The message that energy firm E.ON works hard to communicate to all its employees is simple, according to its international customer experience manager, Victoria Flash:
Whatever you do, wherever you are in the organization, you need to put the customer first.
One of the tools the energy company used to help drive home the ‘customer-first’ message was a gamified learning approach, developed by CM Group.
Like many in the energy sector, customer experience hadn’t always been such a priority at E.ON. That all changed a few years ago when the company embarked on a massive customer experience program.
As part of the customer experience program, E.ON introduced the Net Promoter Score, a management tool which measures customer loyalty to a brand or company.
It was a really strong program and the company was proud of the changes made, but as Flash told delegates at the CIPD’s Learning and Development show:
What we found after working on this for several years was that our score was only moving in line with our competition, despite all of the work and all of the investment and everything we were doing to improve things for our customers.
The energy firm realized that the program wasn’t having the full impact because employees working in areas such as distribution, who never dealt directly with customers, did not feel the customer experience was relevant to them. The company needed a way of helping all employees live up to the customer-first ideal, not just those on the customer front-line. That required changing the culture of the organization.
At the same time, external factors in the energy market were forcing a rethink, as consumer attitudes to energy changed and they started becoming energy producers themselves, through using solar panels, for example.
The energy company responded quickly with a stronger customer-centric vision and rolled out targets to executives across the company to improve their Net Promoter Score.
To push through the cultural change needed to back up this move, Flash enlisted the help of Teresa Rose, product manager for digital learning at E.ON, to develop a new piece of digital learning. But this needed to be something very different from standard e-learning to signal the depth of the changes in the company. Flash expands:
It needs to be acceptable to our executives, but it also needs to accessible to everyone else in the organization who wants to use it.
She didn’t want it to be theory-based, but to use the wealth of data and information about what customers thought about each step of the customer journey and present it in a more engaging manner. Above all, it wanted to show how everyone in the organization impacted that customer experience.
Rose relished the challenge of the brief – but it was an exacting challenge. There were many limitations on what kind of learning could be produced, not least of which was an incredibly tight 12-week production window. Says Rose:
Time and cost was probably one of the biggest challenges for us. The only way we could do that was by being really clear in the brief about what we wanted.
One of the ways that helped speed up the process was to bring the stakeholders into the room for the design process with CM Group.
The company decided on a gamified approach to learning, because it was felt would have the “wow” factor and the impact needed to pique people’s interest in what was a voluntary training exercise.
The game needed to be thought-provoking and help people see things from the customer point of view. It also needed to be as relevant to people in distribution or smart metering as it was to employees dealing with customers directly every day in call centers.
Coupled with that, the game had to be cross-cultural, applicable across different national cultures and internal cultures and different roles.
There were also technical challenges to contend with. The design team had to contend with the limitations of its existing LMS and the game would have to go through its HR system. There were also significant bandwidth constraints, which put restrictions on the content that could be included, precluding the use of rich video and sound.
Bandwidth bottlenecks needed to be anticipated, so that call center workers, who had to be allocated time away from their phones for the training, did not then find themselves unable to play the game.
Despite the constraints a game was produced that not only created a buzz within the company and in the industry and the game was shortlisted for two learning awards.
In the game, people choose to complete three different customer experience challenges. E.ON found that having a gamified approach tapped into people’s natural competitiveness, as departments within the company wanted competed against other areas. As a result, Flash says:
People are saying that they now understand how their work really helps the customers and so they feel the work they are doing isn’t just for the organization.
With costs at £50,000 split between this game and another training initiative, Flash feels that the investment has helped in its bid to change the culture and ultimately impacting the Net Provide Scores:
I’m not going to say that the gamification is responsible solely for the changes; we had a great program in place, but this as a place in the organization where people could learn a little bit more…It was a catalyst; a tool in our communication to get out there and really engage with the business.
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