Power to your people

The world is obsessed with improving the customer experience.
And it’s easy to see why…

c-07I am a cynical atheist when it comes to business surveys. I just don’t believe the self-serving conclusions that most research peddles. But, on the subject of customer experience, I am a total convert. The consistency and weight of evidence is compelling… customer satisfaction and retention are now the most important contributors to sustainable profit.

Improving the customer experience is, therefore, a clear priority – but how you interpret this imperative is rather less clear. Right now, for example, many companies think that the future lies in mobile and tablet-based apps. They want to give customers the freedom to serve themselves. And they are investing very heavily in this belief.

The snag is, clever apps are not catch-all solutions. They can be hugely liberating but invariably they are much less effective when customers need to connect with real people. Technology really struggles when it comes up against the random, irrational, complex and often contradictory confusion that is human nature. No app can turn a disgruntled customer into a devoted brand advocate. No program can transform the way your staff behave or how they serve your customers. And this explains why more and more companies are now turning to a new way of thinking – one that puts ‘Employee Engagement’ at the heart of their business.

The DNA of Excellence

In consumer popularity ratings, certain companies command almost universal admiration. Apple, Amazon, Virgin, The John Lewis Partnership, Pret a Manger and Google are just some of the nation’s most consistent favourites. But why? What lifts them head and shoulders above their rivals?

Well, there are many unique features to each company’s success but there is one common denominator found in all high-achieving businesses: an ethos of pride and empowerment. It’s the fundamental building block. The DNA of excellence. Let me give you a graphic example…

When someone applies to join Pret, they are assigned to a branch for a trial assessment. At the end of this probationary period, all of the staff in that branch are asked to vote on whether they want that person in their team. And their vote really does count. One single detractor is all it takes to end that person’s prospects of employment.

I routinely make a ten-minute detour to buy lunch at Pret. Like hundreds of other customers, I go out of my way because Pret’s staff go the extra mile to make me feel welcome and valued. And this fact is certainly not lost on Pret’s management. They actively foster a collective pride in customer satisfaction. But they also appreciate that this esprit de corps is fragile and could be undermined by just one ‘rotten apple’. That is why they respect their people enough to empower them. Staff are given the right to select team members who will share and sustain their high standards. It’s very clever and courageous thinking.

As clever and courageous as three fascinating companies that I recently discovered. A trio of innovators operating in the Employee Engagement space. Let me introduce you…

Three firms driving Employee Engagement

The first is a remarkable firm that specialises in helping its clients to create a positive company spirit. Starting at the very top of companies and then working down, this team unashamedly builds the ‘business case for love’. It shows CEOs and Boards the dramatic impact that changing attitudes can have on financial performance. It proves that when people become passionate about their work and their company, the results can be truly transformational…

The case studies are compelling. Major banks, car companies, airports and even railways have adopted this company’s thinking and radically improved not only their ratings but also their bottom-line. It is genuinely inspiring.

My second company specialises in bringing fun to business…

Now be honest, when was the last time you thought to yourself: “Yep, I’m going to log on to SAP for some serious hard-core excitement”? Well, unlikely though this may seem, that is exactly the reaction this ground-breaking company sets out to achieve. It uses gamification techniques to turn routine processes into enjoyable experiences.

And, once again, the results are both surprising and impressive…

Take salesforce.com as a typical example. This is now the world’s most popular CRM solution. But, in many places, it may also be the world’s most under-utilised CRM product. Studies reveal that people often fail to enter all of their leads, they omit vital data and they habitually fail to update entries.

However, when gamification is introduced in a native way to salesforce.com, the results have proved sensational. Employees will not only use it more, they’ll also sell more and they’ll sell much more quickly. It’s another inspiring success story.

Finally, let me introduce you to my third discovery. This company has developed a unique video platform for internal communications. Just as 3D film technology has pushed our sensory boundaries to bring a dramatic, new realism to movies, this firm is totally transforming the way companies engage with their employees.

Most internal communication is still locked in what I call the ‘2D Age’… a one-way traffic where management ‘preaches’ to a passive workforce. However, this innovative firm uses interactive video to create a genuine multi-dimensional dialogue…

Urgent or breaking information can be instantly shared by creating quality videos on standard PCs. Like an in-house iPlayer, these productions can be compressed and viewed in real time…they can be paused to accommodate other working priorities… or they can be stored and watched at a more convenient time.

And with the added dimension of interactivity, this technology elevates employee engagement to a new level of spontaneous involvement. This really is an inspirational step-change in communication.


Take-home message

If there’s one take-home message it is this…

While it is tempting to concentrate on improving user interface through sexy customer apps, don’t overlook the most important interface of all – the relationship between your customers and your employees. Your people are the real guardians of your brand. They build the vital emotional bond with customers. They are your ultimate competitive edge. Empower them.

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