In the employee engagement events we run globally, I regularly ask our attendees to share examples of their personal experiences with engaged employees. The stories are often touching. A member of the U.S. Marine Corps described the exceptional care a young boy in a family store in Afghanistan took in helping him select gifts for his relatives back home. Another woman told us about a time when she lost, in a computer crash, a photo album of her child’s first few months, only to have a customer service representative from Shutterfly offer to spend an entire day helping her recreate it.
These stories illustrate the power that engaged employees have on customers’ lives. Leaders are increasingly seeing the connection too. As part of our annual partnership with Fortune to identify the World’s Most Admired Companies, 94 percent of the WMAC leaders we surveyed said that their engagement programs have strengthened customer relationships. Over half are directly sharing engagement data with customers. And some leaders also told us that their customers now ask for information on employee engagement, because they understand the affect it has on the quality of service they receive.
Why think about both?
If you’re thinking about either employee engagement or the customer experience, you really need to be thinking about both. Our research with over six million employees shows that most employees (74 percent) view their organization as customer focused. But good intentions don’t always lead to success. If your people aren’t engaged and enabled in the right ways, you won’t see an improvement in the customer experience.
We also know from our research that customer focus has important implications for employee engagement levels. It helps build confidence in the direction and market position of the organization – and commitment in your people. We’re often told that people don’t get out of bed every morning to maximize shareholder value; they want to make a difference for your customers and the public at large. For example, one U.S. pharmaceutical company that develops therapies for rare disorders creates videos that are shown internally featuring patients sharing stories about the difference the medications have made on their lives.
If employee engagement is seen as a stand-alone activity, it will be marginalized. Instead, you need to make sure it’s aligned with, and supporting, core business objectives. Linking work environments with customer experiences can help you build a strong business case.
How to win in both areas
Here are my top four recommendations for driving the connection between employee engagement and customer experiences in your organization.
1. Bring together employee and customer insights.
Even in an era of big data, employee engagement and customer experience initiatives are disconnected in too many organizations. Silos between different teams can create barriers. If you want to use your information effectively, you’ll have to break them down.
2. Stay connected.
Finding a link between employee and customer feedback to establish the business case is a good start – but it’s not enough. Some recent research we did for a retail organization suggests an unfolding relationship between employee engagement, customer experiences, and sales performance. While increases in engagement quickly had an impact on customer satisfaction, it took several quarters for those improvements to translate into sales. You need to keep examining the connections over time, or you won’t see the whole story.
3. Delve into that connection and ask the right questions.
Feedback from employees and customers is the foundation. But the datasets need to contain the right information to help you find the right solutions. Different aspects of the work environment impact different aspects of customer experiences. You need to make sure you are measuring what matters most. For example:
- Well trained staff may be seen as most knowledgeable.
- People who understand their roles and are empowered may be quicker at service.
- Organizations that encourage collaboration may be seen as more resourceful in dealing with difficult customer challenges.
Ideally, you’ll have both employee and customer data from different units (e.g., stores, locations, customer-facing teams). But that may not be possible, depending on your industry and organizational structure. If so, you could think about asking similar questions to both employees and customers to allow for direct comparisons of perspectives to assess alignment.
4. Analyze and present the results in a connected way.
Maybe you have linked employee and customer feedback but the results haven’t drawn the right level of attention from leaders and managers. Or maybe you aren’t sure you are maintaining the connection over time or effectively tracking your success. After analyzing the results, you’ll need flexible reporting platforms (e.g., dashboards for leaders and managers) to help you make sure the information is accessible and can drive real change.
The text was originally published in HayGroup’s website.