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Human Sigma: Managing the Employee-Customer Encounter

Jul 22nd 2009
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Human sigma

In my continuing series of book reviews, I profile a great book by John H. Fleming, Ph.D. and Jim Asplund called Human Sigma.  This book describes an innovative management approach that improves the financial performance of sales and service companies by managing employees and their interaction with customers.

The Human Sigma approach is based on the following five rules:

Rule 1: E Pluribus Unum. Employee and customer experiences cannot be managed separately; they must be managed together.
Rule 2: Feelings are facts: Emotions are the driving force between the employee/customer experience.
Rule 3: Think globally, measure and act locally. The employee/customer experience should be managed and measured at the local level.
Rule 4: There is one number you need to know. The purpose of the employee/customer experience is to positively affect financial performance. This experience can be measured with a single performance metric.
Rule 5: If you pray for potatoes, you better grab the right hoe. Long term improvement in the employee/customer experience requires not only the involvement of the local level, but must also involve the modification of the entire organization's approach to hiring employees, placing employees in the proper position in the organization, and how they are managed and rewarded for their performance.

Gallup, through their research, has found that measuring the strength of a workplace can be simplified to the following twelve questions which measure the core elements needed to attract, focus, and keep the most talented employees.

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
10. Do I have a best friend at work?
11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

The Human Sigma approach accepts and uses the unpredictability of human nature to successfully interact with a company's customers. The following eleven questions/statements were developed by Gallup for companies to ask their customers. They provide the means for measuring and monitoring the strength of the relationship that exists between a company (brand) and its customers.

1. Overall, how satisfied are you with [Brand]?
2. How likely are you to continue to choose/repurchase/repeat (if needed) [Brand]?
3. How likely are you to recommend [Brand] to a friend/associate?

Customers are given the next eight statements and asked to rate them from "strongly agree" (5) to "strongly disagree" (1).

4. [Brand] is a name I can always trust.
5. [Brand] always delivers on what they promise.
6. [Brand] always treats me fairly.
7. If a problem arises, I can always count on [Brand] to reach a fair and satisfactory resolution.
8. I feel proud to be a [Brand] [customer/shopper/user/owner].
9. [Brand] always treats me with respect.
10. [Brand] is the perfect [company/product/brand/store] for people like me.
11. I can't imagine a world without [Brand].

By regularly asking employees the twelve core questions, asking customers the eleven questions, and by following the five rules, Human Sigma describes how sales and service companies can become highly successful in the new global economy. Companies can improve their financial position by allowing their employees to focus on their natural talents and mentoring and motivating these talents. This will cause the employees to become emotionally invested in their work, which will then lead toward the company's ultimate goal of a fully engaged customer.


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