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Laurie Bassi

Laurie Bassi is the CEO of McBassi & Company, a leader in the emerging decision-science of human capital management. Since founding McBassi in 2001, she has been working with clients to help them unleash human capability within their organizations. Earlier, she served as VP for research at ASTD, the director of several U.S. government commissions, and a tenured professor of economics and public policy at Georgetown University. Contact her at

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Good Employers Make Good Sellers

by Dec 2, 2011, 2:44 pm ET

Great customer experiences depend heavily on companies creating a great experience for their employees. Executive VP Jim Bush acknowledged this relationship from the outset of his quest to ramp up customer satisfaction at American Express. The company polled existing customer care agents to find what would boost the quality of their service. Among their answers were improved incentives, more career mobility, more flexible hours, and streamlined processes.

In response, American Express increased job flexibility and created new job categories so agents could progress through four levels rather than remaining stuck in one. The company also changed its compensation plan, allowing agents to more easily earn bonuses based on customer service scores.

In addition, the company changed the job title from customer care representative to customer care professional. Agents got business cards for the first time.

These were more than symbolic gestures. Agents no longer merely recite company scripts, but use their discretion to figure out how American Express products can help customers solve problems. That’s made the job harder in a way. Agents like Teresa Tate, who works out of an American Express service center in Phoenix, now have to think on their feet. But Tate wouldn’t have it any other way. “We are getting more and more power to make the decisions at our level,” she says.

Tate, who used to run a restaurant, takes calls from AmEx cardholders who operate small businesses. She is now freer to share her wisdom and her concern for these customers. “I genuinely feel like I’m in this company’s finance department,” she says of her callers. “Having been in small business myself, you need that support.”

This sort of passion and compassion for customers translates into high levels of service, into reciprocal relationships. keep reading…