Kronos has a long track record of building our business by creating satisfied and loyal customers.  As this most recent press release concerning our Q2 financial performance confirms, our growth has been consistently strong, even as we've transitioned our technology to the cloud, expanded globally and earned numerous awards for our culture.  It's hard to accelerate growth, product innovationemployee experience, and customer satisfaction simultaneously, but that's what Kronos has done - by design.

As is the case with the development of our technology, we continually assess and refine our customer service strategy.  On the customer satisfaction front, we've recently received significant recognition.  For the 18th consecutive year, Kronos was awarded the Omega Northface award for excellent customer support.  In addition, our vice president of global customer success, Jennifer Dearman, was recognized on the Mindtouch annual list of the Top 100 Customer Success Strategists.

Recently, I sat down with Jennifer and vice president of global professional services Kristina Lengyel to talk about what it takes to meet and exceed customer expectations while delivering sophisticated technology solutions.  As Kristina said during our conversation, "Customers are purchasing an experience"; i.e. our job is just starting when we implement the products.  Especially since we've moved to software as a service as our primary model, our customers expect that we'll lead them to better results in their organizations while alleviating them of the burden of managing that software.

We talked about how Kristina and Jennifer have worked hard to collaborate across Kronos in order to develop trusted relationships with our clients that accelerate their realization of value from the investments they make in Kronos.  Knocking down organizational siloes is never easy, but these two have led the way on many fronts.

You can learn a lot more about what it takes to exceed at customer satisfaction by listening in our our conversation below.

 

 

 

 

 

The latest videos in our One in 1 Hundred Million series celebrate a couple of customer service stars.  Nicco is the night manager at a hotel, while Catie is a server in a Japanese restaurant.  It's interesting to watch these two videos together.  Both of these folks are in service jobs that can be grueling.  They're expected to create a pleasing experience for everybody they encounter,  but not everybody they encounter is going to make that easy.

What strikes me as I listen to Catie and Nicco speak is how much enthusiasm they bring to their work.  They acknowledge the challenges, but both talk about the pleasure it gives them to create a memorable experience for their guests.

Watch Catie and Nicco's stories and comment below.  What's your most memorable experience in the hospitality industry?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmG9_v82XHM] 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxjwzC6NF0w]

TWS20.600.dashboardIn a recent New York Times Magazine article entitled Thinking Outside the (Big) Box, Adam Davidson (of NPR's “Planet Money) talks about a great customer service experience he had at Ikea recently when he went shopping for a closet system.   He found the staff to be both available and helpful.  He was surprised given that he'd had a prior experience years ago that wasn't so hot, so he decided to investigate what had changed.  He spoke with an executive at Ikea and learned the following:

"This wasn't a fluke. A couple of days later, Rob Olson, the C.F.O. of Ikea U.S., told me that since my last visit, the company had invested in a new (Kronos) work-force-management system that reminded me of much of Ton's thesis. The software helps the company to better distribute workers throughout the store, so that there are more of them in the areas where people have the most questions, like closets."

The "Ton" referred to above is Zeynep Ton, a business professor at MIT and author of the new book "The Good Jobs Strategy".  In the book (available next week) Ton argues that paying workers more and treating them better is better for the bottom line.  In her research for the book, Ton learned that even low cost retailers can provide good jobs for their employees while keeping costs low for their customers.  In the low cost retail sector, she found that the best employers operated on 4 key principles:

  1. They offered fewer choices to their customers
  2. They cross-trained their employees
  3. They standardize processes while empowering employees to do the right thing for the customer
  4. They "operate with slack"; i.e. they staff at levels that enable employees to spend time with customers

That last item is the one that workforce management software enables, providing employers with accurate data and predictive analytics about the staffing levels required to deliver a great customer experience.

If you're interested in learning more about Zeynep Ton's research:

For those of you needing some Hump Day humor - and a little perspective - I offer some tidbits from my past life running a Services organization for a software company.  One of the teams I was responsible for was customer support - the folks on the phone 12 hours a day who handled all our customer calls and emails.   Although our product was a software as a service solution, every client environment was uniquely configured.  This made support a challenge.

We had a great team who supported each other through thick and thin.  One of them kept a running log of funny things he overheard his colleagues saying to customers.  I recently came across this list and thought I'd share it with you - not to make fun of these folks, but to reflect that those folks on the other side of the phone are real people, working hard under often challenging circumstances.  They're being measured on both the volume of customers they serve and the quality of those responses.  Sometimes they might say something goofy in the heat of the moment.  Give 'em the benefit of the doubt, because they really want to help you.

And here, for your midweek enjoyment, are some of the funnier things our help desk people said to customers:

In case you've been out of the country lately, you owe it to yourself to check out the Geico Camel and his celebration of Hump Day.

[youtube=://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWBhP0EQ1lA&w=560&h=315]

Today's guest post comes from our board member, William Tincup.  William is a champion for customer-centricity in the human capital software space.  He challenges vendors like us to do well by doing better for customers.  At Kronos, we make significant investments in building solid products and providing the right services to help customers deploy and use those products. More importantly, we ask all of our employees to put customers at the center of their efforts.  We listen and learn from our customers every day - and we grow better as a result.

To William's point, what our customers say about us in the market is far more important that what we say about ourselves - as many businesses have learned the hard way on opinion sites like Yelp, Consumer reports, Angie's List, etc.  What are some of your vendor relationship highs and lows?

They say that the three prongs to building a sustainable business are: (1) repeatable processes; (2) recurring revenue; and (3) referenceable customers. These are affectionately known as the three R's.

  1. Is obvious to most operations folks
  2. Is obvious to most financial folks
  3. Should be obvious to everyone but in actuality it isn't

Great customers should fit you like a glove. Like any relationship where things are just natural. They don't look for ways to make your life harder and you don't look for ways to bilk them. Great customers should push you... and you should push them back.  The relationship you have with great customers is one built on the pillars of: communication, trust and respect. Without these three things you don't have a great customer relationship. It might be good... but it isn't great. Hell, it might even be terrible.

So how do we work with only great customers? Easy. We need to know the difference between a loving relationship and one that is devoid of love. We need NOT take on business that is outside our core values or worse... business that is in direct conflict with the pillars stated above.

What I'm asking you to do is simple: Say “no” more often. Say “no” to prospects that exhibit behaviors that are inconsistent with how you aspire to be treated. Don't rush to get in bed with someone who will eventually rip your heart out and/or create cancer within your company.

When you find a customer who has the potential to be a great customer, go deep. Be vulnerable. Be more transparent. Stop looking at the proposal and/or contract and really listen to their needs. Then, under-promise and over-deliver.  Keenly manage expectations - always.  And, focus them and yourself on relentless and clear communication, and bulletproof trust and respect at all times and in all ways.

Also, more often than not we tend to over-emphasize planning. Truth is... things happen. And that is life in the big city. What we should focus on is how we respond when things happen rather than focusing on 9000 potential ways that things could happen.  Character is born out of how you respond to adversity.  True in life, true when building great customer relationships.

Lastly, businesses fail for a number of reasons, but I believe more than any other single reason businesses fail because they are doing business with people who pay them BUT don't love them. Money in this instance is just a sad veneer. The good stuff is on the inside: customer love, where you love them and they love you right back.

For most of us, the Blizzard of 2013 is a minor inconvenience and a bit of an adventure.  Dennis and I had to do about 30 minutes of shoveling, but are fortunate to have power.  Some parts of our town are experiencing flooding, but our public works and emergency services employees are doing their best to keep things running smoothly.

I made this video this morning of high tide at Short Beach.  The audio's a bit tough to hear due to the wind, but you'll  note the excellent job our DPW has done keeping the roads clear.

Our 56 and 60 year old backs are very grateful to the guys who plow our driveway.  They were here late last night and early this am, sparing us the monumental task of shoveling the driveway.

The winner, however, of today's storm heroes award are the staff at Brooksby Village where my Dad lives.  He's got Alzheimer's and lives on a skilled nursing unit.  See the note below from the manager about their storm response.  We're sending a thank you gift to the staff, but you seriously can't thank people enough for this type of dedication.  I write a lot here about employee engagement and customer service.  These people seriously set the gold standard.  Thank you Todd, and all of the wonderful people who work at Brooksby!

Good Morning Families/Friends,

Sending you a quick update that we are continuing to manage through the day.  For the most part, all is going well.  We had 41 staff members from Continuing Care sleep over last night.  Many of those staff that worked last night are unable to get home and spending today sleeping so they are well rested for work later.  So lots of tired but very committed people.

Our day started by seeing our team of 6 culinary staff walk through the front door at 5:30am ready to start a long day of feeding 200 residents and lots of staff.

Those nursing staff that didn't sleep over have done a great job getting to the facility despite the challenging commute and buried conditions at home.

The leadership team that arrived to support the storm yesterday morning is still here and plans to stay as long as necessary to keep things running smoothly.

Many of our housekeepers have stayed the night and are helping to support the residents today.

We are all pitching in to work the dining rooms and ensure our residents still have activities to attend throughout the day.

This is shaping up to be a pretty special experience to be a part of.  Hope you are all safe.

More to come.

Todd

This may be my favorite song of all times, Aretha Franklin singing "Respect".

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me
R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Take care ... TCB (taking care of business).

This is the time of year when we make our resolutions.  We make our bold proclamations to friends and family.  We set goals for ourselves and make vision boards.  And often we set ourselves up for failure because we shoot for impressive and noticeable transformation without creating a clear plan for getting there.

As I write this, I'm not thinking about "failing to plan is planning to fail".  Rather, I'm thinking that most progress is made in inches, not miles.  Especially in the workplace, and especially if you've worked in the same environment for a while, there will be few truly breathtaking innovations that you can pull off.  It becomes easy to slip into complacency and blame the external lack of opportunities for your malaise.

So what is the antidote to feeling sorry for yourself because your efforts aren't going to get you into the pages of business porn pubs like Fast Company where everybody's job is an exciting award winning interlude between their triathalons?  Continuous improvement.  That's right.   Every product and service is the sum of many moving parts of people, process, materials and systems that (best case scenario) deliver what the customer needs.  Since the world around us and our customers is constantly changing, those needs are changing as well.

Change is hard, especially when the current way of doing things isn't broken.  But "not broken" is a far cry from "sock it to me" results.  (If you were born after 1960, ask your parents).  Talk to your customers and employees and find out how well that product or process is really working for them.  Be willing to make changes that make their lives easier and good things happen.  Accept that the accumulation of small changes can still have a big impact.

Like Aretha says in the song, "Now, I get tired, but I keep on tryin'".  Go on now, TCB.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report this morning brought positive news, with US unemployment at 7.7% - a new low since 2008.  Our Retail Labor Index this month showed a continuing increase in retail hiring (not unusual this time of year), but it's good to see that growth in other sectors as well.   Let's hope that trend continues in the new year.

Our cartoon of the week here is only partly tongue-in-cheek.  Our customers are increasingly adopting mobile solutions from Kronos - smartphone and tablet.  Frontline managers do a lot of managing in the moment, and appreciate the freedom to access enterprise software while they're on the move.

And speaking of managers making the right decision in the moment, my  favorite story this week comes from the LEGO company.  If you haven't seen this video of a very delighted 10 year old receiving a special customer service surprise from them, you owe it to yourself to watch.  This boy saved for over a year to buy what turned out to be a discontinued kit.  He wrote a letter to LEGO.  Watch the video to see what real customer delight looks like.

Our friend Jessica Miller-Merrell at blogging4jobs is going to be interviewed on 20/20 tonight about how to avoid killing your career at the office party. I haven't seen the interview yet, but assume that passing out and/or making passes are still considered major faux pas.  Jessica's blog site is great.  Stroll over there to subscribe, and you can check out our guest post about the best career advice our board members have ever received.

Read on for more items of interest this week:

Customer Experience Magic: http://ow.ly/fLW82 via @SmarterCafe

RT @SmarterCafe: Is #cloud driven by suits stupid decisions or IT geeks not delivering? http://ow.ly/fUfeJ

The #Cloud has a silver lining for organizations around the world: http://ow.ly/fQn4t via @simonmacpherson @KronosUK

Ouija Board no way to get answers… http://ow.ly/fUfOJ via @SmarterCafe

Pizza Deliverance http://ow.ly/fUfLY via @SmarterCafe

Two Simple Christmas Holiday Office Party Rules http://ow.ly/fUfGZ via @SmarterCafe

[WHITEPAPER] Five Steps to Advance Quality Resident Care Through Optimal Staffing. http://ow.ly/fLWT0

It's a new world of mobility, task management, and analytics. Are you ready? Scheduling a meeting with us at #NRF: http://ow.ly/fOgBd

Never install another #Kronos service pack - find out how http://ow.ly/fUe88

10 Skills Every Leader Should Develop In 2013 http://ow.ly/fLWoz via @hrbartender

How to Have an Office Holiday Party Without Anyone Going to Jail http://ow.ly/fOfb8 via @TLNT_com

Can Working Remotely Reduce Flu in Your Workplace? http://ow.ly/fOfFQ via @blogging4jobs

#HREOnline: Holiday Parties – Naughty, Nice and Nonexistent http://ow.ly/fOhst via @HRExecMag

How Companies Must Adapt for an Aging Workforce http://ow.ly/fOir1 via @HarvardBiz

Telework is Good for Business http://ow.ly/fQmpl via @HRExecMag

@TimSackett explains “It's hard, but it's fair” http://ow.ly/fQnxO via @FistfulOfTalent

Birth Rate Plunges During Recession http://ow.ly/fQpfb via @TIMEBusiness

What You Can Learn from the Best Companies http://ow.ly/fQpwl via @TIMEBusiness

Workplace Flexibility Is Best When Determined by the Team http://ow.ly/fQsaz via @HuffPostBiz

No U.S. Skills Gap? Really? http://ow.ly/fQqcO via @HuffPostBiz

What Employees Most Want This Holiday http://ow.ly/fQqXc via @HuffPostBiz

Steve Miggo, SVP Operations and Human Resources at Safelite AutoGlass

The title of this post is a quote from my recent conversation with Steve Miggo, SVP of Operations and Human Resources at Safelite AutoGlass.  I heard Safelite CEO Tom Feeney speak at the Net Promoter Conference in San Francisco, and was very impressed with the investment he's made in the development of their frontline workforce, an investment he credits with a significant improvement in their financial results.  I asked him if he'd be willing to share their story with the Workforce Institute, and he connected me with Steve.

Steve reiterated one of Tom's key themes - that "our service is our brand and our company".  Safelite walks that talk by ensuring that those in their frontline workforce have the training, skills, & support they need to deliver a great customer experience.  They recognize and reward the delivery of superior customer service - including that delivered by employees who are not customer facing, but whose efforts support those who are.

Steve's quote that leads this post was his response to my question about what is the most important thing a company can do to ensure they have successful frontline employees.  His answer was trust, specifically that leaders need to not only communicate the company values clearly, but demonstrate those values consistently.  He went on to say that leaders need to have the courage to call out managers who make their financial plans but don't exemplify Safelite's corporate values if frontline workers are going to take the values seriously.

Steve shared a number of the training and development techniques that Safelite employs during our conversation.  You can listen in here to learn more about the secrets to their success: Discussion with Steve Miggo of Safelite AutoGlass.

I'm pleased to add that Safelite is a Kronos customer whose feedback to us via our customer surveys indicates that we're providing them with the experience they expect from us.

Today's guest blog is from Ryan Robinson, an I/O Psychologist at Kronos.  He writes about the well known phenomenon of bad customer service driving much more publicity than does good service. (If you want to see a huge viral example of a customer complaint - over 9 million views and growing- check out United Breaks Guitars.)

As an I/O psychologist, and more specifically someone who designs assessments to identify strong service employees, I have become particularly attuned to the service I receive. For example, I recently shopped for a gift for my wife and was having a difficult time making a decision about what to get her. One of the store's employees could see that I was having a difficult time and so she approached me and asked if she could help. I told her my situation, and then she asked me a few questions about what my wife liked. After hearing my response, and thinking about what I said, she proceeded to walk me around the store and gather a number of items that she thought might work. Her suggestions were very helpful and I ended up purchasing more than I had intended to buy. As this interaction was happening, I found myself thinking “she's doing a great job listening to me and is recommending some really good items” and “I appreciate that she is genuinely interested in helping me.” I walked away from the store happy with what I bought and pleased with the service I received. In fact, I was so pleased with my experience that I mentioned it to a couple of friends, and ultimately to my spouse. I have since bought additional items from this store, and it's possible I have influenced others to do the same.

In thinking about this interaction however, I have come to the sad realization that this is one of the few very positive service experiences that I can recall. I can though, very quickly, recall about a dozen recent negative experiences. For example, I recently had to take my cell phone back for the 2nd time. They had replaced my phone the last time with a refurbished model, and now my replacement was broken.  When I explained the situation to the employee who was helping me, he looked at the serial number on the phone, gave me a puzzled look and said “this is not a refurbished phone.” After trying to explain it to him again, I became frustrated as he clearly didn't believe me and felt like I didn't know what I was talking about. Unfortunately, this set the tone for the entire interaction, which needless to say was not a pleasant one. I left the store with my new phone and made a call to make sure it was working correctly. The first thing I talked about was my negative experience in the store.

In thinking about this negative encounter, I realized I could easily write about a number of poor service experiences I have had. But realizing this made me think about why it is so easy for me to recall negative service experiences.  Have I really not had many positive customer service encounters? Have I been too hard on the employees that I felt were not doing a good job? Have I just come to expect great service as the norm, and thus don't recognize it for what it is? And maybe most importantly, am I the only one who does this, or do we all pay more attention to negative information?

Of course, as a psychologist, I had to do some digging to see if I could understand why it was so easy for me to focus on these negative experiences. I started by thinking back to my schooling and remembered reading some research that suggests we are biologically programmed to pay more attention to negative information. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes some sense as survival depends on our ability to detect danger and respond appropriately. And while hopefully a negative customer service experience is not a “survival” situation, it does make sense that consumers may pay greater attention to when things go wrong as we are more tuned in to negative information. Similarly, positive experiences may not seem extraordinarily positive or noteworthy to us as they don't provoke as strong a reaction.

This got me thinking then, do people tend to share negative service experiences with others more than positive ones?  So, I took to the web in search of stories of good and poor service. I was pleased to find that other bloggers do share their experiences and opinions about good service such as this piece from the New York Times (http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/05/17/customer-service-heaven/) or this one about a positive banking experience (http://www.fastcompany.com/1630956/a-shocking-tale-of-extraordinary-customer-service).  But in general it seems that the focus of positive customer service blogs is about techniques for improvement instead of consumers' examples.  On the other hand, I easily located a number of sites where customers have detailed the poor quality of service they have experienced.

So where am I going with all this you might ask? The key factor in all of this for me is that customer service matters, and that consumers are clearly talking about their experiences. In turn, these encounters can have a huge impact on those who read about them. This only serves to highlight the importance of staffing your workforce with people who understand the importance of good service and do everything they can to make sure their customers are happy.  On a personal note, I wish that more consumers would take the time to let others know who did a great job of meeting their needs. Do any of you know where you can get great service? Do you notice that you are more aware of negative service experiences?

The latest chapter of the book we're writing on achieving your optimal front line  retention strategy is written by our board member, Mel Kleiman.  The focus of this chapter is the key role that recruiting practices play in ensuring that the right talent is available, willing and able to serve on your organization's front line.

For some organizations, the challenge may be finding an adequate supply of necessary talent.  For others, the candidate supply may be steady, but choosing those who are the right fit for the job may often seem hit or miss.  In either case, the organization will suffer if these root causes can't be addressed.  Mel's article addresses the supply question as well as the issue of assessing a candidate's suitability for the position in question, discussing the differences between candidate populations and how organizations can tailor their recruiting messages and approaches to different target candidate audiences.

I thought about this when I was shopping for a Mac Book for my son this week.  We went to the hyper-glossy Apple store on Boylston Street in Boston.  The floor staff have specialized roles, and gracefully handed us off amongst themselves as we sorted through the hardware and software requirements dictated by the NYU film department.  Our principal guide was Chris - who himself had a deep knowledge of film editing on a Mac.  We couldn't have had a better shopping experience.

When I was leading a recruitment outsourcing practice in a past life, we used to talk about three dimensions of fit: skills, willingness to do the job, and cultural fit.  Mel takes a similar approach in this chapter, exploring the assessment of existing candidate capabilities as well as an individual's willingness to do the job in the way the organization wants it done.  I don't know what Apple's approach is to recruiting and training their front line retail staff, but the results are impressive if Chris is a typical example.

You can read Mel's chapter here.  You can also hear a podcast of an interview between Mel and me regarding his approach to hourly worker recruiting.
[display_podcast]

touchid.jpgIn a new article we've published,  Are Hourly Workers Professionals?David Creelman explores the qualities that differentiate professionals who happen to be paid by the hour from those who are merely punching the clock to earn a living.  In his article, he talks about duration in the job, content that requires expertise, and a feeling of pride in the job as the key attributes of an hourly professional worker. 

"OK", you say, "I get how that might work for nurses, technicians and other skilled professions.  But how about store clerks, janitors, and other relatively lower skilled jobs?"  David cites examples from just these kinds of jobs in his article.   While several of his examples are drawn from outside of the United States, we can see recent examples here where companies have ignored the professionalism of their front line staff to their financial detriment.  Circuit City and Best Buy have been in the news lately, with the latter's superior results frequently linked to its investments in its employees and customer service.

Check out the article and let us know of your experiences with front line professionals who've won your business and your loyalty.

cross linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram