How Not To Engage Employees: Telecoms Lead The Way Again

by Colin Shaw on May 26, 2016

Nearly 40,000 employees from two unions contracting with Verizon have been on strike for a little over a month. Now, Verizon is learning firsthand the cost of not having a strong culture of employee engagement—in actual dollars and sense.

Unable to reach a compromise for the outsourcing and transfer of their jobs, employees from all parts of the organization walked off the job last month. Attempts to negotiate have deteriorated to the point of an armed confrontation in the Philippines. The federal government pressured both sides to return to the negotiating table in Washington D.C. with the help of a federal mediator.

Shares were down 3% since the strike began. Last Thursday morning, they were down 2%. Furthermore, the CFO reported that the installations and new orders of FiOS service had also decreased. Whilst the strike is mainly on the traditional telecoms service it is not just being contained there as you can imagine, with an overall brand perception at a 3 year low and this is having a negative effect on Verizon Wireless.

Employee Engagement and Customer Experience Are Linked

Employee engagement is crucial to Customer Experience. After all, if your employees don’t feel happy and pleased with their job and the mission of your organization, then how can they make customers feel happy and pleased with their experience?

Just like a Customer Experience, you have to design your Employee Experience deliberately. It doesn’t happen by accident, nor is it an entirely rational endeavor. Employees are people, and people are emotional. Therefore, you need to create a culture that makes the employees feel happy and pleased with what they are doing. When you have this type of environment, you create a culture that fosters employee engagement.

Nothing could be further away from engaged employees than employees on strike. Just reading some of the Facebook comments on Verizon Wireless Workers Rising shows the strength of feeling. Why did they strike? Verizon wants to hire more non-union workers, reassign union workers for up to two months in another city, and outsource more capacity to call centers in the Philippines and Mexico.

Telecoms Are Notorious for Their Internal Focus

However, both the Employee and Customer Experience are suffering for another reason. Verizon has an internal focus, just like the rest of the telecoms industry. Consider the outsourcing of the call centers. We all know that overseas call centers are less expensive (labor) than in the U.S. (or other unionized labor markets). It’s a cost-cutting measure to outsource this department—an operational focus by definition.

However, we all also know people don’t like to be put through to an overseas call center. Does that mean they can’t be used? Of course not, but ideally not for customer-facing roles. But they are cheaper, so Verizon wants to do it regardless, ticking off employees and customers in one fell swoop!

Business must focus on what the customer wants and needs and not only what the company wants and needs. As Customer Experience Consultants, we call this an Outside-in approach, meaning you are looking at your Customer Experience as if you were a customer. Not surprisingly, an outside-in approach is also remarkably effective at improving Employee Experiences. Perhaps that approach might explain to senior management how it feels when your boss says you will have to leave your home in Virginia to work in Arizona until August.

My personal background is in telecoms. I remain the eternal optimist and I firmly believe there is a massive opportunity for someone to get the Customer Experience right in the telecom industry and when they do Customers will flock to them.

 However, getting it right won’t happen without also having a great Employee Experience. But who will be the first to break the internally-focused, cost-cutting mold of the telecom culture? I’m not much of a betting man, but based on their latest contract negotiations, I’ll wager it won’t be Verizon.

What do you think? Can Verizon fix their broken Employee Experience? I’d be interested to hear your opinion in the comments below.  

If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs:

The Big Mistake Most Organizations Make with Employee Engagement

Are You Inside-Out or Outside-In?

How to Measure Customer Emotions

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter & Periscope @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawHow Not To Engage Employees: Telecoms Lead The Way Again