The other day, after placing my coffee order, I noticed the people behind me in the queue getting their drinks first. I mentioned this and quickly enough the staff passed me my drink – it had been placed mistakenly at the wrong side of the counter, and had the wrong name written on it… but that’s fine, these things happen. When I left the shop I noticed that the cup was leaking and they had forgotten to add milk, so I went back in to ask if they could correct this. At which point the customer representative paused, sighed, shrugged his shoulders and avoided eye contact while correcting the order.

This annoyed me. Why? Well, more than the general attitude, it was that the staff member simply did not ‘get’ me. He didn’t get that my coffee is more than a simple drink – it is a small slice of personal comfort that fuels me for the busy day ahead. That coffee means a lot and this experience illustrates a common corporate problem. No matter what type of organisation you are and what type of service you offer, your people need to understand who your customers are, what they expect, and how to satisfy their needs and organisations do a lot of work to make sure that their employees understand the customer – but when their people are not engaged that effort is worthless, they simply don’t ‘get’ it.

Globally, marketers spend billions each year understanding what drives consumer choice and how marketing strategies can be used to align the company products to consumer needs. Unfortunately, only a tiny fraction of this investment goes in to understanding employee behaviour and what levers to pull to help people deliver the company promise to customers. But without that crucial connection, the most human part of the customer experience can fall apart. So you have to make sure your employees are engaged and enabled to deliver on this, understanding what motivates them to go above and beyond to meet customer needs.  And that’s not just your customer facing employees, that’s everyone within your business.

Thankfully there are some clear steps you can take to engage and enable your people to deliver a consistently high-quality customer experience. Here are just a few for you to think about:

Paint a picture – Your people need to understand the role they play in the customer experience. You need to make sure managers know how their team’s behaviour affects the customers. This means translating your customer promise/value proposition so that each person in the team understands their role in delivering it.

Get people involved – Ask your employees to find solutions. Encourage them to share customer feedback, and suggest what they’d do to make improvements.

Share best practice – Post stories about individuals and teams going above and beyond for customers on your company intranet site, or share them in team meetings. This won’t just recognize those involved – it’ll also send the right signals to others, and create positive examples for them to follow.

Bring the customer experience to life – Look for ways to offer your people the customer experience by providing them with your company’s products and services.

Forging a direct link between employee engagement and the customer experience will bring real bottom-line benefits to any organisation. It’ll mean that your people will be more motivated and your customers will be more loyal. And that means better business performance. And it creates a virtuous circle of success. More engaged workers means better customer satisfaction, which in turn helps employees feel they’re working for a successful organisation – and one that they’re happy to commit to.

So how does the coffee story end? Well, after this experience the coffee shop lost a customer. Now, if I was the only one customer they lost, that wouldn’t be too bad. But the problem is that when companies are not successful at engaging their employees the customer experience suffers – I suspect I wasn’t the only customer affected.

Have you had any customer experiences affected by disengaged employees? Tell us your stories via the comment box below – we’d love to hear them.

Employees provide a valuable resource that is often overlooked – feedback. Aaron Kingsford explains how acting on employee feedback can be impactful for business


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About Contributor

For the last 15 years, Chris has helped organisations maximise the potential of their workforce to drive business performance.

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