Occupational psychologists have been studying the relationship between employee engagement and customer satisfaction for decades. The correlation is relatively undisputed.
But what--or rather, who--creates employee engagement to begin with? Management, of course. Care about your employees, and it will trickle down to your customers caring about you.
Let’s take a closer look at how that works.
The Foundation: Communication
As in any interpersonal relationship, most employee frustrations and inhibitors to engagement arise from simple miscommunication or lack thereof. Employees are more aligned with corporate missions and cultures when the leadership team communicates with them regularly and clearly. Of note, this communication is a two-way street--understanding the difference between communicating with and communicating to employees is key.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds, particularly for organizations whose employees are spread over large geographies. But make no mistake: A corporate newsletter won’t cut it. Senior managers must talk to their employees, personally, wherever they are, explaining big ideas, the path forward, and challenges to overcome.
This communication builds engagement and trust between employees and managers, which, in turn, results in employees forging similar relationships with customers. That’s where the magic starts to happen, giving workers opportunities to overachieve and form strong customer relationships.
Reaching out across silos, bridging gaps, tearing walls down--whatever metaphor you want to use--the only way to successfully eliminate interdepartmental barriers and cut across red tape is from the top down.
When support comes from the top, great ideas start to emerge from employees. To jump-start this idea generation, management must challenge workers to collaborate on projects that benefit the entire company, and encourage them to step into areas where they aren’t necessarily comfortable. Projects that involve multiple business units achieve larger goals than any single division could on its own.
The spirit fostered by this type of cooperation serves as a model to encourage interdisciplinary problem-solving methodologies. This filters down to customer-facing employees and empowers them to solve issues quickly--an approach that is revered by customers. As an example, when I first started using online bill pay, the bank populated my form with an outdated address for my insurance company payment. A banker caught the error, called me, and alerted the insurance company, relieving me of responsibility for any late fees. Personal banking is highly commoditized, but that one empowered employee built my brand loyalty.
The Security Blanket Of Loyalty
Loyal employees are evangelists--walking reinforcements that remind customers they are working with the best in the business. This takes time to cultivate and is an interdependent state that feeds off of itself. Employers who are loyal to their workers have employees who are loyal in return. These employees then create loyal customers.
This far-reaching strategy applies to multiple aspects of the organization. Perks such as full health-care coverage, extensive training, and a generous retirement plan foster loyalty among employees, and that creates a domino effect. When a new employee enters a company filled with happy and loyal employees, that person is more likely to become immersed in that culture.
Like all aspects of employee engagement, loyalty must come from a place of authenticity. Simply offering a great 401(k) without actually caring about employees may create a temporary loyalty spike, but it will be short-lived. Building lasting employee loyalty relies on consistent action from all levels of management.
Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” The same phenomenon elicits employee loyalty. Simple but meaningful recognition programs delivered consistently build better results than infrequent, big-splash gestures. Noticing employee pain points and taking proactive measures to remedy them does a great deal to build a culture of loyalty.
Likewise, employees who feel appreciated and empowered by employers are motivated to make their customers feel the same way. It’s easy for engaged and loyal employees to “rub off” on their clients and bolster customer satisfaction levels. In almost every interaction customers have with employees--from ordering food at a restaurant to receiving freight from a driver--the attitude of the employee plays a vital role in coloring the customer’s satisfaction with the overall service.