Employees are in a unique position to boost customer engagement, for several reasons. Read on to learn more.
First, if they are front-line employees, they actually deliver a large part of the customer experience, so they can improve it by providing top-line service with an engaging attitude.
People can’t help but respond to positive, uplifting emotions, and customers are no exception. Second, because employees observe the customer experience regularly, they understand nuances and shifts in customer opinion, often before they can be detected by more formal market research efforts.
Finally, employees occupy an overlapping area between customer empathy and company culture. For instance, an employee can often identify which parts of a certain internal process create obstacles to providing fast, accurate, engaging service.
Appreciating the influence that employees have on the customer experience, many company leaders are looking for ways to harness employees’ insights and increase customer engagement. The five strategies listed below can help you maximize your employees’ power to improve the customer experience. Overall, an employee engagement campaign, especially when embedded as part of a larger Voice of the Employee program, can prove to be an effective pathway for amplifying customer engagement.
1. Create a customer-centric culture.
A company-centric company does what works best for its leaders, shareholders and sometimes employees. In contrast, a customer-centric company has a highly loyal customer base because it makes customers part of its mission; it invites them to give feedback on a regular basis. Furthermore, in customer-centric companies, employees are:
- Empowered to handle customer issues,
- Given customer feedback (i.e., they see the results of customer engagement research), and
- Recognized when they serve customers well.
Our research has found that employees working at customer-centric firms are six times more likely to be fully engaged – and employee engagement leads to higher customer engagement. To study and encourage employee engagement through recognition, we recommend setting up a Brand Ambassador program to identify which employees are already going the extra mile for customers. Brand Ambassadors feel personally dedicated to their jobs and the customer service they provide. They believe customer engagement matters. As one highly engaged Brand Ambassador we interviewed said, “I truly believe this is important stuff. Customer Service is important. It gives life meaning.” By studying how your firm’s Brand Ambassadors delight customers, you can design training programs for other employees, thereby raising the customer engagement bar for your entire organization. (For more details on how to find Brand Ambassadors, see our fifth tip below.)
2. Provide tools for gathering customer observations.
It isn’t unusual for companies to spend big bucks on market research campaigns while completely ignoring the best customer research tools they already have – i.e., their employees. Your staffers can be excellent listening posts, reporting back on what they hear customers say about their experiences. To boost customer engagement, then, you can outfit employees with tools to record their observations. This can be as simple has having a shared online forum where employees and leaders alike can contribute to discussions on the customer experience, or as complex as a CRM system that includes spaces for customer notes.
3. Make it easy and fun for employees to innovate.
As mentioned earlier, employees are in a unique position: they have direct involvement with customers, and they are also steeped in company culture. This makes them especially qualified to suggest how company procedures, products, and services could be improved. Make it easy for your employees to pass on their nuggets of customer engagement insight. One approach to encouraging employee innovation is to create games around providing suggestions. Additionally, customer engagement specialists can recommend more seamless, easy-to-use systems, such as our Voice of the Customer program, which automatically sends out a Recognition Alert when a certain employee exceeds expectations. Seeing their peers receive such recognition will naturally encourage your employees to pick their brains for ways to improve customer processes. As motivation blossoms among your staffers, make sure you have a centralized, organized system for gathering employee suggestions.
4. Make it safe for employees to report on their experiences.
Employee engagement and customer engagement go hand-in-hand. Disgruntled, apathetic employees rub off on customers, and vice versa – enthusiastic, engaged employees tend to make customers engaged as well. In order to provide exceptional service, your employees need to feel safe and supported at work. A Voice of the Employee program can help you discover reasons why your employees may feel disengaged. However, in order to honestly report on what limits their employee engagement, most workers require anonymity. It is natural for people to become frightened and tight-lipped during employee surveys – especially when their honest feelings may be construed as criticism.
Therefore, it’s important to choose a Voice of the Employee system that provides anonymity. For instance, our eFocus group solution provides an online anonymous forum where employees are assigned code names, and can therefore feel more comfortable providing honest organizational feedback.
5. Standardize vertical feedback flow.
All of the employee feedback in the world is useless unless company leadership can incorporate it in strategic planning. The amount of data involved in employee engagement research can be overwhelming without a centralized Voice of the Employee system. Ideally, your Voice of the Employee program will include built-in tools for moving feedback from customers and employees through your customer experience team and on to the c-suite. Web 2.0 employee engagement programs should include tools for determining which employees should see which feedback data, and for following up on employee engagement issues.
By following these tips, you can maximize your employees’ power to improve the customer experience.
About the Author
PeopleMetrics, an engagement professional service for employee and customer interaction, helps companies interested in creating positive customer engagements as a long-term, affective business strategy.