In market research we hear a lot about crowd sourcing and collaborative thinking. New software and internet based products are regularly launched with a wide range of different claims to be better, more video enabled, quicker to provide data etc. etc.

 Many companies have jumped on board and set up customer and brand affinity panels with whom a range of survey; behavioural monitoring and co-creation work is being done. Agencies who provide these platforms are doing well, Verve amongst others is expanding rapidly on the basis of harnessing customer data and turning it into a responsive panel.

 Why do we see such interest in initiatives like this? Most client-side researchers would say it puts them and their internal stakeholders in closer contact with their customers. One client I met with just last week was telling me about a panel where senior management had skype video interviews with customers on a monthly basis. Fantastic initiative – great for the customer and clearly meaningful for senior managers to hear it from the horses’ mouth.

 There may be as many organisations who are looking closely at the ‘customer experience’ right now and trying to engineer or re-engineer opportunities to build up brand equity at various touchpoints in this process. CX is the new parlance because in an increasingly experience led world, comparisons on the ‘experience performance’ of a brand are all too easy to achieve but increasingly determine where repeat experience and sales are placed.

 The Buzzz who focus on measuring customer expectation as a benchmark to measure experience delivery against, have been developing some of our own thinking in this area. Many large service organisations we believe could benefit enormously by using some of these new technologies and approaches, being advanced by companies with customers in mind, but deploying them instead at their own frontline staff and people who engage in different parts of the customer experience journey.

 Staff engagement is often neglected by management teams focused on strategy and best practice being commandeered by sector rivals and yet the opportunities to harness such engagement, and keep it focused where it matters most, is now widely available. Most recently our work in a highly competitive leisure market used a simple method of asking customer facing staff to complete the same survey we had just deployed amongst the current seasons customers. This ‘walk in their shoes’ approach is not unique by any means but analysing what staff felt was expected and experienced by customers quickly highlighted two things:

 Things are better than the staff imagine them to be

  1. What is seen as being important to staff is not always the same as what is actually important to customers – gaps are evident which in some way explain where experience fell short of expectation
  2. Your customer facing staff are your eyes and ears. They are your scouting party rapidly assessing threats and how to avert them or exploit them. Too often though organisations restrict the feedback channels to area meetings; managers reports or sales conferences.

 We would challenge any forward thinking company to use some of the great new internet based tools and applications to enable direct feedback from frontline staff back to the organisation. Knowing there is a hotline to senior teams actually builds staff engagement. Truly enlightened organisations embrace concepts further and form teams who have raised the same issue in different places to come up with solutions to problems they are reporting. Some organisations even ask the team to be responsible for the implementation and deployment of new initiatives across the organisation so galvanising the effort elsewhere by those who have stepped up to the plate.

 We have used such tools extensively with consumers and know how to get the best out of them in terms of involvement; engagement and motivation and value. We are now redirecting those skills to internal versions of the customer community focused on frontline staff and all those in positions where they interact with direct customers or key accounts. Solutions are better when they are developed by the people who will have to implement them, crowdsourcing has its role to play but how many people have thought about generating morale and staff engagement using such simple tools?

 If you find this idea as stimulating as we do – get in touch and perhaps we can think about how it can be deployed in your organisation?