child-care or drop off and pick-up of children, to come in for a team meeting, so ensure it is productive and their effort in changing their routine is worthwhile.   Discuss and agree what type of team social activities can work for people.

11.  Agree on your team methods of communication and how you will know where people are, say in case of a problem needing their input or an emergency.  The use of shared calendars and/or online tools can be great for this.  What are the boundaries around people being contacted – when is it too late or too early?  What constitutes “time pollution” or “over-working”?  Agree service standards for how quickly emails or texts might be answered to avoid frustration and misunderstandings.

Marana has been supporting clients with “Working Flexibly for People Leaders” and “Working Flexibly for Teams” workshops delivered face-to-face and Live Online.  We’ve seen that when flexible arrangements are in place and work well, everyone benefits.

Other sites for reference: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/covid-19-information-workplaces/industry-information/general-industry-information/working-home

https://7news.com.au/sunrise/on-the-show/business-launches-sunny-day-policy-allowing-staff-to-take-paid-days-off-to-enjoy-weather-c-1778406

Stephen Bevan of Lancaster University did research as part of ‘Work After Lockdown’ in the UK and discusses his findings, He found among other things that 90% of people reported the same productivity in lockdown as before, however there were some mental health impacts of working remotely which will need addressing. (Remote working: why some people are less productive at home than others – new research (theconversation.com).

Strategies for Support in Our Time of Uncertainty

Support and Empathy

Over the past few days we have received an influx of promotional marketing material  – one reads “Massive changes have come to the workplace.  In the past weeks, these times of uncertainty require your workforce to be flexible and resilient, and to reskill for the changes ahead.”  It went on to say; “The most successful organisations are the ones that can navigate uncertainty, tackle challenges and pull together to drive innovation.”

Well I think we can all say we are currently facing uncertainty and challenges that we have never personally imagined or experienced before.  Every day people are having to change ways of living and working.  There is a lot of fear, concern, confusion and sorrow out there about how lives are being affected and changed and the impact this pandemic is having on all of us, right round the world.  For those lucky enough to generate an income, it is hard to focus when we don’t know what the next moment will bring and we hear so much negative news.

During this time it is heartening to hear from clients, their stories of adaptation; learning about remote working set-ups; what it’s like to work along-side or opposite a partner (pets included) and what can be accomplished through on-line platforms such as Zoom, Skype etc.  Interestingly for a number of our clients, especially in Local and State Government, internal discussions are taking place around a key question; “What is an essential service?”

For Team Leaders, Supervisors, Managers and Directors discussing tougher questions such as, ‘Is our role essential and what is our purpose?’ can evoke a lot of fear for already anxious staff.  People have heightened levels of emotions related to remote working, the challenges of home schooling, what to do over the up-coming holiday period and how to care for the vulnerable, including elderly parents.  We also have a generation of people in management and supervisory positions with family members at home who are facing their first experience of a recession / major economic downturn.  It is an incredibly difficult time for everyone right now and for many, the discomfort that people now feel is similar to grief.  We feel the world has changed, and it has.  We trust this is temporary, but we don’t know how long for, it doesn’t feel that way and we realise things will be different in the future.

This is a challenging time for people leaders with emotions for everyone running high and very close to the surface.  It is important that Team Leaders, Supervisors, Managers and Directors let people constructively vent their feelings and be heard more than ever.  Displaying empathy now is critical for staff to feel they are supported, understood and truly listened to, which means listening carefully and acknowledging feelings and not judging or dismissing emotions.

So what can people leaders do or say to support and assist staff:

  • Let people constructively vent their feelings without interrupting and validate feelings.
  • Focus on single-tasking as opposed to multi-tasking.  There can be many distractions for staff whilst working remotely so when on the phone or online system the focus has to be on the other person and what they are saying. This can be a challenge when others may also be at home working, schooling and/or there are distractions in the background.  Using headphones, minimising other applications, turning off other mobile devices and “ping” notifications, shutting doors and thoughtful workspace arrangements may help here.
  • We often say take a deep breath when things are overwhelming and this is a great thing to do to calm the mind, support physical health and aid regaining focus. We would encourage you and others to BREATHE maybe use a meditation app that might work for you and/or your staff.  Ask people “What can we both do to help support you focus and to feel OK this week?” and commit to making this part of a weekly check-in.
  • Maintain team rituals. Consider what can still be done to celebrate monthly birthdays to accommodate social distancing or Friday social drinks via on-line platforms.  A number of clients are encouraging staff within teams to share a happy picture each day and/or week.  I’ve even heard of a remote team wearing the same colour top on a particular day.  The team are based in Orange, NSW.  I’m not sure the colour was orange!
  • Help people with paradigms of control. What are staff concerned about but cannot control? What can be influenced and what can be controlled?   Coach people on actions that can be controlled to build their sphere of influence.  Support people to focus on what can be achieved in the week and/or a day.  Celebrate daily completion of a will-do list as opposed to focusing on the never ending to-do list.
  • If appropriate now could be time to work on those jobs or tasks the team always means to do but doesn’t have time for. Try asking “What work or jobs have we often wanted to do, systems to improve or cheat sheets to develop but lacked the time, that we could start on now?”
  • If you decide your team may not be seen as an essential service you can focus staff on seeing how they can help others and feel useful. Try finding this out by asking “What can we do this week to make ourselves useful and supportive to the organisation and our other colleagues?”
  • This is a time for us to be kind to ourselves and others, to praise and appreciate our colleagues and our amazing front-line workers. Patience while we all work it out is important.  Recognise people and provide sincere positive feedback “I know it has been a really tough couple of weeks with the transition to this way of working.  Thanks for quickly adapting and having things up and running.” 

Reaching out for help is a sign of strength.  Please feel free to reach out to us at any time if you need assistance.  Look after yourself, your teams and your colleagues in the coming weeks and/or months.  Our thoughts are with you.  Keep safe and socially conscious – Sarah and Patricia

The following Harvard Business Review articles below have some great suggestions to help:

https://hbr.org/2020/03/are-you-leading-through-the-crisis-or-managing-the-response

https://hbr.org/2020/03/coping-with-fatigue-fear-and-panic-during-a-crisis

https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief

Resilience

Resilience

Why is it that some people thrive in the face of challenge and adversity at work, while others panic and withdraw into themselves? And why is it some people appear to get ahead while others tread water, or slowly drown in the turbulent waters of life? Resilience is not a characteristic gifted to some individuals and not others. The key is that resilience is not a passive quality, but an active process.

In organisations it is fair to say that the effectiveness of large scale change is in some part due to the resilience of individuals to cope with the stress entailed in implementing or being on the receiving end of the change. While people can experience some stress as energising and exciting, too much stress is disabling and the circumstances that brought this about seen as adversity. Everyone has different resilience abilities and resources and luckily they can be built and enhanced.

Resilience is the ability to adapt well to stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy. It means that, overall, you remain stable and maintain healthy levels of psychological and physical functioning in the face of disruption or chaos. If you have resilience, you may experience temporary disruptions in your life when faced with challenges, for instance, you may have a few weeks when you don’t sleep as well as you typically do. But you’re able to continue on with daily tasks, remain generally optimistic about life and rebound quickly. Resilience is very important to assist people cope with change and deal with stressful situations.

Resilience can help people deal with disappointments and setbacks without becoming depressed or negative, endure loss, chronic stress, traumatic events and other challenges. It will enable individuals to develop a reservoir of internal resources that can be drawn on, and it may protect against developing some mental illnesses. Resilience helps people survive challenges and even thrive in the midst of chaos and hardship. Resilience is a form of emotional buoyancy.

So how can we develop it? Some actions and topics for training that help build resilience are:

Project Management – Using the 3 C’s

Project Management

The number of projects and the amount of time spent managing projects is increasing in business worldwide to provide focus and flexibility. Some organisations have marshalled most of their resources into multidisciplinary project teams. Projects are often critical components of the performing organisation’s business strategy, so strong skills in project management are important employee attributes.

  • Why do organisations need project management?
  • How can good project management skills help you?
  • Do you want to tackle projects with confidence?

People are faced with a range of projects throughout their life. In organisations in the current fast paced business world it is critical that results are delivered on time, within budget and to the right quality. Increasingly managers and staff are involved in managing projects even though they may not be called project managers. By applying the skills of project management in your personal and professional life you can maximise performance and ensure the best results every time. Project management enables you to focus on priorities, monitor progress and performance, overcome difficulties and problems and adapt to change. In fact nowadays projects are the vehicle for driving change in many organisations.

Key aspects of running projects effectively include:

  • having a clear scope of work with a defined start and end
  • developing a realistic project plan with a clear method for meeting the project objectives
  • acquiring and managing project resources effectively including people, time, money, equipment and supplies
  • developing a high performing project team
  • effectively engaging and communicating with all project stakeholders
  • minimising the risks of conducting the project
  • ensuring quality is defined and achieved.

Nowadays projects are undertaken at all levels of the organisation. They may involve a single person or many thousands. They may be completed quickly or take years to complete. Projects may involve a single unit of one organisation or may cross organisational boundaries. Some examples of projects include: