Have you ever encountered service at a store or restaurant so horrible that you never went back?
If so, you’ve witnessed a perfect example of the impact employee engagement can have on both the customer experience and the bottom line. Employees are one of the most powerful assets a company has, yet they’re often overlooked when marketing strategies are being drawn up.
You see, employees are so much more than the people who show up to work every day. They’re the people with front-line information on your company. How they feel and what they have to say about your business is everything — and your customers are listening. These people aren’t just representing your brand; as far as consumers are concerned, they are your brand.
The link between employee engagement and customer experience
The link between employee engagement and the customer experience is well documented, having been the topic of studies, online questionnaires and surveys found at the end of your printed shopping receipt. Engaged employees are not only more productive, but their approach to customer service is beyond compare. A benchmark study from Loyalty 360 reported that on average companies saw customer retention rates up 18 percentage points, as well as a significant impact on profit margins when employees were highly engaged.
Furthermore, a study from the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement found that a ten percent increase in the extent to which employees tried to satisfy customers translated into a 22.7 percent increase in total consumer spending. Finally, the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer found that customers trust what an employee has to say far more than they trust marketing messages or company spokespeople. Employee engagement and advocacy inspires consumer trust, which consequently, drives sales.
Where marketing comes into the equation
Most companies spend the majority of their time and money on external marketing. However, internal marketing is just as important. An internal marketing campaign focused on employee engagement strategies proves its worth when considering the indisputable relationship between employee engagement and customer spend. The truth is, the more you invest in your employees, the more likely it is they’ll end up doing the marketing for you.
How to succeed in creating engaged employees
Improving employee engagement levels across the company is incredibly important, as even those who aren’t customer-facing can affect customer profitability. What’s more, employee engagement can save money in other areas as well. Highly engaged employees are more productive, take fewer days off and are more likely to stay with a company for an extended period of time.
According to Madelyn Young, Senior Marketing & Communication Manager at CloudPay, “Few concerns of the HR department are as important to the C-suite as employee retention. Maintaining high retention rates requires an enterprise-wide investment in increasing employee engagement and satisfaction.”
It’s important to note that there is a difference between a satisfied employee and an engaged one. A satisfied employee is reasonably happy with their job; they come to work, they meet their responsibilities, and they go home. An engaged employee is passionate about their work; always willing to go above and beyond their normal duties for the greater good of the company. Engaged employees are the creators, innovators and the ones most likely to impress customers.
The best way to create engaged employees is to focus on communication, recognition and trust.
Simply put, internal communication should be seen as an investment in the company’s health. Gathering feedback from employees should be an integral part of the company culture. This feedback should become a conversation, a chance to share with employees just how their insight is forging change within the company. Without this crucial step, employees will quickly lose confidence and refuse to communicate in the future.
Communication isn’t just relegated to employee feedback forms. Conversations between employees and managers are equally important. Modern workers aren’t looking to be ruled by managers who spit out directives. They want mentors — coaches they can share ideas and obstacles with. They thrive on one-on-one communication that allows them to identify both strengths and weaknesses. Good managers need to be in touch with every employee and connecting on a regular basis.
If you want productive, loyal, and truly engaged employees, you need to make sure they feel their contribution to the company is respected. That means every single employee should be awarded for their accomplishments. A reward can be as simple as a thank you card or as complex as a bonus — the point is to recognize their hard work. When you show employees that their work is acknowledged, they’re bound to continue giving it their all. Ignore their efforts, and they’ll eventually start doing the bare minimum required to keep their job.
Trust is hard earned and easily lost among employees. Broken promises, lack of transparency, shifting blame, frequent lay-offs, an absence of accountability, constant changes, temporary fixes — all are a recipe for disengaged and disgruntled employees. If leadership wants to empower and engage their employees, they have to stop regarding them as human capital and start treating them as individuals. Leadership’s greatest role is not to give orders, but to provide guidelines, and leave room for interpretation. Trust leads to innovation, new ways to delight customers, and higher profit margins.
Trust is built by caring for the health and wellbeing of employees. Keep an eye on the stress levels within the office — stressed employees are not engaged employees. Some of the leading causes of stress in the office include heavy workload, interpersonal issues, poor work/life balance, and lack of job security. Though eradicating all sources of workplace stress is impossible, you can still establish a procedure for employees to get help with stress when necessary. Furthermore, you can keep employees from being overcome by stress by encouraging frequent breaks, engaging in team bonding exercises, allowing flexible schedules, and above all, leading by example. If you show up at the crack of dawn, stay late into the night, and eat lunch at your desk, employees are bound to do the same.
Internal marketing builds an army of brand advocates
When employees are rewarded for their work, attached to their colleagues, understand and support the company mission, and are truly proud of how their company is run, they become advocates. Go ahead and gather input from your most engaged advocates, use your findings to bolster your marketing goals, develop a blueprint for success and then take action. And when your employees are advocates, your customers — and subsequently your business — end up winning.
It’s time to turn your attention inward to internal marketing and employee engagement. You won’t regret it.
About the Author
Liz Greene is a writer, marketing professional, and Mattress Firm conspiracy theorist from the beautiful City of Trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch her latest misadventures on her blog, Instant Lo.