“Empowerment Marketing: The Link Between Employee Engagement and Customer Experience” – Miguel A. González Cernuda
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Back in 2014, a Gartner survey revealed that 89% of marketers said they expected to compete primarily on customer experience by 2016.
It’s 2016, and it seems like most companies still have a ways to go. Yes, marketers do understand that this is the Era of Customer Experience (CX) and that the experience is now considered the most valuable asset for a company. Remember when the most valuable assets for a company used to be their employees?
“You can’t have happy engaged customers without happy, engaged customer-facing employees,” states Fred Reichheld, the creator of the Net Promoter Score.
By 2017, 50% of consumer product investments will be redirected to customer experience innovations. This prediction from Gartner seems to be on track, as more and more companies transition from product-centric regimes to a customer experience mindset.
But why are so many companies coming up short? Because, and this is the premise of this article, at the heart of the customer experience is the engaged employee. Too many companies have not linked the employee and the customer/consumer as part of their customer experience. A policy of empowerment is sorely lacking.
The connection between engaged employee and satisfied customer was best explained by Schlesinger and Heskett in their now classic article – Breaking the Cycle of Failure in Services. They describe what happens when companies build an environment of austerity. Here’s their description of how a company creates a “cycle of failure”:
A large retail company (or bank or fast food chain) designs its customer contact positions to be filled by people who are willing, at least temporarily, to work for wages marginally above statutory minimums. It simplifies the jobs, reducing them to a series of repetitive, boring tasks that require minimal training. It makes little effort to develop either dedication to the work or loyalty to the company. The results of this strategy are quite predictable: inordinately high employee turnover and increasing customer dissatisfaction.
“The Cycle of Failure”
Despite company claims of customer-centricity, very few companies walk the talk.
What is Empowerment Marketing?
Empowerment marketing is the idea that the quality of customer experience is directly a function of the quality of the employees delivering the experience.
Competition is based on talent, imagination, and quality of experience. People are at the heart of every interaction.
Here are a few yet critical characteristics of empowerment marketing:
- The employee is the advantage
- Training and learning are core competencies
- Service attitude is key
- Quality matters
- Wholistic job design and performance management
- Technology is a tool
- Above average wages
- Talent selection
- The service mission is clearly understood
The next question is: How can we deploy a successful empowerment marketing program?
Start with a strategy proposal. Sit down and analyze: what do we want to do with and for our people? What kind of commitment will we be able to generate? Will we have a bi-directional perspective? How are we going to manage feedback? Will it be static or dynamic?
As a company, we have to define our mission and vision with employees and develop a program similar to the loyalty program for customers where the goals and horizon are perfectly defined. An employee loyalty program rewards the employee not merely through pay, but through meaning. We’ve heard about the customer journey. What about the employee journey? What are the key touchpoints? The KPIs for monitoring and controlling expectations?
Think about how employees feel proud to belong to a company.
Google, Harley Davidson, Facebook, are examples where people feel the empowerment and the bond where they are valued and respected as workers, as participants in something larger than themselves.
Talent, skills, backgrounds, ability and desire to add value are valued as much as outcomes. Companies must nurture and encourage the bonds between employees and customers. Outcomes are the results of relationships and service not vice-versa.
Employees-> Customers-> Profits. This simple equation is the starting point of wisdom. How wise is your company?
Miguel A. González Cernuda is the General Manager of Anore, a marketing consultancy in Bolivia. He facilitates strategic initiatives for global businesses in Europe and across the world.