HR the Real Brand Experience

Update to this post…

It is August 2013 and a few things have changed in the realm of recruiting and candidate/customer experiences since 2011.  The economy is reported as improving (although scores of professionals are still unemployed), technology has made advances, and the customer experience trend is now appropriately linked to employee experiences or the employee engagement trend.

Taleo (originally mentioned in this blog post) has added functionality to its application that allows a candidate to store a resume in a profile which slightly streamlines the candidate experience.  As best as I can determine however, Taleo only allows one version of a resume and does not seem to allow multiple versions for targeted job applications.  Sigh…  seems things move slowly.

BUT, some things have not changed.  Greg Savage, a credentialed and respected global recruiter, recently published a blog post that takes employers to task over how third party executive recruiters (and subsequently candidates) are being treated by employers.  His commentary is timely.

And now, my original post.  Enjoy… and consider offering your “candidate experience feedback” to employer HR teams who behave in ways that hurt you and their own brands.

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During the course of my career, I have applied for new jobs due to the economy, internal politics, bubble bursts, company or leadership failures, and to advance myself professionally.  Looking for a job is a never-ending job in and of itself; one that never ends whether you’re employed, not employed, or doing contract work.

HR departments’ poor treatment of candidates has hit an all time high.  Candidates take this behavior with a rock of salt and as SOP while CxOs seem to think that HR departments simply exist to avoid lawsuits.  So who cares?

I care and so should you.  Why?  Because every time someone applies for a job with your company, they have a brand experience (customer touch point) that will impact whether or not that applicant will buy from you, take you seriously enough to work for or with you, and/or tell the proverbial 7-10 other people in their network about any negative experiences they had.  And actually, maybe that 7-10 people negative experience sharing statistic is no longer relevant now that we all have blogs, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail distribution lists, and personal websites with followers.  The old 7-10 number is probably now x 10,000.

And, if that multiple doesn’t scare you, how about the thought that recruiters no longer receive 100 resumes for every posted job opening.  They now receive +1,000 resumes, so your exposure to negative brand experiences has now ratcheted up another x%.

The real question is whether a candidate’s experience applying for a job or working with a customer service team at any company is the REAL brand experience as compared to the slickly polished marketing and advertising images and messages that seem to be forwarded as THE brand.

The Taleo Experience

I have filled out countless Taleo powered on-line web application forms.  You would think that Taleo would come up with a service that allows candidates to store virtual resumes to submit to multiple job postings or allow a link to LinkedIn to import needed information, but no.  Candidates are required to fill out countless boxes ad nauseum, all in an effort to cull non-qualifying candidates for overwhelmed HR departments.

My experience of any company using Taleo is as follows:

  1. This company is rigid, can’t think, and is beaurocratic
  2. It’s more important to conform to what this company thinks it wants than to offer value for what it really needs (meaning that even if a candidate were hired, they would be suffocated with rules, policies, politics and siloed in-fighting).
  3. This company is in the death spiral of cutting costs no matter the impact, so no lasting employment can be gained there
  4. This company would prefer that an applicant waste his or her time trying to join and help them instead of making the application and probably the on-boarding process quick, easy, and seamless.
  5. Oh, and the gender and race questions at the end of every Taleo application form?  Right…  applicants are supposed to trust that this company isn’t screening for age, gender, race, or possible tax benefits when selecting candidates.

All of a sudden I am reminded of the 1960 movie “The Time Machine”, where fattened docile Eloi citizens were trained to go underground at the sound of a siren – which always announced a non-existent nuclear attack - eventually to be eaten by the Morlocks.  But I digress…

Then the standard e-mail confirmation that the candidate’s application has been received and ‘someone’ will review it shortly.  “We’ll only get back to you if you qualify.”  Really?  Would you ever say that to a prospect?  We’ll only get back to you if you qualify, based on whether you have a PhD from Harvard, you fall neatly into the gender, age, race, tax deduction box, and you purchased at this dollar level for a similar product in the past?

Yes, I have told several of my friends of these negative experiences, I’m now blogging about this issue (but will of course not disclose company names), and as soon as this blog post is live I’ll Twitter the link to the post.

Will I buy from these companies in the future?  Doubtful.  There are too many alternatives in the market for any company to believe they are not a commodity.

This is either a massive fail or it’s really a reflection of that company’s true personality and brand.

The Sorry But E-mail

Once ‘someone’ reviews the candidate’s resume – whether submitted through Taleo or not - they might get a rejection e-mail.  One could say that getting any response is good, but really?  How does this impact your brand?

I love the standard rejection e-mail that says “We are impressed with your credentials but we are so lucky to have a lot of people applying, that we’ve chosen someone who better fits our needs.”

That’s laughable and here’s why.  When candidates see that a company has re-posted the exact same job again, days or weeks after they receive your canned rejection e-mail, it makes that company look like a lying jerk.  How can anyone trust a company or brand that lies to its own people, let alone to the market?

If the candidate were a prospect and you rejected selling to them because another prospect – who may or may not have better credentials than the original prospect has, or who has less to spend than the original prospect has - better fits your needs, wouldn’t the original prospect refuse to buy from you because of the stupid games you play?  And wouldn’t they tell their networks about their negative experiences with you?

As most brands attempt to illicit a sense of integrity, this is either a massive brand-alignment failure or it’s exactly how any candidate will be treated after they get hired.  Remember the old saying, all show and no go…

The Silent Treatment

Ah yes…  the resume is sent, the candidate is interviewed once and maybe even twice, then the dreaded silence happens.  Long drawn out silences that never end.  The Black Hole of landing a fabulous, mutually beneficial job.

Once again, would you ever do this to a prospect or customer?  If you did, as a service leader your career would be over in a nano second!  Dropped or unresponded to prospect inquires are the death knell for any service or experience executive because that means lost revenue.

And what would prospects think or do if you never responded to their inquiries?  They’d go somewhere else to buy what they need to achieve their goals. They’d never even think to inquire with your company again, they might place your company on an informal black list, and they’d tell their colleagues in the multiple networks that they live in about the negative experience.

What in the world are HR departments thinking when they do this?  That they can’t be sued because they didn’t communicate with candidates?  That candidates have short memories and won’t even remember they applied for the job?  That the HR function is a separate entity from the rest of the organization?  Do these jobs even exist or is this a way for HR departments to see if their own employees are trying to jump ship for a better job?

I strongly recommend that you and your company leadership take a critical look at how job applicants are treated and how that probably doesn’t align with your desired brand experience.

Have your CxOs send in job applications and watch how quickly this touch point gets addressed.  It’s cheap, easy, and fast research at your finger tips right now.

Then, invest in your brand at ALL touch points, not just where a sales prospect can say yes or no.

Democracy: The Ultimate Customer Experience Strategy

“The US Gov needs a #CX touchpoint assessment.  Seems the GOPs and the DEMs are no different than siloes in companies where bonuses and infrastructure aren’t aligned and where each person in their silo is desperately clinging to their own jobs.  It’s driving me NUTS!!!” – @MaryMarkowicz

I was so frustrated by the lack of focus our political leaders have on our country’s major issues that I did exactly what every other frustrated customer does; I tweeted.  Annoyingly, even though I am a Chicago-based customer experience (CX) professional who has a decent Klout score, I did not get a response from President Obama, CEO of the United States of America, to handle my customer service concerns, to resolve his “company”’s branding problem, or even to take me out to one of his famous burger lunches; interaction a more forward-thinking company might have offered.

President Obama and before him, President Clinton, signed and ordered several actions over the past few decades aimed at improving the service federal agencies provide consumers; Executive Order 12862 Setting Customer Service Standards and Executive Order 13571 Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service to name a few.  Implementing business best practices, putting people first, streamlining processes, and leveraging technology are the core tenants of all of these executive actions.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), federal agencies seem to be complying with leadership orders.  Agencies are achieving reasonable improvements by sending out customer surveys, creating plans to streamline transactions, and conducting more business on-line and via social.  Although the improvements gained from these actions are encouraging and commendable, there is still a lot of work to be done.

In January 2012’s press release, Claes Fornell of ACSI says, “At present, the federal government is 5 points below the lowest-scoring private sector economic segment information at 72.3—an improvement over a 7-point gap in 2010.  … While people generally distrust federal government as a whole, they are much more positive towards the job that individual agencies are performing.  … The lack of trust has much more to do with politicians than it does with federal workers and the services of the federal government.”

Because customer satisfaction improves when both the operational level and the strategic level of a company work synergistically, it is clear that presidential mandates may now be well intentioned yet woefully outdated.  When a customer satisfaction effort isn’t bringing about needed results, it is time to regroup by understanding new market forces, rethinking approaches, and then revamping accordingly.

Federal agencies and our country leaders now need to take a giant leap from customer satisfaction as a mandate simply at the agency level into the world of Customer Experience at an integrated level; a strategy and approach centred around customers and proven by many companies to have significant and enduring positive impact on customer behaviours, revenue, and financing.

What are the top three things that the public sector – agency/operational and leadership/strategy levels – can do to pivot to a Customer Experience strategy?

1. Reconsider the core belief that all citizens are a captive customer base.  Why?  Competition and customer expectations – market forces – now come from everywhere, not just in like industries or even in the same country.  Customers expect instant access to accurate information in a fast, easy, effortless manner, wherever they are and whenever they want it and public sector entities must align with customers’ needs and wants.  The specific market driving forces include:

  • The internet and its associated proliferation have created a common customer expectation that all commodity transactions can and should be handled on-line quickly.  Zappos.com, Amazon.com, and UPS.com consistently provide examples of how customers expect all transactions to occur no matter what entity they are dealing with.
  • The internet is now the place to go to do research, get instant answers, and to input information for others to use, whether broad or deep.  Wikipedia.com, Google, com, and Mashable.com are examples of very popular information portals.
  • Social media has changed how every business talks to its customers and the public sector is not immune to this requirement.  Customers now drive the dialog and yes, it is now two-way and often group dialog, no longer a one-way communications channel.  Facebook.com, Twitter.com, and WordPress.com are examples of digital communities.
  • Public sector customers have the option of opting out of US citizenship, an option that several high profile people have taken recently.  Just as consumers of products and services in the private sector can take their business to a competitor and vote with their wallet, public sector agencies and leadership must recognize that this too can and is happening here in the US at several different levels.

2. Revamp compensation plans at every level.  Embracing a customer experience strategy means reinforcing fabulous service behaviour from front line staff to executives in offices in the form of bonuses and promotions.  Deeply entrenched public sector thinking regarding salary structures and promotions can change when based on the right metrics.

3. Update how customer experience feedback is collected and analysed.  Customer satisfaction surveys and their associated C-Sat scores were the only tools we had ten years ago but not now.  Today, more relevant, timely, and dynamically actionable customer feedback methodologies include Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Scores, Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs, sentiment analysis, transactional feedback, Big Data, touch point analytics, and customer lifetime value (CLV) metrics.  Many large businesses use most if not all of these approaches to get holistic views of their customers’ thinking and market trends.

It is interesting to note that several business analysts and financial investors are now including a company’s NPS scores into analyst calls or when making investment decisions.  This very same expectation could easily happen when analysts or investors wish to know how focused a country’s leaders and its agencies are in serving its constituencies before they rate credit worthiness or investment options.

The time is now.  With the lowest ACSI scores in the country, below that of even the lowest-rated cable company, and the obvious growing unhappiness people have with federal agencies and leadership, the public sector obviously needs to quickly pivot efforts to a customer experience strategy.

And how more appropriate could this be?  After all, we are a Democracy of the People by the People for the People – the ultimate Customer Experience strategy!

© Mary Ann Markowicz

Originally published 08-27-2012 on Customer Management IQ.

Can CX Help USA Co.?

Gallup Federal Government Customer Satisfaction Cloud

Being a CX professional and watching this year’s election process, I am dumbfounded at how out of touch our whole election process is and how badly the Federal Government services we constituents/customers.  I seems to me that the participants in our current election reflect private sector company department heads who are siloed and fighting with very sharp elbows to keep their jobs; knocking others down while creating urgent problems that “only they” can fix in order to remain employed.  Quite unproductive.

I will be publishing an article in an upcoming Customer Management IQ special edition on ways federal agencies can use CX to improve the service they offer us and that we pay for.

Outside of that article, I would like to explore with you how a best practice CX methodology could actually change our entire political system.  Let’s open dialog on this….  who knows, maybe we can change the World.

Discussion assumptions:

  1. We agree that in this discussion context, the US Government is a business, designed to serve and protect its citizens.  It is in the business of people and provides services to help residents protect and advance their/our lives.
  2. We do not include the regulatory branches of government in this ideation (eg. Supreme Court, SEC, FTC, etc.).  We might consider these to be outsourced legal counsel.
  3. Each federal agency such as the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration, and Housing and Urban Development are considered departments within USA Co. For example, HUD might be like a typical Facilities team, the VA might be like a security department, and the SSA might be akin to the retirement benefits offered by Human Resources.
  4. Senators and Congress(wo)men are like regional sales people or account executives.
  5. POTUS is the CEO of USA Co., VPOTUS is like the VP, Operations, and the Secretary of the Treasury is like any company’s CFO.

As a benchmarked metric, the American Customer Satisfaction Institute (ACSI) regularly publishes customer satisfaction scores from many industries, government included.  In January 2012’s press release, Claes Fornell of ACSI says,

At present, the federal government is 5 points below the lowest-scoring private sector economic segment information at 72.3—an improvement over a 7-point gap in 2010.  … While people generally distrust federal government as a whole, they are much more positive towards the job that individual agencies are performing.  … The lack of trust has much more to do with politicians than it does with federal workers and the services of the federal government.

Not only do we have lower than cable company customer satisfaction scores at the federal agency levels (USA Co.’s operational departments) but we have a leadership crisis that is impeding the growth of USA Co.  If USA Co. was on an analyst call, the analyst would be asking for USA Co.’s NPS scores or some indication of how committed they were to their customers in order to determine credit worthiness and stock guidance.  I doubt any analyst would listen to campaign promises on these types of calls.

What are your thoughts on these questions?

  1. If we treated USA Co. as an SEC-registered company, would we tax-paying citizens actually be shareholders with all of the power that goes with same or would we be customers buying a service?
  2. If we were all shareholders, wouldn’t we be voting directly for USA Co. leadership; meaning that the Electoral College would be unnecessary?
  3. If we were all customers buying a service – security, retirement services, etc. – are we thinking that we are a captive customer base instead of finding alternative vendors to provide the same services?
  4. If we all believe that we have alternatives to choose from, whether moving to another country that works better for our goals or simply not using USA Co.’s services (vote with our wallets), what alternatives would we have?  Should USA Co. be considered a monopoly?  Should they give we customers the option to purchase the services that we wish to purchase and not others meaning that they need to be competitive and unbundle their services?
  5. As customers or shareholders, should we require strong ethics and compliance adherence, just like other executives must comply to?
  6. No matter if USA Co. had customers or shareholders, how would a CX strategy help them and us?  Would it help focus everyone on the same goals, get paid for achieving goals, realign resources to focus on those same goals, and yield a better financial return overall?  Likewise, would we customers start trusting USA Co. again and would customer satisfaction scores go up?
  7. Could VoC programs and Sentiment Analysis replace Gallup polls and endless pundit guessing?
  8. How could Touch Point mapping and analysis help?

The big question is…

If we all got serious about advancing our country and civilization in general, how would/could a CX strategy help?

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Looking forward to reading your ideas!!!

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As a disclaimer, I have no financial or business interests in USA Co.

© Mary Ann Markowicz