Five Steps To Inspiring A Customer-Committed Employee Base
By Camille Nicita, President & CEO, Gongos, Inc.
It’s common business vernacular that a happy employee makes a happy customer, which makes sense as employees are often on the front line when it comes to inspiring lifelong customer loyalty. Alternatively, disengaged and unmotivated employees can have devastating effects on an organization’s bottom line. Research shows that only 36% of employees report being engaged at work.
Mobilizing a customer-committed employee base requires leaders to shift mindsets from “I have to do this or I will get in trouble” to “I am doing this because I understand and believe in it,” which may seem like a tall order.
Through education, co-creation and positive reinforcement, leaders hold the power to inspire an employee base that is not only committed but fired up to deliver best-in-class customer experiences.
The Key to Connection Is Context and Resonance
The key to employee motivation differs from how executives are motivated. Executives can often see how actions drive topline business results and the impact those results have. When it comes to employees, the link to business success is a little more indirect. Fortunately, employees are often looking for purpose and meaning in their day-to-day, and by linking company purpose to human-centered customer goals, they can better understand, relate to and champion their role in the customer journey.
To put this into context, many organizations frame and anchor goals with respect to business-centric KPIs as a measure for success. For example, a company may set a KPI to increase customer lifetime value (CLV), net promoter score (NPS) or customer effort score (CES) by X%, which is something an executive can understand and latch onto. Since they’re beholden to deliver against it, it holds a lot of importance and weight with them. Take that same goal through the lens of the average employee, especially front-line employees who are most visibly tied to customer experience, and not only is it going to hold less meaning, but they’re also not going to know how to influence it or how to take action to achieve it. This creates a disconnect for many organizations because employee engagement is essential to move the needle on business-centric goals, like CLV and the like.
Motivation Moves Mountains: Linking Business Goals With Customer Goals
To bridge the disconnect, leaders would do well to reframe less accessible business-centric KPIs in the context of human-centric customer performance indicators (CPIs), a term coined by Accenture Interactive. Unlike KPIs, CPIs focus on the social, emotional and functional goals every human strives to achieve in his or her life. So, regardless of an employee’s position, tenure, expertise or background, CPIs are engaging and intuitive with respect to how they benefit not only the customer but how they fit into the equation of serving both the customer and the organization. Through this model, instead of saying, “We need to increase X or Y metric,” you’re saying, “We need to help our customers feel a greater sense of accomplishment or save time while doing it.” Truly human-centric metrics translate well to both sides of the equation — customers and employees.
Whether the business is a fitness chain or a discount retailer, an employee sitting in any seat within the organization — from customer service to finance to marketing — can grasp what the customer is striving for and how they can be empowered to support that outcome.
Mobilizing Employees Toward Customer Commitment
Below are a few actionable steps to reframe business goals and rally employees to join the mission in making your customer-committed vision a reality.
- Understand, align and articulate. Ensure your leadership truly understands and can empathize with the human-centric goals that your customers wish to achieve. This requires going deeper than NPS or CSAT (customer satisfaction score). While these are important metrics, they are one-sided, focused on what the business wants to achieve. Leverage that understanding to align on your customer-centric vision, goals and mission. Communicate it and make sure it resonates with employees, thereby guiding their sense of fulfillment in their daily actions and decision-making.
- Co-create. Bring employees along as co-pilots to help structure the best customer experience possible. Use intel from the front lines to establish processes and systems that empower employees to act with empathy and put customers’ best interests at heart.
- Educate. Train employees to develop empathy for customers and establish a purposeful knowledge of how they play into the bigger picture. One way businesses can do this is by replicating customer experiences and having employees immerse themselves in these stories. Each employee should be able to articulate the ways in which they’re creating value for customers.
- Share information. Create processes that break down internal barriers so customer data flows freely throughout the organization from the bottom up and the top down. Using this information, leadership can continually use information from the front lines to establish better processes and programs to exceed expectations.
- Reward. Acknowledge outstanding employee performance and create tailored incentive programs tied to stellar customer outcomes. When goals are met, and the organization can tie customer successes to business outcomes, that’s when reward systems have the ability to truly change not just behaviors but operational systems.
There is concrete proof that helping customers achieve success creates business value, which dispels the myth that executives must let profit slide when embracing customer-centric strategies. Cultivating an engaged employee base is the key to positive customer outcomes. By taking the time to complete the above steps, employees will feel more empowered, committed and connected to deliver on creating value for customers, which, in turn, helps the company’s bottom line.
As published in Forbes.