Posted by: Chris | October 16, 2007

How Much Does Employee Empowerment Cost?

One group of Front Line Service Employees (FLSE‘s) that I sometimes fail to consider is the team of call-center workers many companies employ. My thoughts turned to this unique group of employees after reading the article “Bath & Body Works: 360 Degrees Is the Best View Into a Customer” in the January/February issue of 1 to 1 Magazine1 which is put out by the Peppers and Rogers Group. I found one quote spoken by Pati Crowley, Director of Customer Experience for B&BW, to be particularly insightful:

“[W]e are not bound to a monthly budget in terms of goodwill.”

Wow. Take that one to your store manager. These words should be recited daily by FLSE’s, managers, and executives. Read the quote again. Let it really sink in.

The essence of this quote (and its original context in the article) pertains to employee empowerment, one of Dr. Brown’s favorite topics to discuss in my services marketing class a couple years back. Crowley says that B&BW’s one-time “complaint department,” now “brand asset” has been empowered to the extent that agents can give coupons, discounts, and even gift cards to disgruntled callers.

The result? “Customer advocacy and positive word of mouth.” (read: more money)

Without going into great detail, the article seems to isolate 3 traits of the FLSE-empowering, customer-centric model advocated by B&BW (which resulted in their winning of a 1 to 1 Impact Award):

  • Purpose-driven responsibility- “Agents are empowered to solve a customer’s problem with up to $25 per call…if a customer has a pain point, our goal is to put them back in the store and to change whatever that experience was.”
  • Comprehensive training- ” …contact center agents contribute significantly to the customer experience, so each agent is trained just like in-store associates.” (emphasis added)
  • Appropriate technology- “Crowley and her team can track customer feedback, as well as report and analyze in-depth customer trends.”

While these few traits are not intended to be a cure-all for ailing FLSE’s, they are a great place to begin. It’s tough for managers and execs to relinquish the control necessary to make this work, but finding the proper balance may lead to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty down the line, and it will definitely lead to a more customer-centric organization top, down.

1 Glagowski, Elizabeth. “Bath and Body Works: 360 Degrees Is the Best View Into the Customer.” 1 to 1 Magazine January/February 2007: 28-29.


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