Losing client or employee engagement? — Here’s one way to get it back

“ When customers are cordoned off from a company’s operation, they are less likely to fully understand and appreciate the value being created.” — Ryan Buell

Have you ever stopped to think about the last time you had a meal at your favorite Japanese restaurant?

Typically, you walk in, a nice lady or gentleman takes your order and, in ten minutes, you’ve got a steamy to-go box of fried rice and Teriyaki chicken and you’re out the door.

Then there are the other guys; the ones who have you sit down around a massive steel grill while you wait for the chef to fetch the ingredients for your order from the kitchen. Upon their return, they fire up the grill and begin a theatrical performance in which knives and spatulas are flung up into the air, a stack of onion rings becomes a volcano and rice grains appear to be dancing onto your plate.

Ultimately, as a customer, the outcome is the same, but in the second example, you’re able to appreciate the end result a little more because you saw the process and the effort that went into it; the second restaurant gave you operational transparency. This same idea holds true in business.

By creating windows into and out of processes, customers can see and appreciate the value of the service or product they’re purchasing while allowing the people working behind the scenes to see the people that their efforts are affecting.

When the area between what a customer has invested in a solution and the final product becomes too grey, they are less likely to perceive the product or service to be something of great value.

They’re also less likely to feel satisfied with the vendor in general and are less likely to want to pay for future services as time goes on.

Additionally, organizations providing little to no operational transparency run the risk of having to deal with disgruntled employees who feel underappreciated because they never see the actual impact of their work, and this can be a legitimate challenge for those who hold leadership positions in back-office settings.

Don’t get me wrong; separating customers from operations via time, physical distance or automation can create value, however this tactic must be employed with great care because the further removed a customer becomes from a process, the likelier it is for that distance to translate into negative impacts on client experience, expectation and engagement.

Moderation is key: Be strategic about WHAT information you share with your clients and/or employees as well as HOW you share it.

With regard to sharing just the right amount of data, Harvard Business School associate professor, Ryan Buell and doctoral student, Michelle Shell, carried out an analysis in which they studied a credit union providing transparency into their loan decision process.

Their findings determined that, in an automated loan decision process, a standardized alert for a customer’s credit being run actually raised levels of anxiety. However, when the alert was accompanied by a personalized message from an actual person who offered advisory services as well as a phone number they could be reached at, customers felt much better about the process. In fact, they concluded that, had a loan offer been extended to the customer after having been offered transparency from an adviser, they were 16% more likely to accept it.

In order to actively engage with a product or service, people must be able to connect with it, even if it is the minimal acceptable amount.

It can be argued that technology has advanced much quicker than we had expected and, along the way, we’ve lost a great deal of the human touch in business due to the bells and whistles that drive automation processes.

In more recent times, the innovation and convenience that remove both clients and customers from key parts of processes have been seen as key factors that demonstrate value.

However, with respect to that idea, Buell states the following in an article he wrote for the Harvard Business Review:

“…the apparently effortless abundance and convenience also make it easy for consumers to take work for granted and for employees to lose out on the learning and motivation that customer connections afford.”

The boom of a globalized economy that has exponentially produced more efficient ways to do business through innovation has left enterprises of all shapes and sizes drawing the curtains on more and more parts of their internal processes and, while these practices may prove to be beneficial in certain contexts, it’s also worth taking the time to identify the areas of operations that, if shared, could foster engagement for both clients and employees.


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