Legal Words

What does HR have to do with customer experience? More than you may think.

By Karen Stone, CHRE

We know that the role of human resources includes stewarding effective recruitment functions, professional career development and performance management programs within the workplace.

And yet many of us may not often consider HR’s contribution and impact on the day-to-day experience of the clients, customers and business partners in workplaces.

As this month’s cover story details, HR can have a lot more influence on the customer experience. As the architects of high-performing cultures, HR can play a large role in designing workplace strategies and programs to support a great employee experience, which in turn can have a direct correlation to an employee ensuring a positive customer experience.

The example in our cover story is that of a well-known retail chain – Lululemon – that had an instance whereby a customer-facing retail staff member had made unprofessional comments about a customer’s weight in their presence. Some may conclude the staff member who made the comment is solely at fault.  However, in examining a little deeper, the cause of this behaviour is rarely just about one factor (in this case, the individual employee’s actions), according to customer service expert Marc Gordon. It’s about HR’s implementation of the culture they’ve designed as much as it is about an individual employee.

Any organization that operates in a retail, hospitality or public-facing environment wants to differentiate themselves from their competitors with two things: their people and their culture. And HR practitioners make a large contribution to the success of both.

In the Lululemon example, it’s possible this was a recruitment error – perhaps the individual was simply not a good fit for the organization (or perhaps retail work in general). However, as Gordon suggests, it’s also possible the problem was partly due to inadequate training.

Either way, there is a key takeaway for HR practitioners. Any organization that operates in a retail, hospitality or public-facing environment wants to differentiate themselves from their competitors with two things: their people and their culture. And HR practitioners make a large contribution to the success of both.

As a business function, HR has increasing responsibility today more than ever before, and creating an organizational culture that supports positive customer experiences is within that realm of responsibility. If a retail employee at the mall makes inappropriate comments to a customer, it should no longer be dismissed as a simple matter to deal with. It could indicate a larger risk to the organization, its brand and reputation, and therefore, perhaps its bottom line.  

In Ontario, HR also has the added responsibility, on behalf of their employer, to ensure the employer is in compliance with human rights legislation and the requirements set out in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Employees are required to be trained on the accommodation of customers and members of the public, and to ensure no discrimination occurs under the protected grounds such as gender, sexual orientation, country of origin or religious beliefs.

It’s a tall order and takes a great deal of work. These responsibilities are an integral part of what makes HR an increasingly strategic business function – and an increasingly invaluable one.


 

Karen Stone, CHRE, is chair of the Human Resources Professionals Association.