Three steps to make your centre more customer-centric

Welcome back to the second video and blog post in our customer experience in early childhood series. In the last video/blog I introduced you to the world of customer experience or CX for short and why it is a driver of success in the sector. If you missed it I recommend you go back and start there first.

It has been proven time and again that businesses that provide superior experiences outperform the market. The digital age has exaggerated these impacts with top performers being disproportionately rewarded and poor performers being disproportionately punished. Think about a scenario where there are three identical centres in the same town providing three levels of experiences 1) unfriendly with no attention to detail and staff that are disinterested (poor CX), 2) everything is OK, it’s pretty good, but nothing really special (average CX) and 3) where it is always welcoming, staff are engaged and everything is done thoroughly (great CX). Do you think there is going to have 3 very different business outcomes? You bet there will be! Occupancy, staff retention and other key metrics will all positively align with the level of CX provided. The centre that has differentiated on experience will outperform the other two. Put simply, CX impacts the bottom line and that is why it is so important!

Where would your centre factor on this scale? More importantly, how would you know?

Which centre would a new family choose? From our research, we know that prospective families will review more than one centre when they are deciding where to enrol. In most instances, they have pretty much made up their mind before their tour, but that doesn’t stop that visit from being the ‘deal breaker’. This is where they are seeing and more importantly feeling things for themselves. The decision ends up being driven by emotion. Great CX is evident, you can feel it and these are the centres that will win the enquiry every time.

If we want to improve our customer experience, then we need to improve how people feel – remember that customer emotion is the primary driver of CX, making it more important than the other two elements, success and effort. Then what is it that drives how people feel? It’s the people that you come across that is the primary driver. Over 94% of conversations about customer experiences are about people. Think about the typical family experience with your centre on a single day. They will arrive in the morning walk through reception, walk to their room, walk through the play area, back through reception, receive communication through the day, return to the centre in the afternoon, walk to their room and back out again. Through every one of these touch points they are interacting with your team, there could be 10 or more touch points a day.

Step #1 – Start with your team!

If experiences are driven by people and the amount of interactions are so high, then your team either make or break your centre’s CX. This is why the first step you need to take to improve your CX is to start with your team!

I love this quote by Simon Sinek, a leading author and thinker, he says ‘if you care less about your staff then they become careless’. It must be one of the biggest challenges in the sector at the moment, finding the right employees and driving high employee engagement. A global research firm called Gallup published their most recent State of the Workforce report where they found that only 14% of employees in Australia are classified as engaged! That is only 1 in every 7 people! Of the remaining 6, 5 put in the time, but not the energy or passion and the last 1 is unhappy and often resentful.

Thinking about your parents interactions on a normal day, which of these 7 employees are they going to be coming across and how are they going to be feeling afterwards? Who is communicating with your families via Storypark and what are they saying?

It comes down to selecting the right people for your team and driving the right culture. But how do you know if you have the right culture or if your employees are engaged? 

Leading CX businesses measure their employee engagement regularly and focus on their employee experiences, making them vital measurements to assess and continually improve. You simply cannot achieve great customer experiences without great employee experiences. It all starts with your culture so this is the first thing to measure.

Step #2 – Understand where you are at

Next, you need to understand where you are at. I like to say, don’t tell me what you think, tell me what you know. CX management is about turning the lights on and creating some measurements to how people feel so it can become something more tangible. How do you do this? Well you need to implement some kind of survey program to check in with your families and uncover how they are feeling about the important parts of their experiences with you.

This provides a marker from which to move forward from. The value and impact of the results will depend on how it is conducted and what questions are asked. The key is that you want to uncover what we call actionable insights. These insights are not always bad, in fact in most instances they are great. It is what you do with these insights that counts and that is where the third step comes into play.

Step #3 – Close the loop

Once you have surveyed your families, you need to do something about it – this also applies to what you have learnt from your employee experiences. This is called ‘closing the loop’.

After a survey program we always recommend a broad communication to identify what you have learnt and what you will be doing. This can be at a high level, but it promotes the fact that you listened. This does put you on notice however, so whatever you do commit to doing must be done.

If specific families share their issues or concerns, then they have provided you with a valuable gift to win their loyalty and admiration, as opposed to not addressing it and causing frustration or worse, reason for them to leave. By closing the loop in a constructive, thoughtful and thorough way, you have the opportunity to show them just how much you care and how good you are. We know that even at centres that are operating at capacity, nearly 1 in 10 families are actively unhappy about something at any point in time. Therefore, it should be expected that you will uncover issues, big and small, and if you work through these issues then you are winning these ‘at risk’ families back in your favour.

You can also look at levels of family engagement in Storypark using the ‘reports’ tools to identify if family sentiment might be changing. Storypark as a tool provides a multitude of opportunities to communicate with families in a meaningful way, and if you know specific families are uncontent, you can focus on re-engaging them both in person and via Storypark.

The fun part of closing the loop is to shine the spotlight back on the team where compliments and appreciation have been shared. Parents will tell you why they love your centre so much and this is both assuring and motivating, but it also provides a road map for what to continue to focus on. Share specific feedback with staff, encourage them to keep doing these things and recognise them when they do. Great customer experience is not just about fixing experience gaps, but it is about doing more of what delights customers. In both instances, the ledger of your reputation is moving further towards that centre that is differentiated to its competitors!

A recap of the three steps:

  1. Start with your team – measure their experiences
  2. Survey your families – measure what matters
  3. Close the loop – act on the insights you uncover

While there are only three steps here, they are not insignificant undertakings. So here are an alternative 3 steps that you can do straight away that follow the same approach, but are easy to do:

  1. Appreciate an employee – specifically share what they are doing that you value, then continue the conversation with some kind of open questions (such as ‘what one thing would you like to see changed that would make you enjoy your role more?). You will learn from the discussion and improve their engagement at the same time.
  2. Thank a customer for choosing you to care for their child, then continue to talk to them by asking open questions about what they appreciate or what they would like improved. Again, you will learn while also strengthening a connection.
  3. Look for inspiration – if you see something that impresses you somewhere outside of your centre, then look at how you could implement it at your centre, keep your eyes open for great experiences.

This topic is a really big one and we have created a free 5 part video series that provides more tips and details that you might be interested in. Click here to gain free access.

In the next module we will get a little more specific and walk through some tips on how to improve your customer experience using Storypark.

Tom Scantlebury

CEO

Sky Blue Customer Experience Services

Posted by Guest Contributor


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