Five ways to improve customer experience by enhancing employee experience

Employee engagement
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Looking to increase sales? Then focus on your customers and make them your number one priority, right?

This is a good strategy – but putting employee engagement at the core of your business can actually attract and retain even more customers, raise customer satisfaction, and deliver even higher company performance. Why is that?

Put simple, ‘happy staff = happy customers’. Imagine for a moment going into a restaurant where someone greets you with a lovely smile, is genuinely interested in you, finds you a table and gets the right balance of attention for you during your meal. 

How do you feel? Probably you are enjoying your experience and would like to come back. Certainly you feel a lot better than when you come into a restaurant where tensions are running high, staff are inattentive, and service is functional rather than welcoming. Chances are you may not be keen to return there for a meal.

Of course, there is a lot more to engagement than just ‘happiness’. As with so many things in life, the complexities are subtle yet well worth investing time and effort to understand.  Studies show that a person who is engaged at work invests more effort in their work, has intrinsic interest and motivation in what they are doing, takes pride in their work and delivering results at desired standards, feels a sense of pride in belonging within the organisation and becomes an ambassador for the company.

It leads to an overall sense of energy, commitment, belief in what the organisation stands for, and a positive culture that is demonstrated in the way people speak and interact with each other and with customers.  

Engagement is an emotional and psychological commitment to your work and your organisation, which determines your job attitude. You might be wondering whether employees just perform better when their organisation is successful – as per the saying “success breeds success”.  

However, a Swiss study into retail banking, published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, shows that job attitudes come first. They measured the organisational commitment (job attitudes) and two measures of business unit performance, financial achievement and customer satisfaction, over three years and found that employee job attitudes more persistently boosted performance than vice versa.

Repeated studies prove that organisations with highly engaged people are more successful.

  • Organisations in the top quartile for engagement have higher profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction and staff retention; and less absenteeism, safety incidents and quality defects (source: Gallup). 
  • Companies with highly engaged people have up to four times higher returns on share prices.
  • Disengaged people spread negativity, dissent and poor performance. The Macleod Report states employee disengagement costs the UK economy £59-£65 billion annually in lost productivity.
  • According to Gallup, managers account for 70% of the variance in engagement. Great managers inspire high engagement, but poor managers inspire disengagement. People join organisations but leave managers. Organisations reap benefits far greater than the costs of investing in leadership development and tools that enable managers to act in ways that engage their people. For example, a study by Manchester Inc. reported that executives who received coaching improved relationships with their direct reports (77%), immediate supervisors (71%) and peers (63%), with average ROI at 5.7 times the initial investment (or 570%). Given the high impact of immediate managers, organisations that want to improve performance and customer satisfaction would do well to invest in all managers, at all levels to ensure employees are engaged throughout the organisation, and especially customer-facing employees.
  • Highly engaged employees are happier, healthier (have less days off sick) and have a higher sense of wellbeing overall.

Five ways you can engage your people

1. Make work more meaningful

Share a clear vision, purpose and mission formed around core values and set high standards. Translate these to daily behaviours and activities and ensure you walk the talk too! Especially important is for each person to know how their role fits and contributes to the company vision so it feels meaningful to them personally. Each person needs to believe in what the company stands for if they are to feel proud to be a part of it and become brand ambassadors.

2. Match your leadership style to what each person individually needs from you

The way you behave and interact with other people, how you structure your team or organisation, your strategy and your way of doing business all shape engagement throughout your organisation. One of the key drivers for high engagement is frequent high quality interactions with your immediate manager. Some ways you can ensure your interactions as a manager are high quality and engaging are to avoid micromanaging, use a coaching approach, ensure you understand each person’s motivation, listen to their perspective, and give them opportunities to design how they will work to achieve desired outcomes (rather than you telling them how to do it your way).

3. Provide the resources people need 

Ensure organisational structure, strategy and processes support people to be effective rather than creating barriers and frustration. While systems and processes are created with a positive intention to raise standards and efficiencies, and create standardised approaches across multiple business units, remember they were created fit for purpose at a past time and environment. The world is changing ever more rapidly, so you need to ensure that your organisational structures can adapt and remain fit for purpose in order to support people and give them the resources they need to succeed. Set up ways to listen to front line employees for ideas on how to streamline, improve efficiency and effectiveness, align with company purpose and values, and reduce frustrations. Some organisations are finding it more effective to align certain processes around guiding principles and entrust employees to make their own decisions, with the power to take action within clearly defined parameters.

4. Provide development opportunities

As well as external resources, provide everyone with personal development for internal resources like confidence, resilience and emotional intelligence as well as technical and leadership skills that support their desired career progression. 

5. Work to strengths

Many people don’t recognise their strengths as they are often the things that come so easily to you that you don’t value your capability. Your strengths are the things you enjoy doing that come naturally, bring you energy and that you would choose to do. Anything you are good at but you wouldn’t choose to do, or that drains your energy is not a strength. Building on strengths is far more productive than trying to fix weaknesses. Build your team around recognising strengths and matching roles to strengths. Build development plans around enhancing strengths rather than just filling in the gaps and developing weaknesses. When everyone recognises their own and each other’s strengths and works to strengths, they are more committed, engaged and fulfilled.

Review the stats earlier in this article and you will see that managers in your organisation hold much of the responsibility for keeping your employees engaged and, therefore, for impacts on the bottom line performance metrics in your organisation, including customer satisfaction. You don’t expect managers to know technical skills automatically without specific training. So if you want to raise performance and have more customers that love you, you will reap high rewards when you invest in leadership development and coaching for your managers so they know how to engage their people. Why not start today and choose one of the above suggestions as your first step?

Free resources including further ideas and tools to raise engagement are available at www.engagingyourpeople.com

Dr Sue Mitchell is a leadership coach and author of The Authority Guide to Engaging your People, published by SRABooks.

About Susan Mitchell

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