There is often a divide between where impact is felt when organisations start to transform. For staff at the frontline, it’s crucial to get the communication right from the get-go and the messages might not be what you think.
As is the nature of transformational change initiatives, they often come top-down from head office and roll out across the organisation. They are the mechanism of strategy, driving to a new bold future that leadership has targeted.
This is not to say that ideas cannot be generated from across the organisation; they can. However, they must still be ratified and funded, aligned to strategy, and endorsed for execution.
It’s not right or wrong; it’s just how things work.
Perspectives from the Leadership and Frontline Matter
At the head office, the conversation revolves around strategy, product and service transformation, digital transformation, customer experience, commercial models, and many other necessary business terms that explain the complexity and direction.
Bulletin readers will understand that to make effective change, the ‘why’ needs to be communicated to those who will be impacted by it if only because knowing the reason is very important to get them to buy in to the change. Typical messages will include business imperatives, such as being more efficient, more automated, more sustainable, and more streamlined, which will improve the customer experience, reduce cost, and realise other benefits for the organisation.
But the ‘why’ for the frontline staff might be quite different to the ‘why’ for the head office personnel. This does not mean the front-line workers are any less bought in or committed to the organisation.
Again, it’s not right or wrong; it’s just how things work.
Consider the following perspectives:
By nature, the leadership view is inherently embedded in the strategic value and intent of the change in how the decision was made. It is typically focused on how the change affects the entire system.
Here’s an example: A new Point of Sale solution is being implemented, and those leading the project will want to ensure all key customer use cases are covered and that it is a good decision to offer a desirable return on investment. The focus is on the customer, but not at an individual level; instead, it looks across all customers or target market groups.
The frontline view is focused on the customer and is inherently more transactional, given that frontline staff help individual customers at various points in time. Their needs are different; they want to be able to solve a customer problem that’s in front of them and provide the support needed.
Taking the POS example before, the frontline teams generally have limited visibility of the ‘behind the scenes’ challenges that might go into managing a POS system. However, operationally, they are great and understand how to use the tools available to achieve customer outcomes.
The difference in perspectives highlights the different ‘whys’ that need to be factored in change management messages. Communicating to frontline teams with the head office message might land flat, and whilst it might be important contextually, they will naturally think about how the change will play out when they are face-to-face with customers.
But therein lies the value.
The frontline staff see, hear, and feel the customer experience firsthand and harnessing that insight into projects can be the difference between making an impact or falling short. Underestimating the impact of frontline engagement on customer experience needs to be factored in. An interaction between two happy humans is more likely to result in a happy customer experience. An unhappy customer is far more likely to be turned around if they are met by a patient, knowledgeable, and empathetic frontline worker than one who is unhappy.
Whilst these are over-simplified examples of human emotions and interaction, the logic in the relationships between emotional state and interactions holds.
Solving Frontline Problems to Improve Customer Experience.
Perhaps this is the secret sauce to the next generation of projects and business improvements. Many projects set out to make operational efficiencies. Some projects focus on customer-centred design and aim to directly improve all kinds of customer-facing elements, such as facilities and digital assets.
Maybe it is projects that help the frontline workers serve customers that is key and let the customer experience uplift go leaps and bounds from there.
Quay Consulting has more than 17 years’ experience in project delivery, including the often-complex workforce management transformation. We are also implementation partners for WorkJam.
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