Integrity as your greatest asset

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As announced in the previous column, I shall be explaining the results of my preliminary research in the field of customer satisfaction, in this column. While the preliminary research confirms existing research information, it also adds a number of extremely innovative elements which play a role in customer satisfaction.


In this process too, I began by studying the existing literature, and then organizing six focus groups with an average of 8 employees from 6 different companies, in order to supplement it. During the sessions, I asked contact center employees what they enjoyed in their work and what would be a pleasant surprise in their work. I then showed them what earlier research had proven and what else I would expect to play a role. We added this information alongside their own notes, for a final check of whether they felt we had a comprehensive list of important items.

Salary has no priority

The sessions resulted in a list of around 100 items, which I then subjected to quantitative testing among around 150 employees, once again from various companies. The analyses showed 30-odd items to not play a role. The most striking of these unimportant items was their salary! There was even one focus group which did not mention their salary at all. They were therefore extremely satisfied with their employer and with their work. This once again reinforced my conviction that, in the end, everyone wants meaningful work and we are all willing to make an effort to achieve that. Nobody ever enjoys ‘mindless production work’, and it benefits neither employers nor employees. The crux lies in jointly determining how you can create the greatest possible value for both employees and the organization. The two are by no means mutually exclusive, on the contrary, they should be mutually reinforcing.

Factors already known

So what does play a role? A number of reasonably standard aspects to be found are minimally conflicting interests (think in terms of simultaneously judging people for telephony time and customer satisfaction), enjoyment of the work, ease of the work (e.g. are the tools to be used easily accessible?), empowerment and opportunities for growth. These aspects have been regularly identified in earlier research and apparently also apply to contact centers.

Learning from employees

One of the new elements included in my research, and equally as important as the elements described above, is the idea of learning from employees. It involves questions such as: Am I asked to give suggestions for improvement? Do I feel that action is then undertaken? Do I receive feedback on my suggested improvements? The employee’s perception of the degree to which an organization learns from its employees is partly determined through coaching and partly through sharing information. And so you have concrete tools with which to improve this.

Organizational integrity matters

Wait for it…. the most salient detail of all? Organizational integrity is what matters most for employee satisfaction! In this case, integrity concerns the degree to which (in the employees’ opinion) the organization is customer centric, is honest with its customers and honest with its employees. As far as employees are concerned, the integrity of the organization is determined by a very important aspect: the degree to which the organization learns from its customers! Learning from customers comprises elements such as undertaking action following complaints, learning from customer signals, and using customer input to improve services.

If that isn’t playing into the hands of those of us convinced of the importance of treating people well – whether they be customers or employees! – then I don’t know what is. Perfect munition therefore to convince those of lesser faith…

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