Cracking the Customer-Employee Connection

Just how customer-focused are you? Have you asked your employees lately?

It’s no secret that customers are the lifeblood of most every company. And most every company probably believes that it’s doing all it can to attract and engage those all-important clients. But fresh research now more directly points to the level of connectedness between your employees and your customers as the true, vital driver of sustained customer loyalty, spending, and growth.

A Customer ‘Ecosystem’

Forrester Research Inc., the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research and advisory firm, which issues widely watched annual prediction reports, proclaimed 2017 to be the “year of the customer.” As this year plays out, it’s currently tracking the progress of what it calls “customer-obsessed journeys.”
The ongoing research shows a clear correlation between the quality of customer experiences and revenue growth; it also affirms that emotion is a core driver of customer loyalty and spending. Therefore, notes Cliff Condon, Forrester’s chief research and product officer, “being customer-obsessed can be your only competitive strategy.”
Within that focus, Condon says that to deliver truly standout experiences, companies must build a network of interdependent inside and outside relationships that evolve every day—namely, your customers, employees, business partners, and operating environments. Forrester calls this intertwined web the “customer experience ecosystem.”
“It’s ultimately the actions and decisions of all of these people that determine the quality of all customer interactions over time,” explains Condon.
Still more analysis puts the emphasis squarely on the employee relationship.

Keeping Promises; Making Commitments

You likely always strive to keep commitments to your customers, but what about your employees? Do you pledge the same level of assurances with them as well?
Fifty-seven percent of companies concede they haven’t always kept commitments to employees, according to findings of a global survey of more than 1,300 organizations conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) for the American Management Association (AMA). By comparison, only 33 percent admit failing to keep promises made to customers. This type of inequality can breed internal negativity, which can then seep into external relationships, suggests Sam Davis, vice president of AMA’s corporate sales.
“Companies may feel free to concentrate on customers, while at the same time taking employees for granted,” he says. “But our research found a strong correlation between keeping commitments to workers and to customers. As a rule, companies committed to their workforce also score higher on customer focus and satisfaction. In fact, these qualities tend to distinguish successful companies from their competitors.”
The findings are based on AMA’s Customer-Focused Workforce Survey, which explores the relationship among factors such as promises kept to employees, promises kept to customers, and overall customer satisfaction.
“The research suggests that when companies take employees for granted, they’re risking more than alienated workers or high turnover,” Davis says. “They’re also going to undermine their relationship with customers and patrons and even harm their brand.”
It’s no surprise that disengaged, skeptical employees can’t design or deliver a great experience for customers. Do you keep your word with employees and customers? Do your employees share pride in what they do and what your company does? Do they own or use your products or services themselves and wholeheartedly recommend them to others?
Bottom line: Making it easier for them to authentically feel proud of their organization and their work matters. Employees need to believe that their work is contributing to the company’s mission, that their skills are required, and that their company keeps its promises.
In part 2 of this article, we’ll call out a few employee-centered ways to help deliver a superior customer experience.

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