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How Keeping Employees Happy Leads To Happier Customers

by Mark Robinson, CMO. This blog was first published in HR Daily Advisor. 

Most business leaders would put increased customer satisfaction at the top of their priority list as the best driver of repeat business and sustainable growth. Each new development will be scrutinized to see what the effect is likely to be on customers. How will this affect their experience? How will this make their lives easier?

At the same time, businesses are concerned about retaining their skilled employees. Employee engagement is another hot topic and we are often exhorted to offer free, unlimited flavored water and that sort of thing to keep staff. But businesses which bend over backward to serve their customers don’t always afford their front-line staff the same consideration. In my book, that is a mistake.

After a lifetime in business, I tend to see these two things as being part of the same virtuous circle. After all, the customers are going to be interacting primarily with your frontline staff. And an enthusiastic, outward-focused team is best placed to deliver that positive experience that you are looking for as you build your business. Here are three tips I use to bring these two things together.

1) Map the Employee Journey

We hear a lot today about mapping the customer journey. That’s a useful exercise, but it is also important to map the employee journey. How is your onboarding process? Do people come through the door and have to work it out for themselves? Or does the business give them a leg-up and help them to succeed in their roles?

Are newer employees supported and coached to perform at the level of the best employees? A positive workplace culture where senior members of staff are on hand with advice and encouragement is key here.

Are existing employees encouraged to keep developing their skills? I used to say “add a line on your resume every year” to people when I reviewed them. This can help to ensure people remain outwardly-focused, on what counts – which is developing the skills that your business and your customers need, rather than becoming involved in internally-focused work.

In my experience, doing intellectually-stimulating work and feeling part of a winning team is far more engaging than any amount of free soda!

2) Recognize and Reward Good Customer Service

Sometimes there is a disconnect between your passion to focus on your customers and the way your employees are recognized. You want your people to be ‘customer-centric’ and put the customers first.  But to achieve this, you have to recognize or reward people on customer focus, instead of internal bootlicking.

When I look at resumes, I see somewhere there is too much emphasis on the job titles and roles people have taken on internally in their organization and not enough about what they have achieved for their customers. Someone might have the most grandiose title – but these are essentially made-up and don’t mean much in the outside world.

I think this reflects a kind of business culture where promotions tend to be too internally focused. In some workplaces, you can win a lot of kudos by making managers’ lives easier, but that isn’t really what the business needs. In these kinds of organizations, people get the idea that getting on is all about impressing people internally instead of delivering results. Make sure instead that you recognize good customer service.

3) Keep Employees in the Loop

Do employees know what is going on? A survey we carried out at Kimble called “Dedicated But in the Dark” found that while three-quarters of employees say they care deeply about the health of their business, less than a quarter felt they had full insight into how it was performing.

In these kinds of companies, employees are generally expected to input information into the system, information which is vital for managers to draw on to run the business. But it is a one-way street – information isn’t shared with them. This makes it more difficult for them to see the bigger picture or to evaluate their own contribution.

The digital workplace requires people to be autonomous, to self-manage and to take decisions which affect the future performance of the business. If they are to do this effectively, they need relevant information at their fingertips.

In my experience – and this was borne out by the survey findings – where people on the ground feel they are ‘in the loop’, they will work and contribute more effectively, and find their jobs more rewarding.

These three steps are all key drivers of employee engagement and customer success. If you manage to get your employees engaged and on-side, you are in a much better position to keep your customers happy.