Employee engagement delivering improved customer experiences
Delivering an improved customer experience is seen as a key differentiator in many businesses, but is the impact of employee engagement on that understood and valued by many organisations?
Businesses invest heavily in building and delivering brand values and then go on to build impressive websites and produce professional and creative marketing collateral which position them to be customer centric. However, despite this investment in marketing, the behaviour of their employees, who actually encounter the customer, is so often inconsistent with those values and messages.
Fully engaged employees
At the front line, employees are often taught how to respond to the customer and how to message the brand. However many organisations then spend insufficient time, money and resource on ensuring that employees have the tools, environment and customer knowledge and understanding to effectively deliver the brand promise? Fewer organisations still would consider developing a supportive “employee centric” culture that delivers an improved customer experience. Not enough businesses see measuring employee satisfaction and engagement levels as a critical financial driver.
It seems logical that fully satisfied and engaged employees, i.e. those that go the extra mile, take real ownership of an issue, deliver on their commitments both internally and externally, and are passionate about the customer, are those that make up a truly customer centric business.
So if it were so easy, why aren’t all businesses getting it right? Every commercial business exists to achieve their numbers, to generate sales, minimize costs and increase profitability. Most accept the criticality of the customer in this value equation but fewer place their employees at equal value or indeed at a higher importance level than the customer.
Companies that are passionate about delivering consistent service excellence take for granted the importance of putting in place the basics for effective people management and have gone a step further in developing the added values of an employee centric culture.
Foundations of an employee centric culture
The foundations that lead to positive employee and customer experiences are:
• Customer feedback (from surveys, briefings, reasons why customers leave) is regularly communicated at all levels and improvement actions taken. Customer feedback is talked about more internally than externally
• All employees understand who their key customers are and how their company adds value to the customer
• Customer performance metrics are incorporated into the performance management process and are fully bought into and understood
• Basic tools to do the job, such as a single and accurate view of the customer, are in place
• Employees are paid fairly and consistently for what they do
• Managers are effective in communicating, setting clear direction and managing fairly the performance of their teams
• Employees are encouraged to develop, grow and reach their potential
Education and training on the importance of the customer and the key brand messages is important, however it is simply not enough to secure complete employee engagement. A company must fully develop a culture in which employees have direct involvement and responsibility for the customer and in which they feel a sense of “pride” to be a part. With these additional values, the results are reflected in higher customer loyalty, productivity and employee retention. The research findings of such organisations as Right Management and the Center for Association Leadership determines pride as one of the most powerful drivers of employee engagement resulting in higher levels of business effectiveness. They raise the question does performance drive pride or does pride drive performance and conclude that there is little doubt in the minds of the best motivators that instilling pride is what enables organisations to gain higher levels of performance. You really only need look at the likes of Microsoft and Google to witness this first hand.
Next level building blocks
Added value factors that lead to greater levels of employee engagement and customer loyalty include:
• Customers are able to meet employees at all levels across the organisation and be open and honest with their feedback
• Good career development opportunities exist enabling employees to fully use their skills and experience
• Roles are clear for employees, providing both authority and independence to make decisions
• Trust and confidence is instilled at all levels
• High levels of involvement exist for employees
• The employee has a voice and is encouraged to give feedback, which facilitates decision-making
• Performance management processes focus not just on outputs but on the demonstration of desired customer behaviours and values, which are measured and reviewed both internally and through the eyes of the customer
• Open and supportive relationships exist between employees and management levels
Employee engagement is about the emotional attachment an employee has to their role and their Company. Engaged employees will be committed to working hard, stepping outside of the box and going the extra mile for their customer.
It is recognised that companies with higher employee engagement levels are associated with greater productivity and improved customer experiences. So why are employee and customer strategies not more aligned? The benefits of doing so would improve their customer experience and ultimately their bottom line.
Take the next step
If you are looking to understand how your own business can improve your customers experience through greater employee engagement do please get in touch.
This article is jointly written with our associate, Julie Partridge, who has extensive HR experience in the area of employee engagement and business transformation.