HR departments are increasingly being seen as business partners by organizations, and as such are expected to prove their worth when it comes to meeting a company's strategic goals.
Once, HR customers were all within the organization. But now, the definition is arguably widening to include the external customers of a business. Performance is now increasingly being looked at in customer outcome terms.
The link between HR departments and customer service is tightening and it's easy to see why. HR is charged with developing and utilizing an organization's human capital, which sits at the front line of the customer experience.
HR's dominant role is likely to continue as achieving satisfaction for internal customers – employees, company executives and line managers.
The reasoning behind it is simple: employees who have been well trained and are satisfied with their place in the organization are likely to be more productive, leading to better outcomes for the business as a whole.
Measuring internal customer satisfaction remains a challenge, however.
Customer satisfaction surveys are a great way with which to gauge performance, but to do this there must be an understanding of what should be measured.
What do internal customers expect from their HR department? Defining this is the first stage in devising a feedback methodology.
Scott Esposito, in a previous article on Human Resources IQ, outlined the example of a large aerospace company seeking to devise performance measurement metrics. After working with the different customer groups, it created seven areas of assessment – responsiveness, client investment, communications, turnaround time, quality, service value, follow up and support.
From this list, which will vary between organizations, questionnaires were devised and sent to representatives of each client group. The results allowed the department to recognize areas of strength and weakness, and from here create interventions, which should improve the customer experience.
Today, HR departments should not just be concerned with how their performance is perceived by internal clients, but should also assess their performance in relation to external customer outcomes.
Writing for HR Magazine, Anne Blackburn, customer experience director of consultancy Sidona Group, explained, "HR managers need a dual vision, looking outward to the end-customer and what they value as well as inwardly to what behaviors employees need to show in order to deliver this."
A large part of this centers around the training offered to employees, which will not only boost customer service but is also likely to increase engagement – leading to greater productivity.
Customers are expecting more from companies and, during difficult economic times, a strong customer experience can really set a business apart. For example, the latest American Express Global Customer Service Barometer found Australians are on average willing to spend 12 percent more to receive excellent customer service, up from eight percent the previous year.
Brett Whitford, executive director of the Customer Service Institute of Australia, said: "Training and developing frontline staff to deliver great service should be viewed as an investment in the long-term health of a business.
"Generally, delivering great service comes down to the small touches and showing interest in customers, asking how they are, recognizing their custom and rewarding loyalty."
Blackburn advised HR departments to start planning for this training during the recruitment process, advising companies "recruit for attitude and train for skills".
"Focusing on recruiting staff with the right attitude and behaviors (as opposed to recruiting based on skills) is key to developing a company culture - sales from highly engaged employees can increase by ten percent," she explained.
Measuring HR service delivery based on customer outcomes also helps departments demonstrate they are adding the value to the business that they are increasingly being required to provide.
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