Engaged staff is the key

Engaged staff the key to great customer service - survey


Creating a great work environment – not price discounting – is the best way to increase and retain business during the economic downturn, suggest of findings of the second annual KiwiHost/JRA Customer Service Pulse released recently.


Managing director of JRA (leading workplace survey and analysis specialists), John Robertson, says it was interesting, but not surprising that companies named in the unlimited/JRA Best Places to Work in New Zealand Survey also featured positively in the KiwiHost/JRA Customer Service Pulse.


“It is pleasing to see that what we’ve been researching and talking about for a long time now is being validated, which is simply that if you create a positive work environment and a great place to work, you will engender high levels of engagement from your people.”


Organisations which scored the best in both surveys – a purely coincidental development – were AMI Insurance and Brookfield New World and New World Cambridge.


Mr Robertson said the KiwiHost/JRA Customer Service Pulse found the three things New Zealanders hate the most are:


1. Inefficient telephone systems;

2. Staff who are more interested in chatting amongst themselves;

3. No one taking responsibility for following up on inquiries.


“Somebody who feels a sense of disengagement carries on with their conversation while the customer is standing there waiting to be served; doesn’t make the effort to understand the product and is not interested in the customer’s problems. Companies that do work hard to engage their staff are rewarded with a huge bottom line payback.


“In our JRA bluebook, we disclose findings that engaged employees returned on assets 95% higher on average; sales per employee were 68% higher and staff are 29% more likely to stay with the organisation.”


Mr Robertson said that in the current climate the primary imperative is survival.


“Customers are more reluctant than ever to put their hands in their pockets. Companies are using massive discounts on prices as a strategy to retain and attract business, but there’s plenty of evidence that the best way to retain, and attract new customers, are practices that engender customer loyalty – price reduction doesn’t do that.”


While Gen Y copped the most flak for poor service in the survey (although they were also the most tolerant of poor service), Mr Robertson said that all people want – including Gen Y - is to feel a sense of achievement; to feel involved; to have their efforts recognised and opportunities to develop and get ahead.


“Two of the biggest customer frustrations reported in the KiwiHost/JRA Customer Service Pulse were people related. Telephones are impersonal things, so the customer is relieved to make personal contact with another human being, and then that contact doesn’t live up to expectations.


“In customer service everybody is a giver and a receiver. We can be so demanding and critical in terms of the service we receive, and yet it is extraordinary how many times people forget those experiences when it comes to their turn to deliver service. The extent to which they are aware of that disconnect is profoundly influenced by how they feel about their place of work.


“If they feel a sense of ownership and belonging, they will want to behave as if work was their own business; this is the thing that overcomes this disconnect.”


The KiwiHost/JRA Customer Service Pulse also found that New Zealanders tell between 4 and 6 people about a bad customer service experience, but only between one and three people get to hear about their good experiences.


“Nobody has a problem recalling bad experiences, but recalling that we’re personally responsible for delivering high levels of service and what motivated us to do that, well that’s where ‘drivers of engagement’ come into play.


“If you are working somewhere, where you’re feeling a strong sense of belonging and it’s a job you derive personal satisfaction and achievement from, then you are much more likely to be a good giver of service as well as somebody who demands that treatment from others.”


Managing Director of customer service training experts KiwiHost New Zealand, Jared Brixton, said the survey was of particular interest because it was conducted as New Zealand moved into the economic downturn and demonstrated that Kiwis would be less tolerant of bad service in tough times.


“More New Zealanders, 58.7% in total, were either ‘neutral’, ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ with levels of customer service – that’s virtually two out of three people who are not impressed. If companies want to prosper or even survive during the downturn, they must look to how they treat people – staff and customers. Imagine how much more business they would do if three out of three people were happy.


“Relationships during and post recession will be critical. Up-skilling staff has never been more important, because at the moment it all boils down to the relationship you have with the customer and whether your staff are skilled enough to form those relationships and if they have encouraging attitudes.


“Demand is down. If a company loses business now, it’s going to get much harder to get new customers – especially at a time when businesses can least afford to spend the money and time on developing new opportunities. It is always going to be easier to sell to somebody who has already bought from you.”


He said comments from respondents made it very clear that price and product are of secondary importance to how a customer is made to feel during the shopping experience.


For the second year running, the top three factors that defined good customer service from the customer’s perspective were:


1. Show a willingness to help me;

2. Listen to me and understand what my needs are;

3. Take responsibility to ensure my needs are met.


Other findings include:


  • Approximately 80% of respondents said they only complain ‘occasionally’ or even less frequently than that;
  • The banking industry in New Zealand was rated the best for customer service, while telecommunications continued to perform the poorest.


For further information contact:


Jared Brixton

Managing Director

KiwiHost New Zealand

Telephone: (03) 343 5007 (office)

                   021 903 110 (mobile)

John Robertson

Managing Director

JRA (NZ) Ltd

Telephone: (09) 378 2003 (office)

                   0274 992 229 (mobile)





Established in 1989, KiwiHost is New Zealand’s most experienced and best resourced customer service training organisation with expert facilitators located in 18 offices countrywide. KiwiHost facilitators deliver more than 20 specialised ‘great customer experience’ programmes, regular scheduled workshops (including in-house on demand), to a wide variety of organisations and industries. Industries currently served by KiwiHost include the health sector, professional practises, retail, government departments, local authorities, tourism, couriers and freight, not-for-profit organisations and trades and services.


JRA (NZ) Ltd


Established in 1993, JRA (NZ) Ltd is New Zealand’s leading workplace survey and analysis specialists.  Its products include Employee Surveys, External Customer Surveys, 360 Feedback Surveys, Internal Service Surveys and other customised survey projects.  JRA has worked with over 500 New Zealand organisations in the last three years across both the private and public sectors and many different industry types.  JRA recently opened offices in Brisbane, Australia.