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Guest Blogger

I love my early morning cup of coffee.  Being an early bird, it really matters to me as I arrive at the office each day.  It tastes even better when the person serving it to you is truly engaged and that shows through each and every day. Below is a tweet I sent earlier this year, praising Szab, who gave me my coffee every morning at Pret when we worked in our last office in The City.  I don’t tweet often (it’s a joke in our office that it’s become like an annual event).  But this really warranted me taking to the Twittersphere.  We have recently moved offices and I miss his great customer service every day.

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This is a positive “employee engages customer” story; but we hear too few of them. These days we are totally showered with conceptual models about how engaged employees can create engaged customers.  But nothing speaks as loud as a real world example.  There can be a lot of anecdotal focus on negative customer experiences.  But I believe we should focus harder on those employees who get it right for customers. Those employees, in the majority perhaps, who rise every morning to do their level best to have a good day, serving the most diverse customer demographics hour upon hour. How about we watch, listen to, speak to, reward and recognise the best of these and study them to learn more about them?

There are some great examples out there of how this is being done:

  • There are the “Asda Stars” who are spotted doing something absolutely right, in the moment. These Stars are rewarded and recognised often publicly for their “moment”: that never-to-be repeated-and-could-have-been-lost moment
  • There are the “Hilton Moments”, captured by this world’s most recognised hotel brand. These are every-day, front-line employees, delivering customer engagement that other companies would kill for
  • And there are those who receive praise through the Telefonica “Bravo Awards” or the O2 “Fan Club” for creating those exceptional employee/customer moments

Let’s take a moment to look into the precursors of these moments. Research shows that highly engaged people lead to more engaged customers. Research also shoes that employee advocacy precedes or drives customer advocacy (or net promoters). But what drives these key moments?

Our research shows that a combination of leadership behaviours and having a values-based culture are the biggest influences on employees generating customer engagement. These contexts and cultures tend to value people whether suppliers, regulators, customers or other communities because that is just what they do. That is who they are and what they believe in: moments matter more than models perhaps?

At Engage we are frequently asked to look into the links between employee and customer engagement. Frequently the findings are counter-intuitive. It is not just the selection, training and rewarding at a tactical level that drives the outcome.  It is authentic, able and altruistic leaders who represent and reinforce the culture they strongly believe in so that frontline employees believe in it also.

Recently for example, Engage researched these linkages in a global leisure business  In presenting the results to their HR Conference of very smart, experienced practitioners the audience were mildly surprised but deeply impressed that the biggest influence on employees’ desires to create customer engagement was the widely-held company values and beliefs originating from their very well respected founder.

So, a thought for today: look “upstream” – examine what creates these precious moments. It’s not the latest model; nor is it training, nor selection nor front line manuals. These moments arise from customer-centric cultures and out of leaders who employees just know are completely aligned to these moments in the coffee shops, the wards, the streets and the classrooms.

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