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The latest years I have seen many organizations that worked with CX Ambassadors. So many roles, and so many variations of domain of impact. For example, to implement customer improvements, or to be NPS ambassadors from all teams to make sure the metric and the thought behind it stays alive, or to build a culture of customer centric behavior, or to translate the brand values into daily work. As I have seen so many and some were a success and some just died a silent death (yes, that is a risk), I decided to deduct the nine elements of success.

1. Have common goals that link to the strategy of the organization

When people join an ambassador program, they want to understand how they contribute and what is the WHY of the program. It is the role from the CX team to give clarity on this element of belonging and contribution. Especially the strategy element is important, as people will be asked in their teams and their surroundings what their role as an ambassador is. Also make sure they can translate their work into the strategy and the goals of the Ambassador program. As a CX team you have to be able to answer the question: “When is our CX Ambassador program a success and how does it contribute to the success of the organization?” Because if you can’t, your ambassadors most definitely can’t either.

2. Make sure the ambassadors have time to act

It depends whether Ambassadors are chosen by management or whether they can volunteer to join your CX Ambassador program. One of the hurdles I often see, is that of time. People get their ambassador role on top of their daily work. Especially when working in the frontline, with operational roles, you need to be aware that chances are they promise a lot but are more likely to be scheduled to be doing their regular job. I have seen programs where people got 20 percent of their time to work in the ambassador program; make sure this is planned in the WFM and help your ambassadors to own this new role. Enable them to have conversations with their team members and management. But also, you have to have conversations with the leadership, to emphasize the importance of the Ambassador program and the time people need.

3. Choose ambassadors wisely

Who should be the ambassadors? A very interesting question. Should they be picked by management, is that the modus operandi in your organization? Or could you have a kind of an audition program, where employees get to do interviews and really show why they are a good match? I hope you get to have a say in the selection process and have a diverse group of ambassadors. Especially at the start, make sure you get colleagues that have belief in Customer Experience, that have the right energy, that are curious and that are at crucial positions in the company. Later in time, you can choose to also engage the opponents. Especially when you have the first results in, this will convince them, and it gives you the authority that you can engage all. And of course, make the Ambassador team a diverse one, both on background, gender, roles and global footprint (when applicable).

4. Give guidance and build a system of support and clear governance

Ambassadors need support to fulfill their role. Often their roles have an evangelist and activist element which has impact on the organizational status quo. This means they have to work on customer change and different behavior. That isn’t easy, so help your ambassadors with the resistance they will encounter. Create FAQ’s with the most asked questions and answers they might give. Help them with tools and interventions so they can really act on their role. It is also important that you help them telling the story, especially when the evangelist element is fundamental. Practice the change story together. Give them customer stories, video clips, customer verbatims, that they can use in their change roles. I often see communities with a shared platform, where all resources can be found. Make sure you are the activator and stimulator of this platform.

5. Share and reward success

Some ambassadors hit the jackpot and some won’t. It is very important to deep dive the elements that enhance success. What really works is to put the people in the spotlight that are nailing it. That are really creating customer impact, that raise metrics, that change the customer status quo. I have seen Awards for the CX Ambassador of the year, which is kind of formal. But I have also seen stories highlighted on the intranet and Yammer communities where CX heroes were celebrated. Make sure you put the spotlight on their success, but also on the journey towards success. Share the honest truth and give them the praise they deserve. And… if your ambassador program is a true success, give yourself the right platform and go for a CX award yourself or with the team. Whether at the Global Insights Exchange of the CXPA or the International CX Awards. This can give you the internal authority, praise of colleagues and often an internal leadership boost.

6. Get together in real life

This might be difficult in global programs, but it is of true importance that Ambassadors know each other. So they know their peers, so they can have conversations when stuck, or to build on capabilities. I often see Zoom calls, Skype meetings and yes, these are practical. But when you really want success, claim budget for real life get togethers. Enhance learning, networking and a real foundation of CX belief when you see each other. What I have also seen, is that when Ambassadors have to make a real effort to travel, they are even more connected to the program later. When you finish a person to person event, make sure you give the colleagues shiny certificates or other status symbols they can take to their offices. To show off and have a physical reminder of their ambassador status.

7. Involve leaders

Somehow, I have seen most CX Ambassador programs that only have team members from operational roles. Where are the leaders, where is the management? It can’t be that they are too busy… So, when you start and choose the ambassador team, make sure you have the option to also pick leaders. If that is not the case, make sure you engage leaders in a different way. Communicate regularly about the Ambassador program and mention their teams when they deliver results. But also have conversations when the Ambassadors fall short and they indicate they don’t get the time they need. These conversations might be tricky, but this is the only road to go. Especially when you feel some leaders don’t support the program. If I can give you one most important suggestion it is: include the CEO. Make sure he/she expresses the importance, shows up in a real life meetup, or in a Zoom. That he/she asks questions in meetings how the participation of the Ambassador program is going.

8. Have ‘who takes over’ conversations and an on-boarding program

People will leave teams, get new roles, get sick or might even leave the company. To have continuity, you need to think of this at the beginning. Especially when people are selected and start: be honest and ask what will happen when they eventually are not there. For whatever reason. Do they have somebody that can replace them, do they have a next in line idea? It is a good conversation to have, since this also shows your sincerity and serious approach to the Ambassador program. When they stop, give them a fond farewell, a big thank you. Also give the new ambassadors a warm welcome. Make sure you have a welcome/onboarding procedure. That is crystal clear on expectations. That helps you and the ambassador to start of in the best way.

9. When the vibe is down, stop or show stamina and refresh

The good thing at the start of a CX Ambassador program is that everybody is fully energized. Starting new things just has a good vibe. The lights are all green, the program has power, maybe even an own logo. You have somebody who is responsible for the selection, communication and the meetups. And then… after a year the vibe might be down. The participation is less. Other priorities might come up. What to do? This should already have been taken care of in the startup. To raise the ‘what if questions’ and the mitigating actions. But it will happen. This is the moment where you have two choices. Either you stop the program. With a real celebration of the success, a big thank you to all participants. Or this is the moment your endurance comes in. Where you show stamina. Continuity is key and you have to stick to the rhythm of communication. Make time in your agenda to prepare meetings, to tape video’s, to share stories. And when the vibe is really down: refresh. Give the program a boost with a new logo. With a new story line, maybe even a new face of the CX team.

When to start an CX Ambassador program

Ambassador programs are just tha bomb. Yes, I am an enthusiast and I have seen some great examples where the organization was engaged by the success of the program. You don’t start an Ambassador program when you just started the CX team. It is something to start when you have grown a little more mature. When the fundamentals are there: a CX team, a clear CX Strategy and of course the budget.

Your learnings

I am so curious for your learnings. I have two questions:

  1. What are fundamentals that you have encountered in your CX Ambassador program that really created success, that are your success factors?
  2. Please be in contact when you have a great Ambassador story. As I am writing the CX Travel Guide in English, I am looking for international stories and I would love to learn from yours and share your story.

So, please share your insights and comments and of course, feel free to like, love and share this post.

 

>>> Nienke Bloem CCXP is an expert in Customer Experience, both as Keynote Speaker, teacher of the 2 day CX Masterclass to prepare you for the CCXP exam and she is co-founder of the customer experience game. Do you want to read her blogs or learn more about her? Visit her website or subscribe to her monthly CX Greetz. **

 

>>> Feel free to comment on this blog and share it in your community! **

 

… or should I say, Employee Experience? Yes, I have been wondering what the title of this blog should be and I chose the one on Customer Experience. Just because I had to choose. If you think after reading this blog, it should be the other way around. Let me know!

The 22ndof January 2019. A big day: I was going to visit Zappos. I was excited, because I had heard so much about the company,  I follow them on Instagram (@ZapposCulture) and of course read the book “Delivering Happiness”. This day I was going to see it myself. Would it be a big hit or would it be a disappointment? I had no idea, so the excitement was real.

The first impression of the building was a little bit of a downer. The building isn’t a beauty of a building, it used to be the city hall of Las Vegas. It is a building like any other and they have tried to make it look happy, with some pictures, but I am honest, the building and the square didn’t deliver any happiness to me.

A little side step: I arrived in Las Vegas two days before and I had plenty time to stroll around the city. If you ever visited the city or have seen some pictures, you know that especially the strip is kind of a crazy place. A miniature Eiffel tower, Venetian gondola’s; everything for entertainment. My hotel was on the strip and I brought some crackers and as I am trying to eat healthy, I was looking for an avocado to spread on my cracker. As I walked the strip for more than two hours, there was not avocado to be found. Yes, I could gamble, drink, eat, buy souvenirs, but no avocado there.

Let’s go back to the Zappos experience. When you enter the building, you are pleasantly surprised. The colored Lego wall, the merchandise, the wall with the company’s story; the whole atmosphere is breathing the FUN Zappos feeling. Want to have an impression?

Megan was my tour guide and we started with the history of the company. A company pride movie, some examples of wow employee experiences, like the “snowman prank” and the CEO living in a trailer. It was a set up of the real tour, where they gave me the Zappos experience. We couldn’t visit the customer service department, but I saw HR, the way the company is set up, their fitness studio (in the former prison), their restaurant and their Aquarium resting area. Really!

When we passed the square during our tour. I saw at the main square a drawing of an Avocado, saying “AvocaDO”. I giggled and told Megan, that Las Vegas was more of an AvocaNO city. I shared my experience of the hunt for an avocado and we laughed together.

As my tour ended, I had two interviews with leaders of the company. To learn more about Customer Experience strategies, about listening to customers, about how it is to work in the company. As I was starting my first interview, Megan entered the room with a little bag with two avocado’s. “For you”, as she presented them with a big smile. How about that? Putting the magic around one of their values: “Deliver WOW through service”. Easy does it with a big result. Zappos does deliver WOW.

So, a nice story, and Zappos puts its money where its mouth is. So you have a first impression. But what did I learn and what can you learn from this shoe selling company? I decided to give you a list of ideas. You can pick yourself, what is applicable. What resonates with you. And I am honest. The longer I write, the more comes to mind. So be prepared, somewhere this year, I will publish blog number two about this topic 😉

  1. Choose your values: Zappos has their ten core values and they are everywhere. Where of course their most known value is “Deliver Wow through Service”. The other nine are just as important for the employees.
  2. Hire the right employees: “It is easier to get into Harvard, than to work at Zappos” Zappos receives thousands of job applications every half year. They only want the right people to work for them. The ones that fit the company, the ones that are motivated.
  3. Take time for onboarding: new employees get a four-week onboarding and training, where they work for three weeks in the contact center. Yes, everybody. Whether you start working in IT or in Accountancy: you will start in the contact center, so you know your customers and what their lifes are about.
  4. Test if new employees get it: once a new employee has done his onboarding, at Zappos that is the moment they have to go for THE test. This test is crucial, because if you don’t score 90%, you don’t pass and are asked to leave. The test is about culture and values, computer systems and how to behave on the phone.
  5. Make new employees choose: when employees have finished their onboarding, they get the offer of a month’s salary to leave the company. Yes, you read this right. If you stay, you don’t get it. They only want people that really want to work for Zappos.
  6. 10 hour rule in the holiday season. Everybody has to help the contact center for ten hours. Everybody. EVERYBODY. Sorry to that bold, but this is magic. It is already magic when colleagues from IT would listen in some companies, Zappos takes it to the next level.
  7. Honor employees and the years they work for you: every five years you work at Zappos, you get a plate with your name on it in a certain color. First five years is blue, five to ten is red, etcetera. These nameplates hang at the desks, so you can see who works there and for how long they are with Zappos.
  8. Serendipitous Collisions: the Zappos building has ten floors and on one floor, there are drinks, on the other floor there are snacks. So people have to move to get a drink or something to eat. By doing so, they will meet people from other departments, and they hang out together.
  9. Create business money. Zappos has their own monetary system; Zollars. Yes, where dollars and Zappos meet. You can earn Zollars in several ways and spend them in their own Zappos way.
  10. Zappos Merchandise: not only can you buy Zappos merchandise as visitor, they also have their own little Zappos store for employees, varying from a t-shirt to a bicycle. Zappos branded of course: here you can spend your earned Zollars.
  11. Co-working Bonus program: employees can grant colleagues a bonus of 50 Zollars for doing nice things for each other, or if they helped out customers in a brilliant way.
  12. Department of Celebration: in case there is something to celebrate, from birthday to wedding. At Zappos they have a catalogue where you can order everything you need to celebrate. For example, you can order balloons with a card and they are delivered to the desk of the person who is celebrating.
  13. Bring fun in the IVR: when you call Zappos you get the choice to either press one to talk to a representant or two to hear the joke of the day. My goodness, I love this one.
  14. Organize fitness: at Zappos they have their own fitness studio (in the former prison, so funny) and they have also yoga and boxing classes. You earn points that you can spend in a special Zfit store.
  15. Tech Support: in the cafeteria Zappos has a special desk for technical help. You can bring your laptop there and they make sure you are on your way as soon as possible.
  16. Bring values in yearly reviews: as an employee you are asked how you score on the core values and also peers will rate you. You can pick the core values that fit you best, because you don’t have to score all ten.
  17. Stimulate change: at Zappos they have investors that help employees who have ideas in an investor board. So these investors help employees with money to grow their ideas.
  18. Help employees as entrepreneurs: at Zappos they have a class called ‘48 Hour Founders’. People can pitch (like in Sharktank) to a group and when your idea is picked, you work it out with colleagues and a business coach. In 48 hours you will grow your idea forward and pitch to the Investor Board.
  19. Teambuilding: every month employees get a budget of 50 dollars to go out and have fun. Plan it yourself and create a team and a family feeling. You can also save it a couple of months, to do something more elaborate.
  20. Family time: every quarter of a year a family movie night is organized for employees and their families. So, the focus is not only on the employees, but their families are engaged too.
  21. Measure because than you know: HR measures every quarter of a year how employees are feeling and to learn what they can do better. The insights are shared with everybody by company email. And a follow up by HR on the actions is always done.
  22. Shadowing: if an employee is curious about another role in the company, they can shadow a colleague in that role for two days, to learn what the job is about. During my tour, a colleague of the Customer Service department shadowed Megan to learn about being a tour guide.
  23. Continuous focus on customer interaction: everyone at Zappos understands that every interaction counts. That means that the focus is almost mindfully at the customer in that moment. No average call handling times or other internal metrics that can harm the connection.
  24. Quality assurance: Zappos has a dedicated team that listens to live calls to learn and give advice and suggestions to agents. The focus is on learning, improving and customer happiness.
  25. Values and the floors: where they have ten floors and ten values. They dedicated one value to every floor. This is visible and just a touch of connection.
  26. Focus on making it effortless: the managers or leads are focused on making living the core values as effortless as possible. Employees should be able to deliver on these as easy as possible.
  27. Create photo opportunities on your premises: as we are in the Instagram Era and people love taking pictures. Help them and create beautiful spots for photos. I love this place at Zappos where they have painted unicorn wings.

This is my special gift, just for YOU! I decided to create an e-zine about the biggest learnings. Know that Zappos focuses on Employee Experience to grow Customer Experience. Interesting! Download this visually attractive e-zine and pick yourself: what learnings are most applicable for your organization? What resonates with you? I am very curious which lessons inspire you most. Please feel free to send me an email with your insights!

 

** Nienke Bloem is an expert in Customer Experience (CCXP), both as Keynote Speaker, teacher of the 2 day CX Masterclass to prepare you for the CCXP exam and she is co-founder of The Customer Experience Game and The Employee Experience Game.**

** Feel free to comment on this blog and share it in your community! **

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