The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) has identified Employee Engagement as one of the top three trends in customer service. They believe: “Organisations with high levels of employee engagement tend to reach higher levels of customer satisfaction…there is an essential thread linking employee engagement, customer satisfaction, productivity and business performance.”
Happy employees are more likely to deliver a good customer experience and create happy customers; happy customers are more likely to be loyal customers; and loyal customers are more valuable to your business (they cost less to acquire and tend to buy more). Happy employees are also more likely to stay in their jobs for longer, getting better at what they do and making customers even happier. This ‘mutual gains’ view of motivation and people management lies at the heart of employee engagement.
The ICS highlighted six actions that companies need to implement to build effective employee engagement:
- Bringing vision and values to life in a way that can be understood by everyone in the organisation
- Equipping managers with the skills to engage effectively with employees
- Authentic, regular, relevant communications with employees
- Giving employees clear opportunities to voice opinions
- Ensuring every employee has appropriate training and a personal development plan
- Recognising excellent customer service performance
It’s the last of these that I want to focus on, but let’s quickly recap the others.
Bringing vision and values to life
When a brand has a clear sense of what it stands for and what its values are so do all its employees. There exists a common understanding across the organisation of the behaviours that are expected and of the experience that customers should have when they encounter the brand.
Equipping managers with the skills to engage effectively with employees
ACAS publish guidance on how to be an effective manager which suggests good managers are: good communicators; good listeners; good project managers; good strategists; trusting. Most managers will be pleased to receive training support in at least one of these skills.
Authentic, regular, relevant communications with employees
From the outset, a company should make sure that its staff understand what is expected of them. But communication at a more prosaic level is also needed. On a regular and frequent basis tell your staff: how well they are doing; how well the team is doing; how well the company is doing in delivering its financial targets and moving towards its core purpose.
Giving employees clear opportunities to voice opinions
Finding and recruiting great employees is one of the top priorities of any organisation. Once you have your great people on board understanding how they feel about your business (what are their needs, preferences and hopes; how committed are they to the business; how much do they share the company vision and values) will help to shape the extent to which they are engaged with your brand.
Ensuring every employee has appropriate training and a personal development plan
Companies that have engaged employees tend to place attitude above aptitude when recruiting. Put simply, they hire for attitude and train for skills. Having recruited employees with the right mind-set there is not just a duty to provide them with the right skills to do their job but also significant business benefit from doing so. The findcourses UK Learning & Development Report: 2018 showed that organisations with above average investment in training enjoy better retention rates and almost twice the levels of employee satisfaction.
Recognising excellent customer service performance
The renowned psychologist Abraham Mazlow’s placed ‘self-esteem’ (the concern with getting recognition, status, importance, and respect from others) above the needs for social belonging and safety, giving credence to Dale Carnegie’s view that: “People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards.”
Saying thank you for a job well done is the simplest, most effective way to reinforce positive behaviours and a strong working culture. It creates happy employees and, some research suggests, healthier employees. It can also make your business more productive.
Recognition is as much a part of a successful employee engagement programme as salary, but putting them both together is a real win-win. In 2019 the founder of Richer Sounds, Julian Richer, handed over a 60% stake in the business to its 500 staff. The immediate benefit to staff was a £1,000 bonus for every year worked. But, longer term, they will have a say in how the business is run and enjoy a sense of ownership that will set their business apart.
Mr Richer told the BBC: “I’ve been running my business for 40 years and the overriding thing I’ve learned is that it’s all about the people. If you treat your people right, then they are going to be happier, give a better service, stay with you.”
It’s a philosophy that more and more businesses are embracing either through employee ownership (John Lewis, Riverford organics, Aardman Animations) or through employee engagement. And it seems to be a winning formula that any business would do well to adopt.
If you’re looking to kick start and employee engagement programme or want to improve the elements of this that you already have in place – we have some ideas (and clever technology) that can help.