In 1975, 83% of a company’s valuation was based on tangible assets. Forty years later, this percentage had dropped to just 13%. Where did that valuation go? To intellectual property, good will and brand recognition.
Customer experience is fundamental to an organization’s success. But having a seamless end-to-end brand experience is impossible if the company’s employees do not have a customer-centric mindset and aren’t motivated to keep customers happy.
According to Gartner, 89% of companies now expect to compete primarily on the basis of the experience they provide customers. And in a business-to-business (B2B) Customer Experience study issued by Accenture, 86% of 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 generating excitement around the brand can come up short if companies ignore their most credible advocates — their own employees. After all, who knows the company better? A study conducted by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research shows a growing movement spurred by social media — employee activism. Employee activists draw visibility to and defend their workplaces through their actions, both on and offline. One in five employees (21%) are already highly engaged and can act as role models for others to emulate. The study further estimates another 33% are open to becoming stronger brand advocates under the right circumstances. Today, it’s not enough to have satisfied employees — they must be fully connected in order to act on your behalf.
There’s significant potential to improve the customer experience through employee activism by continuing to engage employee activists and move advocates to activism. Not capitalizing on these advocates is a missed opportunity to organically grow more internal supporters and possibly inhibit critics who would otherwise disrupt the business.
Whether employees are on the front lines or behind the scenes, they’re a critical source of customer experience and often have ideas on how to improve your products and processes. If employees aren’t ambassadors for your company, it can affect your bottom line. Evidence of an economic link between employee happiness and a company’s financial performance has long been established. With the prevalence of social media, it doesn’t take long for unhappy customers to voice their opinions about their dissatisfaction with your product or reveal an unfortunate interaction with an employee.
Employees need to be mobilized around a customer experience initiative. No amount of technology, content or increases in spending will deliver results. Companies should systematically promote and track employee advocacy relative to the customer experience. In order 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 — you can only inspire it.
Don’t expect your employees to embrace your brand and be advocates for your organization if they don’t know how what they do relates to the overall mission of the company. According to Gallup, “A clear mission inspires employee engagement, fosters customer engagement, and helps boost company performance — among other benefits.” Continual communication about the promise and value of the brand is essential for employees to understand their role in making the customer experience successful for everyone.
2. Show how employees fit into your overall strategy.
Communicating your company’s brand promise and value among your employees is one thing, but ensuring they have the tools and training to enhance customer experience takes a more holistic approach. Employees need to know how their role integrates into an overall strategy to drive customer experience. They must also understand how their responsibilities may need to change to ensure a successful experience is enjoyed by the customer. Why? Because B2B customers now have even higher expectations. Conducting internal team member workshops that incorporate roleplaying exercises in the context of the customer journey helps employees understand not only how they fit into the customer experience but also how their colleagues fit.
3. Give them autonomous authority.
Keeping people engaged and advocating for your brand means giving them some autonomous authority to make the difference between an OK customer experience and a 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 that 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 customer experience have 1.5 times as many engaged employees as companies that lag behind in customer experience, as revealed in a study by Tempkin Group. Inspire your employees by establishing a culture where they recognize that they are all responsible for delivering a quality experience to every customer.