Help Your People, Help Your Business

By Jeannie Walters, Founder of 360Connext

Whenever I tell people that 360Connext is focused on the customer experience, I hear about someone’s last bad experience as a customer. I would say about 80% of the time, it’s related to an employee at the company. (The other 20% is reserved for inexplicably complicated – or just plain wrong – bills and bad 800-number auto prompts among a few other things.)

It’s no surprise, then, to learn that employee retention is directly related to customer retention. Happy employees = happy customers. “Remember the good ol’ days,” my new friend will say to me. “When the bank teller knew your name and treated you like a person? When the salesperson at the department store was actually interested in serving you?
When the cashier at the drug store actually smiled and didn’t just grunt while taking your money?”

Often times, a recommendation is directly related to a personal connection. “Call Steve at Bank XYZ. He’s my guy.” It’s not truly the bank we’re recommending. It’s Steve.

But Steve isn’t just Steve – he’s representing the company. Steve can only be the go-to guy if his employer recognizes just that. His employer has to give him the support, discretion and tools to do his job in a way that enriches each experience for each and every customer.

Well here’s the chicken & egg scenario. You have to know your customers in order to hire, train and retain the right employees. Employee retention doesn’t mean diddly if they’re the wrong employees.

And now that we’re in a world full of lay-offs, government bailouts and doing much more with a lot less, employees are nervous, uncertain and possibly disengaged.

As the employer, how can you help your employees stay engaged? Employee engagement will be a critical factor in delivering on your own customer experience.

  1. Remember your employees are not only dealing with your company issues. They’re dealing with their spouse’s company issues, the outside news about your industry, and the world in general. Families are making harder choices now than they have in a long time – the stress will follow them to work.
  2. Provide ample ways for your employees to provide input in a safe, constructive way. With so much angst about employment, many employees are becoming increasingly afraid to voice their true opinions. The risk is a bunch of sycophants who tell you just what they think you want to hear – not what’s best for your company or customers. Encourage frank feedback by providing anonymous ways for employees to offer suggestions and ask questions.
  3. Don’t forget about team building. Even in cost-conscious times, it’s important to help each employee connect with the others they work with. This can be done in ways far less elaborate than expensive get-aways or all-day meetings. Serving together to help others – like volunteering at a soup kitchen or community center – can be a wonderful, positive bonding experience.
  4. Communicate about your organizational goals and achievements. Do this often. Repeat yourself. Then do it again. Connecting an employee’s individual contributions to the small successes you may be achieving will help your employees feel positive about the direction you’re going as an organization.
  5. CELEBRATE the little victories. Celebrations can be small recognitions – a group email recognizing someone, for instance – but it’s important to share good news as often as possible.
  6. Finally, connect with your customers. Engaging your customers will help your employees truly understand what’s needed in today’s market. This will undoubtedly lead to better success and richer engagement.

Everyone has too much to think about these days. Make it your job to think about ways to engage your employees and everyone wins.

Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the Chief Customer Experience Investigator™ and founder of 360Connext, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in the cornerstones of customer experience: customer engagement, employee engagement and connections like social media. 360Connext serves mid-market companies and larger by helping them evaluate their true customer experience. The evaluations always lead to improvements which then lead to results like increased online conversions or loyalty.

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6 comments
Jeannie Walters
Jeannie Walters

Thank you for the comments, everyone. Brad - great point about the approaching Tsunami. It's going to happen as soon as folks get a whiff of a better economy.

blfarris
blfarris

Help Your People, Help Your Business http://bit.ly/5dXG4C Some great ideas to improve employee engagement from @jeanniecw This comment was originally posted on Twitter

Brad Farris
Brad Farris

By now I'm sure you've seen the Deloitte study about the "resume Tsunami" that's coming once the economy improves. More than 60% of all employees are planning to leave their current company as soon as they can. Employee engagement is the BEST way to prevent a massive exodus of your top people in the next 12 -18 months. You've cut raises, raised health care expenses and eliminated the holiday party, but you can create meaningful work that takes employee's lives into account. You can find the best ideas in your company and make them come to life. You can celebrate "Steve" when people call and ask for him by name. And you'd better, because other people are going to do it, and your best people are looking.

Anna Bell
Anna Bell

I like that you're focusing on the long term. It's important to add that while the economy is currently tough and employees may be hesitant to speak up today, they're paying attention to your actions and words and will remember them as the market rebounds and jobs options start to open up again. The companies that maintained good relationships with their employees will be the most successful in the long term. Thanks for the insights.

Tom Cusick
Tom Cusick

This is a good check list that could be given to all managers. The correlation between employee and customer retention is a good insight. Thanks

Pat Laystrom
Pat Laystrom

Really important points, especially in today's world of multi-tasking and hundreds of emails a day. Employees can feel disconnected and overworked pretty quickly. Knowing leadership is noticing their efforts, finds value in what they are doing and verbalizes those efforts to the employee or larger group helps everyone stay connected. As companies continue to get leaner, everyone tends to have more work to do which makes it that much more important for leadership to stop and think about their own employees and what they need to feel engaged, satisfied and important parts of the team.