It’s a topic that comes up a lot – whether it’s when I’m talking with recruiters about my style of managing people, with senior management on the topic of addressing unhappiness in their teams, or most recently, with inspired small start-ups who are looking to build a strong customer-centric culture from day one – is the happiness of your people linked to the happiness of your customers? And importantly, can you see a revenue benefit of making your people happy through increased customer loyalty, spend and advocacy? The answer is of course, yes, you can! But before we look at HOW you link them, let’s first explore WHY.
Richard Branson makes it clear to all businesses that carry the Virgin brand – happy engaged people deliver delightful customer experiences; delighted customers spend more, stay longer and recommend you; which in turn, delivers shareholder returns. For this reason, it’s important to be able to connect all three things:
- How engaged are your employees?
- How much do your customers / clients love you?
- How much revenue and profit are you making?
Business have historically been timid around connecting up seemingly intangible emotional measures with more traditional hard metrics, like revenue. But the dawn of the digital age has shown us the wisdom of valuing subjective and objective measures equally. Some measures sit well together – customer satisfaction and cost to serve, for example. The happier your customer, generally the cheaper it will cost to service them. In customer & client facing environments, taking this one step further, high employee engagement scores should result in high customer satisfaction. If people love their job and feel empowered to do it well, they will make customers happy. Crude calculation, maybe, and ignoring other key factors, but overall, most people see the logic.
But linking all three items together can at first appear tricky. For a start, each of the metrics is owned by different functions. If each area has separate goals and objectives to deliver that meet those metrics, where does the overlap lie? The ownership sits with the top tier of the business. The executive team needs to care about and drive all three metrics. The metrics don’t in fact need to be linked, but rather the vision, values and culture of the business, as well as the products or services offered all contribute to the success of the three metrics.
Back to the original question on linking customer & employee engagement – of course it’s possible, but you need to adopt the same mindset for both. Have you mapped your customer & your employee journeys from the “consumer” perspective? If process around on-boarding a new employee or correcting a payroll issue are written from a task perspective, you’re more likely to have a poor employee experience.
Processes are always just a series of actions to achieve a task, and whether automated or manually delivered, result in the same outcome. HOW you deliver that and how you consider the consumer (be that employee or customer) is the point of differentiation. It’s why the most charming waiter always gets the best tips. They are simply taking food orders and delivering them. But if they are interesting, polite and “go the extra mile”, you’re much more likely to tip them generously. Likewise, both employee and customer engagement scores are highest where the “HOW” aspect has been well thought through. You may want to take a look at your customer & employee engagement scores, then take a closer look at the experiences – is the “HOW” good enough?!
The final piece advice for start-ups, and indeed any business that seeks to employ the brightest and most sought after people, stop focusing on gimmicks, and start focusing on development. Beer fridges, pinball machines and company trips out to theme parks are all well and good, but beyond the fact that they are invariably thought up for men by men, they are also pretty shallow. Those in the know focus on employee engagement, which means proper development planning for these bright people. A great place to work matters, but real employee happiness stems from a clear path to their personal success!