Category Archives: customer service

Ratedly Review-Tracking App Rates

I guess my biggest surprise after speaking recently with Joel Cheesman — creator of the new Ratedly anonymous employee-review monitoring service for employers that launched in May — is that competitors don’t seem to be furiously chasing or even nipping at his heels since the launch.

Joel Cheeseman and his Ratedly app.
Joel Cheesman and his Ratedly app.

Equally surprising is Cheesman isn’t that concerned about competition or heel-nipping at all. He’s doing just fine with the 10 primary review sites he spiders to — including Glassdoor and Indeed — and Ratedly’s slow-but-steady clientele growth.

But the app — which he was good enough to demo for me — is so simple and straightforward, and the most logical next step for helping employers through the employee-review revolution, you’d think other vendors would be clamoring to partner with him or give him a run for his money. If either of those things happens, he tells me, “we’ll welcome it.”

Bottom line, he adds, “we want to be the best at what we do, so we’re not against people looking into what we’re doing and trying to take us on.”

At the same time, says Cheesman, without giving away too many numerical specifics, “there’s no pressure to make a ton of money real fast here. We’re building customers at a rate that I’m comfortable with. It’s all going well, and self-funded, and I’m going to keep it that way.”

It didn’t take long for Cheesman, a 20-year veteran of the recruiting and employment industry, to walk me through his brainstorm several days ago. It’s really that basic. Resembling a Twitter feed, if you will, Ratedly is, in essence, a mobile-enabled real-time index for iPhones, iPads and iPods that constantly checks for subscribers’ company pages and or company mentions on anonymous employee-review sites.

“Employers waste so much time these days hitting the refresh button to track reviews about them online,” he says. “We saw a real need out there to take that task off the plate of HR professionals across every industry category. No one is immune to anonymous reviews.” He adds:

“The days of putting your head in the sand are over. Companies NEED to know what’s being said out there. If you have someone flaming your company and you don’t know about it, you’re at a real disadvantage. People you’re interviewing are going to these sites. That’s your brand … not what you’re spending on your website. If the community at large says you ‘suck,’ all that [other] branding stuff [you’re doing and paying for] doesn’t do any good or make any sense at all.” 

Anyone who signs up for the $150-a-month service gets automatic access to the data Ratedly’s bot scrapes every day from the 10 main review sites in its arsenal. Clients can also ask that custom feeds be added if their company happens to be showing up regularly on an additional site as well. They can bookmark whatever comments they choose and/or share them with whomever they want.

They also get push notifications whenever their company is mentioned so they can get on with the work they’re supposed to be doing, as opposed to constantly watching and waiting for what employees and job candidates think of them. Or worrying about missing another anonymous review. In addition, Ratedly will warn them if their reputation appears to be trending up or down on any given week.

Next on Cheesman’s to-do list is enhancing the analytics and metrics with word-search capabilities, being able to tie an organization’s trending reputation to stock fluctuations and company news, and getting more consultancies and agencies involved with the product.

“A lot of agencies are being sought right now to help employers with their reputations and employer brands,” Cheesman says, “so working more with and in that space will be our next big thing. That will be huge.”

He also plans to work harder with clients’ CEOs and other top leaders such as CHROs to get them more personally and regularly involved with social media, especially as it pertains to employee-review sites. In his eyes, this will speak volumes to younger workers and job candidates. Think about it, he says:

“You’re a CEO. You go out and find a positive comment posted by one of your younger employees on Glassdoor. Instead of moving on, you take the time to post [to Twitter, Facebook, etc.] something like, ‘Hey, another happy employee!’ with a link to Glassdoor. That shows that young person [and all his or her friends] that you’re a CEO who’s on top of social media and took the time to notice someone’s post; that looks really, really good in the public eye.”

The Cybersecurity and Culture Connection

The cyber risk realm is one that’s generally inhabited by those in the IT department.

New research from Willis Towers Watson, however, looks at the role human resources can play in helping the organization wrestle with cybersecurity-related issues, and what HR can do to help in the event of an actual cyber breach.

The London-based consultancy recently analyzed employee survey results from 12 organizations, examining engagement attitudes and opinions from more than 450,000 workers corresponding to a period in which significant data breaches were identified within the firms.

Employees’ responses were benchmarked against global high-performance companies and global IT staff from Willis Towers Watson’s database of employee opinion survey data. Overall, employee opinions within the organizations experiencing data breaches didn’t stack up favorably, with scores ranking the lowest in three aspects of company culture—training, company image and customer focus.

For example, fewer workers at firms that have recently encountered a data breach feel they have received adequate training for the work they do and have access to training to improve their skills and learn new ones to advance in their roles, while smaller numbers of employees at these companies feel their employers treat corporate social responsibility and customer focus as top priorities.

The lower scores emerging from organizations affected by a data breach were “expected,” according to Willis Towers Watson, but HR leaders “can use a number of tools at [their] disposal to help create a culture conducive to effective cyber risk management,” says Patrick Kulesa, global research director.

For example, he recommends stressing in training programs “the importance of customer information and the role that every employee plays in safeguarding details about customers—especially when training new hires generally and all hires in IT,” and suggests considering making such training programs an annual requirement for all employees, “to keep skills fresh.”

Kulesa also urges HR leaders to advocate providing or sponsoring continuing education programs on new developments in technology that impact the business.

With respect to consumer focus, “provide employees an opportunity to raise concerns about poor customer service, through employee surveys or other appropriate avenues,” he says, adding that leaders and managers should be evaluated on “how well they reinforce the value of customer service and reflect the image of the company through their actions.”

Ideally, such actions will help mitigate the organization’s risk of experiencing a cyber breach. But HR can also be integral in the recovery effort should one occur, says Kulesa.

“Help the businesses impacted to get out in front of the event through clear communications to employees, or through assisting leaders in crafting and delivering such messages,” he says.

In addition, “describe the steps already in place to encourage an effective culture—competencies for leaders, training for staff, avenues to raise concerns,” says Kalesa, adding that HR must also “be clear about steps being taken to improve risk management and the role each employee can play in that process.”

And, most importantly, “focus on continuing improvement,” he says, “not assigning blame.”

HR’s Role in Fostering Innovation

100843802 (1)How do you define innovation?

Chris Hunsberger asked that (rhetorical) question of the 550-plus attendees within minutes of kicking off his keynote talk yesterday morning at the 9th annual HR in Hospitality Conference & Expo at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

A quick Google search will bring you nearly 270 million different definitions, explained Hunsberger, the executive vice president of HR and administration at Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts.

So there are a few different ways to define the term. But, in essence, innovation is about “creative problem solving,” he said, “and doing things in new and different ways.”

Indeed, doing things in new ways is a necessity for any organization with hopes of succeeding in 2015, said Hunsberger, who is, by his count, 75 days into his new role, after 34 years in operations at Four Seasons, where he has spent his entire professional career.

To illustrate the importance leading companies (and their HR functions) place on doing things “a little differently,” Hunsberger pointed to organizations such as Zappos and Netflix.

Zappos, of course, has famously offered employees financial incentives to leave the company, in part as a way to separate those who are truly committed to the organization’s success from those who are simply working for a paycheck.

Meanwhile, Netflix is piloting a program that allows employees to set their own holiday schedules.

To further demonstrate his point, Hunsberger also offered a few “short stories of innovation” from within Four Seasons.

In search of innovative ideas from employees, Hunsberger and the leadership team asked senior leaders throughout the organization to arrange and oversee “innovation sessions” focused on identifying opportunities to improve the guest experience, for example.

At one of these sessions, the Boston-based hotel’s team came up with an idea for “15-minute room service.”

“We obviously get a lot of feedback from guests, and many felt room service was too pricey and, at an average of 30 minutes to 40 minutes, took too long. So the Boston team had the idea to develop a 15-minute room-service menu,” said Hunsberger.

Leadership loved the idea so much, he said, that “we rolled this out as a global initiative in about 90 days, and we even had a competition to see [which hotel] could come up with the best menu.”

In addition to drawing raves from Four Seasons guests, the 15-minute room-service initiative “really allowed our team to think about innovating,” he said, “and doing things in a new way.”

‘The Death of Customer Service’

Came across an interesting blog post with the same title as my header here,  written by Rick Conlow, leadership expert and CEO/co-founder of Minneapolis-based WCW Partners. He believes telephone operatorcustomer service has been ailing for some time now and employers need to put the function on “life support” and “invest heavily in bringing it back to health” before it fells you at your knees.

Customer service, he writes, “passed away quietly [and] the wake is at the next quarterly meeting, and the funeral will follow shortly.” Each year, he writes, “companies worldwide struggle for sales growth and profit, yet a conservative estimate of their loss from poor customer service comes in at a staggering $338.5 billion a year.”

He sums up the problem pretty convincingly:

“Excellent customer service is seriously lacking in most places we spend our money. Think about it — can you recall a recent experience where the customer service was really bad? Sure you can. Think of other places you have spent your hard earned paycheck: grocery store, bank, restaurant, a fast-food chain, a department store, a gas station, a hotel, an airline, an online merchant and the list could go on. How many of these had poor to average service? Probably most of them. How many really stood out and had outstanding service? Very likely, it was only a few.”

Here are the top four reasons why Conlow thinks customer service is essentially dead, as itemized in this release about his blog post:

1.    A Lack of Civility — People have accepted poor manners and have become used to rude behavior. “The general perception by most adults is that people are less civil than in days past,” Conlow says.
2.    Employees Treated as Commodities — “Many companies treat employees as commodities,” he contends, “not as valuable partners. Most employees don’t get the training and support they need to deliver superior customer service. Company leaders have little loyalty to their employees, and, in return, employees have little loyalty to them and their customers.”
3.    Public Accustomed to Poor Service — The public’s expectations have become lower as mediocre service has become rampant. Conlow points out that many big companies with poor customer-service ratings still thrive.
4.    An Increase in Technology — The increase in technology today means a decrease in personal interaction. “Service technology loses the human touch — the empathy and compassion that is vital to creating loyal customer relationships,” he says.

Conlow warns that “consumer discontent is a sleeping giant. It will only take so much, and its wrath can go viral today in minutes.” He also says customer service is becoming more important than ever, and companies need to put more effort into improving it.

Such as? Well … a leadership mind change, for one. As he describes:

“Maybe the real issue is that too many business leaders don’t value delivering better service and don’t buy into the bottom-line benefits. So most organizations do just enough to get by. The American Customer Satisfaction Institute at the Ross Business School at the University of Michigan rates some 240 companies across 34 industries on a monthly basis. The airline industry has a 67 average, which is awful. The average rating for all companies is 76.8, which is a C average. This means only two of 10 companies have a significant level of highly satisfied customers. Those few companies with excellent ratings have discovered that excellent service is really their leading product that drives everything else.”

Conlow cites a Customers 2020 report saying the customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator in the future. Those organizations that adapt will survive and thrive, he says. Then he issues this warning:

“As more companies begin to ail painfully, customer service must be resurrected as it becomes more important than ever.”

So … better customer-service training, perhaps? More money in the customer-service-training pot? Conlow’s take: By all means.

Maybe this news analysis we posted in June gets to a better solution for today’s workforce (which now includes many younger workers, and they’re only going to increase). Invest in the things these workers believe in, including corporate-social-responsibility initiatives, and watch your customer-service ratings climb.

Share your CSR visions and values with them, make sure they reflect some of what these younger workers are passionate about, encourage them to connect with like-minded customers on the same issues … and, that story indicates, you really can right this customer-service ship.