Customer engagement: How to get your employees to buy in
Thursday, April 05, 2018
If you own or manage a business in the service industry, then this topic applies to you. If you would like to have employees who perform at their highest degree of productivity along with loyal customers driving sales and revenue, then read these expert tips today.
You may be asking, "What is the difference between customer service and customer engagement?"
For starters, when we talk about customer service, we are typically referring to creating a satisfying experience. Alternatively, customer engagement is all about creating an emotional connection with our customers. It's important to make this distinction because customer service does not necessarily always create customer engagement, and vice versa.
In fact, according to Anson Vuong of Gallup, engaging with customers "is a strategic choice" and "success flows from the organizational norms senior leaders create." In other words, the decision to engage with customers in a way that creates an emotional connection is a business strategy that comes from the top of your organization.
Vuong illuminates the differences between customer service (aka satisfaction) vs. engagement with some helpful examples. For instance, if you were staying in a hotel you would feel satisfied if the room had plenty of amenities and creature comforts, but you would feel engaged if you arrived to the hotel and the lobby was "active and energetic."
In a retail setting, like a department store, you would feel satisfied if the store had fantastic sales, deals and discounts, but you would be truly engaged in the experience if sales personnel went out of their way to be helpful. Finally, going to your favorite fast food restaurant is satisfying because the food is prepared consistently and quickly, but you are truly engaged when you feel you are greeted in a warm and genuine manner.
So how do engaged employees behave?
Employees who are engaged in their work are "energetic, motivated, curious and open to new and innovative ways of doing things," Terrie Nolinske says in the article "Employee Engagement Drives Customer Satisfaction." Nolinske goes on to say that employees will go above and beyond the call of duty when they are engaged and have "emotional attachment to their work."
This emotional attachment — especially when it's excitement — is actually contagious and can "rub off on the customer." In essence, customers feel what we feel. When we are enthusiastic, motivated, happy and excited, our customers feel it, too.
On the other hand, customers feel our negative vibes, and it costs us a lot of money.
We've all been there — face to face with a disenfranchised bank teller with a blank stare or a restaurant server who has lost his or her patience — and it definitely brings down our mood. In situations like these, it's obvious that these workers are not engaged in their work. They may be providing adequate service, but the experience is lackluster, at best.
Sadly, in the United States, according to a national poll, 50 to 60 percent of the workforce is not engaged, and these disengaged employees cost their employers upwards of $300 billion each year, reports Nolinske. The takeaway here is that disengaged employees are not just a drag, they are costing you lots of money in lost revenue!
Be sure to recognize employee behavior that is less than enthusiastic and coach them up or coach them out of your business.
What do employees need from you to feel engaged at work?
For many, it's the simple things: good pay, personal satisfaction, meaningful work and sometimes a little bit of fun. Nolinske goes on to say that those employees who are truly engaged on the job tend to be able to "share their ideas and views with colleagues above their pay grade, feel informed about what goes on in the organization, feel recognized for great work and have the potential for advancement."
Advancement is a key factor for keeping and maintaining an engaged and motivated staff. Employees, according to Nolinske, who have proven to you that they are "productive, efficient and savvy" deserve to advance. Be sure that you are evaluating your employees as often as possible and recognizing their achievements and contributions to your business.
And don't forget, "thank yous" are free, so give them out liberally.
The culture of engagement and its benefits to your business
When both your employees and customers are engaged at your business, magic can happen. As I've mentioned previously, engagement comes from the top down and is a conscious, strategic choice.
According to Pallavi Jha, leaders who understand the "direct link between engagement and customer centricity develop and maintain a corporate culture centered around ensuring their customer and employee experiences are great."
Without a doubt, it's crucial for business owners and managers to listen to their employees as much as they listen to their customers. When this happens you can expect to see high levels of innovation, productivity and high overall job performance.
Moreover, employers who listen to employees will retain customers while reducing the costs that are related to high staff turnover and retention in today's competitive talent market, according to the Harvard Business Review. The company Zappos, for example, built its business on the premise that you must have happy employees to have happy customers, and to have those happy employees you must have a fantastic company culture.
In essence, emotional engagement starts from the top then travels downhill to the employees and then to the customers. Business owners and managers, therefore, are responsible for setting the tone of a business. If you are observing a particular problem with employee engagement at your business, don't forget to ask yourself if you are leading by example.
The takeaway for us all?
Customer service and/or satisfaction, these days, is simply not going to cut it. Engagement is everything. Customers want to feel a strong, emotional connection to your business and your staff in order to feel engaged. It's not enough to offer a good product or an above average service; customers need to feel compelled by your employees' motivation to serve and intrigued by their excitement.
Attitudes are contagious — good or bad — so be aware of how your staff members interact with your customers. If you are getting bad vibes from your employees, then your customers definitely are as well.
Remember, that in the service industry we are trying to create memorable experiences for our customers. Providing an above-average service is not enough to tow the line. Customers must leave looking great as well as feeling uplifted and inspired to return.
Follow these expert tips and start to see more loyal clients, productive staff and soaring profits for years to come.
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