Companies that want to improve their customer service levels may want to consider how well they’re investing in their employees’ creativity, suggests new research led by the University of East Anglia. The research involved front-line workers and managers for two international companies in the retail bank (31 branches) and cosmetics (22) industries in Lithuania.
For the study, employees completed questionnaires on creativity-oriented high-performance work systems, need satisfaction, creative process engagement and demographics. Managers rated their employees’ creative performance and assessed the extent to which creativity-oriented HR practices were implemented at their respective branches.
According to study results, published this October in the Journal of Management, retail bank and cosmetic branch staffs that were on average rated more creative by their managers also received high customer satisfaction evaluations from customers. Further, at the retailers where there was an explicit focus on creativity within HR practices, staff expressed higher levels of job satisfaction — feeling like they had control of their work, were more competent and more connected to people on their team — which impacted their work with customers.
While sales and customer service roles have commonly been associated with scripted behavior, lead author Ieva Martinaityte, of UEA’s Norwich Business School, said the study’s results show a need to deviate from that.
“We are living in a constantly changing environment and companies need to adapt to changes in technology and customer needs. Customers want a more personal service and we show that a more creative approach is a way to enhance their experience. Delighting the customer will increasingly stem from frontline employees’ creative rather than scripted role performance.”
The results suggest HR and learning leaders can make an impact on customer satisfaction and ultimately overall market performance by promoting creativity and innovation among employees. For instance, provide training to help employees develop creative thinking and problem solving skills and techniques. Or, implement digital tools to promote knowledge sharing and social collaboration.
Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer magazine associate editor. Comment below or email editors@CLOmedia.com.