Most CMOs don't fully grasp the important role their organisation’s culture and employees play in building a trusted brand and positive customer experience.
We recently carried out some research in partnership with Bournemouth University, in which we spoke with more than 1,200 people working at large high- and low-performing organisations in the U.K. We found that brands’ efforts to create a differentiated customer experience are being hamstrung by employees who don’t understand what the business is trying to achieve.
Almost two thirds of U.K. employees (64%) don’t think their organisation has a clear purpose, and the same percentage don’t understand what their brand stands for, and what makes it different. Among those brands surveyed, this lack of internal brand and organisational alignment is married to poor attitudes around customer experience, suffering reputations, and hindered sales performance.
So a rethink of how marketing departments work with their “internal customers” might well be in order. With that in mind, what are the key areas CMOs and other members of the C-suite must address in order to improve internal brand alignment? We’ve highlighted four:
1. Organisational Purpose Eats Brand Strategy For Breakfast
Let’s consider our headline figure again, which suggests almost two-thirds of U.K. employees don’t feel their organisation has a clear purpose. In fact, a similar percentage don’t believe their company exists for any reason other than making money. Boards must ask themselves honestly if their people really think the company only exists to keep the shareholders happy. If the answer is yes, how can the CMO expect them to represent the brand with the necessary passion?
It seems marketing teams, for whom brand purpose and customer experience are paramount, are failing to win over their own people. CMOs need to be more aligned with CPOs. This means working more closely to understand the links between their people, brands, and customers, and then engaging the workforce with the organisation’s purpose, ambition, and the role they play in achieving it. If your people believe in your purpose to the extent they feel motivated coming to work every day—then your brand plan, reputation, and customer experience will all take care of themselves.
The evidence is solid: purpose-led organisations not only have happier staff and customers, they happen to be more profitable too.
2. Marketing Must Work More Closely With HR To Bring The Customer To Life For All Teams
CMOs and HR directors need to get closer—because when they don’t, the tensions between external promise and internal execution can be fatal to what the brand is trying to achieve. You can spend millions on the best marketing campaign ever, but if your customer-facing teams are unable to share that vision effectively through creating the right customer experience, the business results are likely to be disappointing.
Our research backed this up. It seems that only a third (33%) of employees believe their company does a good job in helping them understand the needs and expectations of customers. Also, only a third of employees believe their colleagues are putting customers first when making day-to-day decisions.
Our research showed that the U.K.’s fastest-growing companies are investing in bringing customer segmentation to life for frontline teams. This ensures all customer insight is actionable in an operations and service context first, and it’s no longer just the domain of the marketing team. As such, CMOs and CPOs are now partnering to define and build the culture they need for the organisation to achieve its brand and customer goals.
However, these organisations still remain in the minority. Most now recognise an organisation’s culture goes beyond its four walls. After all, in an age of social media and instant communication, if your culture stinks, your customers will feel it. And if your people don’t understand and empathise with your customers, those customers will tell you about it, and the whole world will witness you being reprimanded.
3. Remember Employee Experience Enables Customer Experience
Employees are responsible for all customer interactions. If they aren’t set up to succeed in their role and feel good about it, your customers are also going to know. According to our study, only 37% of employees receive praise and recognition when they do good work, and only 43% feel valued for their contribution to the business. On top of this, six out of 10 employees (61%) believe they aren’t helped by their line managers to understand their strengths and areas for improvement. Almost half (47%) say they lack access to the tools and resources they need to succeed. Even worse, more than half of employees (55%) say they don’t feel trusted by their line manager!
This is incredibly concerning. The cost of a poor employee experience is more than a lost opportunity. Just look on sites such as Glassdoor, and you’ll see thousands of employees who are so frustrated that they have simply stopped caring—and that attitude is bound to rub off when they deal with customers, particularly so in large multi-site service businesses where a sizeable proportion of staff deal with customers every day.
The opportunity for CMOs is that understanding and responding to how your employees feel at work is one of the quickest routes to influencing how your customers feel about your brand.
4. Make Sure Staff Feel Part Of Shaping The Business For The Future
It is rare to see a large organisation doing a great job in this area. Our research found that only 39% of employees say they’re motivated by the vision of the business, and less than half, 42%, feel they play any part in shaping the future of that business. This seems unsurprising, given only four in 10 are given the opportunity to be involved in business decisions that affect them.
A great leader once said to me, it should be the board’s aim to make everyone in their business feel like they are CEO. And it is the simple things that make a big difference in this area—from regularly seeking and acting on feedback, to investing in better managers and better coaching skills. If teams feel responsible for shaping the future and empowered to continually improve your business, they will pay you back with discretionary effort in spades. It’s win-win, and this extra effort very often shows itself in staff going the extra mile for a customer.
What this study tells us is that CMOs who want stand-out results need to partner with their HR directors to achieve them. The brand plan and culture plan shouldn’t exist in isolation, because if your frontline teams don’t love your brand, there’s little chance your customers will.
The upside for brands of getting this right is significant. Our research found that employees in organisations that grow sales by more than 20% year-on-year are, on average, 30% more likely to understand what their brand stands for and what makes it different.
That’s why CMOs need to spend more time cracking the “culture code.” We’ve found the most ambitious organisations in the U.K. are truly considering the role their people and culture can play in building their brand from the inside out and, as a result, are unlocking untapped potential in terms of productivity, customer growth, and financial performance alike.