The idea that engaged employees leads to engaged customers is hardly rocket science. Anybody who’s been on the receiving end of a retail encounter with a petulant, mono-syllabic teenager can attest that the opposite is equally true. But building an organisation where the two are linked and feed off each other provides a real challenge.
Fundamentally, though, there are two reasons for engaging employees effectively. Firstly, the more engaged your employees are, the more they’ll be able to engage customers and provide great customer experiences driving greater profitability. Secondly, engaged employees are able to provide real insight into the customer experience and provide a view that you might you get from customer feedback alone.
Where to begin? Investment in employee engagement is still often seen – despite the compelling evidence to the contrary – as “fluffy”. This is manifestly not the case, as the many statistics in the government’s MacLeod report “Engaging for success” make clear. Not only do engaged employees cost businesses less in areas like staff turnover and sick leave. Engaged employees also advocate their company or organisation (67% against only 3% of the disengaged, according to Gallup) and have a far higher understanding of customer needs (70% of engaged employees against only 17% of non-engaged employees, according to CIPD). By demonstrating the link between employee engagement, customer engagement and profit in your organisation, you are much more likely to secure funding for engagement improvement initiatives.
The first step that any business will need to take in building a joined-up Voice of the Employee (VoE) and Voice of the Customer (VoC) programme, is making the business case to eliminate the “fluffy” mindset. As well as broad statistics, like those quoted above, it’s important to turn the theory into reality and transform the fluffy into cold hard stats – as can be seen in the graph below, and then link to cold hard cash.
To create a situation where you’re not just engaging employees, but ensuring that you create that virtuous circle of customer and employee engagement, it’s important to put some key pieces in place. Crucially, this means moving beyond the traditional annual employee survey. Building an actionable employee engagement programme which will drive customer engagement means taking best practices from the world of Voice of the Customer.
Here are five ways in which you can use can use VoC expertise to engage employees and give them the tools and motivation to improve customer experiences.
- Show employees the impact of their actions. Engaging employees means showing them that what they do really makes a difference to customers. Make customer feedback available to all employees, and acknowledge their role in delivering good customer experiences. In addition, take the opportunity to ask employees about what they see happening on the front line. Often, staff have much greater insight to what’s happening in stores and call centres, for example, so give them a way to share this as part of your engagement programme.
- Create relevant, timely surveys. As with VoC initiatives, an annual survey isn’t enough anymore (if it ever was!). You need to think about key moments in the employee lifecycle, and make sure that you capture feedback at those moments. Use short, relevant and timely surveys, using the right feedback channel to maximise responses and elicit accurate insight. One company sends a very short survey to a sample of its employees’ mobile phone every evening, asking “How was your day?” While this may seem like overkill, and certainly requires a clear sense of how the data will be used, it’s an invaluable source of insight into what makes the day to day lives of its employees good or bad. It also gives employees a great opportunity to raise any issues that affected their customers on that day – adding more insight to the VoC programme.
- Take tactical action. However you choose to gather feedback from employees, you must ensure you’re able to act on it. Often, it’s the smaller, more tactical actions which generate that crucial short-term ROI and allow you to expand your programme further. For example, use feedback to identify staff who are likely to leave so you can take steps to retain them. And remember to close the loop with employees and tell them what you’ve done with their feedback. It’s a huge boost to staff to know that you’re really listening and that their feedback is making a difference.
- Ensure a strategic view. It’s important to ensure that you’re able to build a top-level view of what’s happening in your business from an employee engagement perspective. Build trackers within your reporting dashboards so you can see when something significant happens. If there’s a sudden drop-off in engagement levels in a particular region or department, use feedback data to get into the detail and understand what’s going on. Then act in manner that will help to re-engage whole employee groups at once. Again, you must share what you’re doing with employees. Create a transparent process so that they continue to share their experiences with you.
- Bring it together with other key insight. There is always debate about where employee engagement should “live”, but wherever that is in your business, it mustn’t be in a silo. Not only will you lose deeper insight, but you’ll struggle to prove the linkage between employee and customer engagement which is so important in generating ROI along with a host of other business benefits. Bring your employee data into the same reporting hub as customer feedback, industry benchmarks and financial data to create a holistic view that will help you to uncover drivers of customer and employee satisfaction.
Most businesses accept that employee engagement is important, but few are doing anything truly strategic about it. Fewer still are able to provide a real-time view of employee engagement data that enables them to take action to retain and develop employees – and use those engaged employees to deliver outstanding customer experiences. If you’re able to pull all the pieces together, and do it in a way that helps you to drive action, you’ll be able to clearly demonstrate significant ROI. Nothing fluffy about that.
About Claire Sporton
Claire Sporton has specialised in customer feedback for over 15 years, and has run programmes in the Financial Services sector, and more recently with technology and consulting providers to improve their customer experience. Claire’s focus at Confirmit is on ensuring Confirmit customers can deliver feedback to the people who can make a difference to the end customer and generate ROI.
Claire was instrumental in the development of Confirmit Voices, a customer engagement model which provides an end to end approach to the Voice of the Customer.