Being a customer service or sales advisor is tough. Natalie Calvert, Director of CX High Performance explains what advisors want their managers to do - and why giving them what they ask for can transform performance.

I always remember an advisor I met in Doncaster.  As she left for the day I said ‘thank you for today and have a good evening’ – she stopped, turned around - and looked at me.

What do employees wish their customer leaders would do?

What do employees wish their customer leaders would do?

She said ‘you’re the first person here to talk to me today – I arrived at 8.55am, logged on, looked at my PC all day, spoke to loads of customers, took my breaks and then logged out and I am now on my way home', she continued, 'it's like that every day here...’

She was 21, had worked there for three years and she thought that was how it was.

Not only was I saddened by this - but totally struck on how easy it is for her to be this way and for her manager and the company not to change things. But we all know where this leads to in the long run.

Recently we conducted a series of exit interviews and employee surveys. When directly asked ‘what would have made the difference’ there were si common themes that kept coming up - on how the managers could have made a real difference to the staff – and a different outcome for all.

Here they are, some may resonate with your own organisation … simply put, managers need to:

1.  Inspire Commitment
Most leaders know the business benefits when their CX people go the extra mile – when they do that little bit more, find that additional item, cut through some red tape and make things happen.

Managers must show committment to encourage commitment

Managers must show committment to encourage commitment

When I ask CX employees why they ‘go the extra mile’ I always get one of two answers, it is either ‘well I know I shouldn’t have and it was in-spite of the organisation’ or because ‘that’s how we work around here’.

I know that when it’s the ‘how we work around here’ answer that the CX Leader has truly inspired, led (and empowered) their team managers and frontline staff – and demonstrated this cultural commitment at every opportunity, every day.

2.  Model Behaviours
Mahatma Gandhi famously said ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.

Gandhi's wisdom applies to CX performance

Gandhi's wisdom applies to CX performance

However, all too often this is easier said than done. Many of the best organisations define behaviour, engrave it into job specs, review against behaviours – some even pay accordingly.

BUT the problem is this is often far too generic to lead a real customer-centric CX team effectively. So when it comes to Model Behaviours for CX teams:

- Create a framework that clearly articulates Model Behaviours for staff and customers (the challenge here is to get one voice for both)
- Build briefing and training that support and underpin behaviours
- Know that gaining team ‘buy in’ takes time – and commitment
- Embed behaviours into the culture, every process and every standard – and in every way of working, every day
- Recognise, thank and reward at every opportunity
- Authentically and positively live Model Behaviours 

3.  Know the Customer
Yes, yes, of course we know our customers! I hear you cry…..well, let me share with you that out of the hundreds of organisations that I have worked with there have been only three - yes three - where the frontline staff really know their customers:

- Know about their likes, wants and needs
- Know about their customer’s behaviours
- Know about how to position products, services, unique service differentiators and propositions
- Know about their demographic profiling and what it means to be able to sell, serve and look after their customers well
- Know the different skills involved in looking after different customers – including how to diffuse situations and complaints

Leaders should explain how the customer thinks

Leaders should explain how the customer thinks

CX Managers can really help staff to understand how the Customer thinks, behaves and acts. In turn this takes the guessing out of service, and makes the job easier, less stressful and ultimately puts the CX employee in a better situation to provide great service, consistently.

A good indicator that you have this ‘on track’ is to check that your customer KPI metrics are all delivering at high-performance levels (including retention, complaints and compensation).

4.  Empower Advisors
Empowerment means different things to different teams. Last year I worked with a team that felt empowered if they could decide when to go to the loo. Another team felt empowered when the compensation figure was raised from £50 to £100 – interestingly the total compensation offered dropped by nearly 50%.

The key here is to figure out what empowerment means to your team and organisation – then deliver it.

Empowerment without a clear framework is CHAOS

Most teams want to be empowered to do things for customers. To help customers, to succeed more with customers. As transactional work becomes more automated, the levels of empowerment will also need to shift.

A reminder too that managers and team managers need to be empowered as well. And there are many ways to achieve this. Personally, I believe the 5 Levels of Empowerment is a brilliant tool to build trust and develop capability. It works well with both new and seasoned managers:


Level 1: Act within agreed limits, no reporting back

Level 2: Act, within agreed limits and report progress

Level 3:  Recommend, check in and agree (may be overruled)

Level 4: Examine, propose solutions to manager for action

Level 5:  Examine, collect and report back

5.  Communicate and Manage Performance


Across the UK just over 33% of all school leavers DO NOT have an A-C grade maths GCSE according to the government 2016 published exam results. It is fair to say that it is more than likely that a good number of CX employees are in this category – therefore the role of the leader in communicating what performance is, what it means and how to effect change is critical.

Visual flare is critical to help understand performance data

Visual flare is critical to help understand performance data

It is great to know that the AHT is 321 seconds or that retention is up by 0.63% but what does it mean, what change is required and how can the CX advisor improve?

9 useful tips on performance communication:
- Use graphs/charts to explain – use colour
- Create one central UP TO DATE board for performance communication
- Does it pass the BOARD test - if a BOARD member walked what messages would they get from what you have written
- Regular forums/meetings – have a communications structure to ensure cascade
- Reward improvement
- Have a glide path for what’s expected
- Be fair and be seen to be fair
- Team Huddles are crucial - twice a day for five mins is all it takes
- Celebrate your success

Never underestimate the power of managing performance as a key communication tool to check in, grow and develop staff.

NOTE: IF performance management in your organisation has negative meanings of a way of putting staff on performance plans then please rename your performance communications.

6.  Get Ahead of the Game
The CX world is talking about technology taking over humans, robots ruling the waves and chatbots being the answer to everything. Hold on a minute, that is a little way off for most companies – even the most customer-centric organisations. However, your frontline staff are already feeling some fear and insecurity – as indeed they have been for the last few years.

Great people want to work for great leaders in great organisations – I am sure you have lots of plans afoot for the future, many involving digital and transformation. However nearly all transformations involve taking your people with you and changing ingrained behaviours along the way.

To get ahead of the game:
- Know your customer
- Equip and skill your leaders to lead the future
- Ensure you are powering your people and resources
- Know your CX team value and return – to your customers and organisation.

Now is the time to get CX Teams and Leaders skilled to lead for today and tomorrow's CX landscape, as it's going to be more complex, more challenging and, ultimately better for everyone.

Thank you for taking the time to read this posting, please do get in touch if you'd like to explore these ideas further and how your organisation may benefit at natalie@cxhighperformance.com, call me on 07785 228844 or use the contact button below.