If Your Employees Aren’t Happy, Your Customers Never Will be
Updated: May 14
A major airline found their internal customer satisfaction ratings dropping. An VP, not entirely jokingly, said, “Send all the flight attendants to charm school!”
Charm school isn’t the answer. Unless you work for the DMV, employees typically WANT to do what is right for the customer. But often, internal policies and procedures are tying their hands.
What gets in the way of your employees serving and delivering greater customer value?
In the early days of my tenure at Oracle, I found that employees desperately wanted to solve customers’ problems. But they didn’t always know which ones to focus on first and didn’t necessarily have a meaningful way to do so.
How can you engage employees in reducing customer friction and creating greater customer value?
For the past few months, we’ve been writing about Customer Performance. We’ve created a comprehensive framework as a way to look at customers as your most essential asset: to systematically create value for them, and in turn, motivate them to be great brand advocates for you. The Customer Performance Framework systematically moves customers toward the realization of their objectives and towards advocacy of your brand. A Customer Performance focus engages employees to engage with customers in delivering greater customer value.
Do free lunches, pool tables, or afternoon keggers drive employee engagement? No, these perks are great for recruiting. But they are easily habituated and ultimately have no impact on employee behavior.
Doshi & McGregor wrote that the most potent employee motivators are Play, Purpose, and Potential. Play is when the enjoyment of the work itself provides the motivation to do the work. Purpose is fulfilled when we value the impact or outcome of the work. And Potential is when we value the second-order outcome of the work—we do the work because it will eventually lead to something very important to us.
Sadly, most employers resort to applying Emotional Pressure as they use guilt and shame to compel employees to work. Or they use Economic Pressure as they set up compensation systems where employees act solely to win an award or avoid a punishment. Or the culture is one of Inertia, and deviation is punished.
These latter three sources of motivation are entirely disconnected from the work itself. However, according to Doshi & McGregor, “identity turns jobs into callings; it unites your team with a common objective, behavioral code, heritage, and traditions.”
Like I found at Oracle, we need to provide opportunities to systematically connect employees with customers and direct their intrinsic desire to serve customers.
Engaging Employees in your Ease of Doing Business Efforts
It has been our experience that front-line employees tend to know and feel what frustrates their customers and would love nothing more than to fix it. Similarly, back-office employees feel their disconnect from customers acutely and are hugely motivated by learning how their actions impact customers and understanding how they’re making a difference for customers.
Following a merger or acquisition, there is often a massive effort to integrate customers into the new systems, contracts, support, etc. This effort is a phenomenal and often overlooked opportunity to get employees from both companies engaged in a compelling shared goal. You can be very targeted about which employees you engage with, to build enthusiasm and purpose consistent with Doshi & McGregor’s model above.
Ease of Doing Business means creating process efficiencies that allow our employees to spend more time on real value-add activities that matter. How many employees know precisely what constitutes a great experience? Effort, however, is intuitive. Employees often know precisely how to make it easy for customers to do business with us.
Where can we engage employees in our efforts to increase Ease of Doing Business?
Identify the Ease of Doing Business Hotspots
The first and easiest is to help identify the Ease of Doing Business Hotspots along the customer journey. Front-line employees often feel their customer’s pain acutely. And you would be surprised by how valuable feedback from back-office employees (legal, accounts payable, contracts, accounts receivable, etc.) is.
Odds are, if a process is cumbersome for front-line employees, it’s tough for customers as well. Improved employee experience almost always translates into an improved customer experience. But not always the other way around. And that’s because organizations often paper-over problems and cause more difficult employee experiences in an attempt to improve the customer experience. So, there’s an argument for starting with the employee experience and asking if that’s been improved.
Prioritizing Ease of Doing Business Hotspots
After identifying the Hotspots that cause customer friction and impair revenue/profits, we want to prioritize them based on how easy and inexpensive it would be to implement fixes versus the positive impact those fixes will have on customers and your employees.
Employees can be invaluable in identifying hotspots that are easy to fix, inexpensive, and highly impactful to both customers and employees. You should tackle these first. We want quick wins that help us gain peer and executive support for future projects. Even more importantly, this involvement will increase the level of employee enthusiasm and engagement you will need to go after more substantial projects.
Root Cause Analyses
As we embark on our journey to resolve the most critical Ease of Doing Business Hotspots, we need to engage process owners and front-line employees to help us perform root cause analyses. Employees typically understand the upstream nuances that result in significant issues downstream. Because they often acutely feel customer pain, they can enumerate the underlying issues that, if resolved, will ensure your solutions effectively reduce customer effort and make you easier to do business with.
Change Management Imperatives
The greatest strategies and action plans are useless without engaged employees. Countless Chief Customer Officers have failed because they cannot communicate their vision and convince employees to come with them on their change journey.
Before embarking on each change management effort, you should consider critical success factors for change management. What are some of the risks or obstacles you expect to encounter? Who will help pave over those risks and help overcome political obstacles?
Are there resources or capabilities that you don’t have within your group or even your company?
How will your employees be involved in creating success? How will you include them in the analysis, development, measurement?
Which employees do you need on your team? How will you convince them to participate in your efforts?
We cannot implement our grand challenges and plans without our employees truly onboard and committed.
According to Gallup, only 33.1% of employees are actively engaged at work. Often, they lack direction and purpose. We have to create opportunities to engage them in increasing customer performance. We need to provide them formal opportunities to help solve customer problems.
If we’re successful, they’ll engage, and according to Gallup, companies with engaged employees drive 21% higher profitability and 20% higher sales. We’ll sign up for that.
Until next time,
Jeb Dasteel & Curtis Bingham