Organizations that want to deliver a great customer experience won’t succeed without an engaged workforce.
Temkin Group research shows that companies with an above average customer experience for their industry enjoy 1.5 times more moderately and highly engaged employees than companies that fall below their industry average. Engaged employees are such valuable assets because they try harder at work and are more committed to helping their companies succeed.
For example, compared to their less engaged counterparts, engaged employees are twice as likely to help someone at work — even if they are not asked to — and are three times as likely to recommend an improvement to the company. They are also less likely to take a sick day or look for a new job in the coming six months.
What's Your Strategy?
While it’s easy to see the value of engaged employees, it’s much harder to actually build an engaged workforce. In fact, less than 20 percent of large organizations have strong or very strong employee engagement efforts, according to our 2015 State of Employee Engagement Activities benchmark study.
We surveyed executives from more than 200 large organizations, and nearly all reported having at least some employee engagement efforts underway, but only 43 percent of respondents described their efforts as “significant” and “well-coordinated across the entire company.” Over half of the executives cited the lack of a clear employee engagement strategy as the top obstacle impeding their employee engagement efforts, followed by inconsistent buy-in from middle managers and the lack of a clear owner leading the efforts.
So where should a company start if it wants to engage its employees in its customer experience (CX) efforts? Although starting points may differ from company to company, there are some universal practices that companies can use to raise employee engagement. We call these the Five I’s of Employee Engagement:
Ad hoc, inconsistent communication messages are not effective in engaging employees. Instead, organizations should develop a thorough communication plan and deliver key customer experience messages through multiple channels on a regular basis. CX leaders need to recognize the importance of delivering their CX messages consistently and persistently to ensure they are heard, understood and internalized by employees.
Leaders play a key role in inspiring employees to believe in the company’s vision and values and in helping them understand how their role contributes to the company’s success. Whether it’s meeting directly with employees to share organizational stories or demonstrating commitment by holding company leaders and managers accountable for changing their own behaviors, successful organizations should identify specific ways to tap into the positive influence of the senior executives to inspire and motivate employees.
Organizations cannot suddenly decide that customer experience is important and then expect employees to just magically know what that means or how to behave. Training, coaching and feedback are required for employees to be successful. And this training should touch more than front-line employees. Middle managers and those with little or no direct customer interaction also need to be equipped to do their part in helping the company become more customer-centric.
This is a prime opportunity for CX professionals to work with their colleagues in Human Resources to design and deliver training programs that are aligned with the customer experience strategy.
Raising employee engagement isn’t a one-sided effort. Leading CX organizations find ways to involve employees in their efforts, whether it’s through a formal voice of the employee program, customer journey mapping, employee-driven improvement processes or the company’s employee social network. Even if early efforts are informal and simple, successful organizations take action to raise employee engagement from the ground up, not just from the top down.
One of Temkin Group’s six laws of customer experience is that employees do what is measured, incented and celebrated. Individuals and teams who deliver excellent customer experiences should be celebrated with meaningful gestures of appreciation along with formal awards and incentives. And if employee engagement truly is important, then organizations should establish and measure engagement levels as a management metric with defined goals, action plans and progress tracking on a regular basis.
Make it a Habit
Employee engagement success requires a shift from narrowly focused, occasional actions to a sustained commitment to living the Five I’s across the entire organization every day. And to successfully make this shift, organizations must recognize that raising employee engagement is not the job of any single function but rather a team effort that involves executives, middle managers, HR, CX, Marketing, Communications, IT, etc. Collectively this group needs to work together to ensure that employees understand what is important to the company and enable them to deliver consistently great customer experiences.