Recently, I spoke to Julie Zhang, Director of Sales Enablement for Russell Investments, about how they took their client experience strategy from inception to execution. They achieved this by empowering and enabling their client-facing staff, but it hasn’t been easy.
One of the most important things they’ve learned along the way is that taking an idealistic strategy through to execution is challenging. It’s inevitable that things will breakdown along the way and the end result won’t always look as shiny as the strategy anticipated. Here are five things that Julie learned along the way that can help you execute your client experience strategy effectively.
1. Don’t assume people will tell you everything
When you ask someone whether they understand something, human instinct tells them to say they do know it even if they don’t. This means if your salespeople tell you they understand how a new product works or they know what a good client experience looks like, chances are they really don’t.
Rather than relying on your client-facing people to tell you what they know, test for it so you can objectively understand what they know and where their gaps are. This will give you a baseline to start with and help you put in place a roadmap for what you need to do to achieve your strategic vision.
For example, Julie asked the client-facing staff to record a video of themselves doing a pitch and send it to their managers. While this was uncomfortable for many, it was also a great learning experience because it highlighted to them very quickly that they didn’t know what they thought they did. As a result, there was no push back from the sales team when it came to executing the new strategic initiatives because they already knew they had a knowledge gap.
2. Remove friction points first
It can be futile trying to implement new processes, training or changes if your client-facing staff are distracted by other things. Before you start trying to execute on your strategy, identify and remove some of the areas of friction that are affecting how your people do their job.
For example, Julie identified that there were a lot of internal emails that were absorbing the time of their client-facing staff. These emails included sales collateral and other information that people needed to know. So Julie replaced these emails with bite-sized pieces of content, like a short video where a portfolio manager provided an update on a fund. This content was delivered to client-facing staff directly to the Mindtickle app on their mobile device. So rather than wading through emails, they could watch the content when it suited them.
This change not only gave people more time to focus on the client experience, but it also gave the sales leadership team important information. They could see who accessed the content and who needed to be followed up. Managers could also use quizzes and gamification to test who understood the information and drive engagement.
3. Don’t be afraid to rebuild
Unless you’re starting with a greenfield site, there will be processes and bad habits already in place. While change is hard, it can often be more difficult to try and work around existing processes. So don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board and rebuild from the ground up.
4. Layer learning for retention
When you launch a new product or service, it can take up to six months before client-facing staff are comfortable talking about it with clients. To accelerate this process, Julie implemented a series of training that was layered and leveraged multiple mediums to improve retention. The training incorporated a blend of virtual testing, videos, integrated quizzing, pitch back videos and coaching. When combined, they found that this training accelerated the execution of their strategy and raised the bar on the skill levels of their client-facing staff.
Through this process, Julie found that knowledge retention requires a process of continuous improvement. Client-facing staff need to hone their skills and develop their knowledge on an iterative basis to execute consistently. Regular reinforcement and making training part of their day to day was crucial to layer learning so that it’s retained over the long-term. One way that Julie achieved this was by extending Russell Investment’s onboarding program from just two weeks to six months.
5. Work out what you’re measuring
While measuring sales results is, of course, important, Julie found that measuring engagement was actually more important to implement their strategy. That’s because they needed their client-facing staff to learn, and to learn they needed to be engaged with the process. So Julie focused on engagement metrics, like how often people accessed training and how long they spent on training each day. By doing this, she found that as engagement increased so did their sales results.
To determine what you should measure, she suggests analyzing your data at the outset to identify what things are preventing your client-facing staff from learning and retaining knowledge. For example, Julie found that the enablement software they were using wasn’t intuitive and the training was quite boring. So they addressed these issues by using software that leverages gamification, produced more concise training videos and introduced multiple training formats.
If you’d like to hear more about how to execute your client experience strategy effectively, you can watch the full interview.
Lead Market Manager, Financial Services