I just recently read an article from the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Sciences authored by Gielis A. H. van der Heijden, Jeroen J. L. Schepers, Edwin J. Nijssen, and Andrea Ordanini Journal titled, “Don’t just fix it make it better! Using frontline service employees to improve recovery performance”. The article is interesting and directed at the B2B industry. The idea is that while a Frontline Service Employee's (FSEs) primary job is to maintain and/or restore customer satisfaction, there is also the opportunity to innovate — a way to learn from recovery situations and improve/innovate accordingly.
The article provides an anecdote: “Some firms lead the way; Dell increased its service spending by 35% and stopped recording customer “handling times” to encourage service technicians to engage in more extensive customer interactions (Jarvis 2007). As a result, the percentage of recoveries that needed to be redone decreased from 45 to 18%, and customer satisfaction rates increased by more than 22%.” WOW – that’s an amazing outcome. Can you imagine? You stop monitoring problem resolution time and satisfaction actually increases? Of course, this is a situation that needs to be balanced. The article provides some additional insights and thoughts on how to exactly do that.
The managerial implication that I found most interesting was a recommendation to create a career path for FSEs. The article stated that younger employees who have more on the job knowledge are more likely to be innovators while doing standard recovery. Typically there is a great deal of turnover among FSEs. The suggestion of the authors is to consider creating a career path that entices good FSEs to want to stay and grow their careers. I think this is a great idea – not only to evaluate an FSE on his/her ability to correct/recover the situation, but also on his/her ability to innovate and reduce the likelihood of future/similar problems. Maybe from a customer experience perspective, we could ask customers questions geared toward this aspect of support staff. We look at responsiveness, ability to correct the problem, etc. – but what if we also asked about whether or not they felt their service reps are innovative?