Creating Customer-Centric Employees

In 1975, much of a company’s valuation was based on tangible assets. Four decades later, this percentage had dropped to just single digits. Where did that valuation go? To intellectual property, goodwill and brand recognition.

Customer experience (CX) is fundamental to an organization’s success. But having a brand experience in the entire journey is impossible if the company’s employees do not have a customer-centric mindset and aren’t motivated to keep customers happy. In business, CX is the outcome of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship journey. ... Customer experience can be defined as the internal feelings and the subsequent actions of the customers that might be in line with the company either directly or indirectly.

According to our experience, most of the companies now must compete primarily based on the experience they provide customers as technological differentiations are minimal. And in a B2B scenario 90 out of 100 executives listed customer experience as a strategic initiative. While this may not come as a surprise to many, these studies show that organizations are struggling to deliver on their customer experience initiatives.

Focusing on target customers by sales promotion, schemes, discounts etc. can give short-term results if companies ignore their most credible advocates — their own employees including the last mile (the so-called Business and Service Partners/Channel Partners). After all, who knows the company better? A study conducted by a leading research agency shows a growing movement spurred by social media — employee activism. These activists through their actions, both on and offline draw visibility. Twenty percentage are already highly engaged and can act as role models for others to follow. One third are open to becoming stronger brand advocates given the right atmosphere. Today, it’s not enough to have happy employees — they must be fully integrated to act on your behalf.

There’s a tremendous potential to make the customer journey a good experience through employee engagement by continuing to engage employee engaged and move advocates to activists. Not using these employees is a missed opportunity to organically grow more internal supporters and possibly counter critics who would otherwise disrupt the business.

Whether employees face the customer or operate in the back office, they’re an important source of customer experience and often have contributed to improving your products and processes. If employees aren’t an important cog in the wheel, it can affect your bottom line. The employee happiness and a company’s financial performance can be easily linked to the good performance of the organisation and the subsequent return of the customer for more services. This enhances the brand value through the perceptional eye and the mind of the customer. With the easy access to social media, it doesn’t take too long for unhappy customers to voice their opinions about their dissatisfaction with your product or expose an unhappy interaction with an employee.

Employees need to be sensitised and developed emotionally around a customer experience initiative. No amount of software to capture data or tempting the customer through discounts and other offers will deliver results. Companies should capture, promote and track employee advocacy relative to the customer experience. For any organization to find customer experience success they first need to engage, educate and empower their employees by incorporating the following steps:

1. Don’t mandate engagement — but inspire it.

Don’t expect your employees to embrace your brand and be advocates for your organization if they don’t know the vision of the organisation and how to take it forward. A clear vision inspires employee engagement, fosters customer engagement, and helps boost company performance — among other benefits. Continual communication between the vision and value of the brand is critical for employees to perform their role in making the customer experience successful for everyone.

2. Show how employees fit into your overall strategy.

By just communicating the brand value and telling them the importance of good customer experience does not make the customer-centric but ensuring they are armed with the right tools and training to enhance customer experience is a more holistic approach. Employees need to know how their role contributes in driving customer experience and how it fits into the strategies of the firm. They should also know how their attitudes and behaviours need to be more responsible to ensure a successful customer experience. Why? Because with the change in customer dominated markets customers now have even higher expectations. Conducting regular team meetings may not be a solution to the issue but during that time making people share the good and the bad experiences that their customers had and then incorporate roleplaying exercises in the context of the customer journey helps employees understand not only how they fit into the role and sensitise the importance of customer experience but also how their colleagues fit.

3. Give them authority with some boundaries.

Keeping people engaged and advocating for your brand means giving them some autonomous authority to make the difference between OK customer experience and great customer experience. People inherently need to feel that they’re contributing value to the organization. Without that, what do you have? A disengaged workforce doesn’t bode well for the customer or the organization. Establish clear guidelines as to what that freedom is and under what circumstances decisions can be made on behalf of achieving high customer satisfaction. Find examples where employee activism resulted in an excellent customer journey and communicate across the organization to develop role models for others to emulate.

Deciding to take this strategic approach to ensure your employees understand their roles in customer experience is your first step toward helping your brand advocates become your brand activists. Companies that excel at