Engaging employees and winning with customers go hand in hand. Find out how to make the connection.

Companies have for long focused on meeting the needs of their customers but in today’s hyper-competitive world, fuelled by digital technologies and rapid change, it’s becoming increasingly hard to keep up with their demands. Customers are now empowered to make buying decisions when, where and how they want, have access to multiple channels to connect with a business and expect a consistent experience across all touch points.

This requires a shift from the traditional view that responsibility for delivering a great customer experience lies predominantly with frontline employees. Instead, the customer journey now requires alignment and engagement across the entire organisation – that’s people from all departments, at all levels and across all geographies. Embedding this customer focused culture in your organisation means engaging and enabling your people to put customer needs centre stage.

In our new report, Joining the Dots, we show you how successful companies are aligning their workforce around the customer experience to achieve competitive advantage. Through their stories and our own experience we’ve highlighted eight factors that are key to making it happen. One of them, customer focus, means putting employees in your customers’ shoes so that they can understand them better. Here are some ideas you can implement to give your employees, wherever they are in the organisation, insights into the needs of your customers.

Top 4 things you need to do to get your employees closer to the customer:

  • Giving your employees the experience of being a customer
    If your employees understand the experience a customer has with your company, they’re better placed to know how to improve it. So look for ways to put employees in your customers’ shoes by providing them with your company’s products and services.
    Make a list of where this is already happening in your organization and other places where you could offer it. Start with a small, low-cost trial and measure the results.
  • Offering people in all roles the opportunity to interact directly with customers
    Put non-customer-facing employees in front of the customer – for example, as part of inductions and training programs or during busy periods. Brainstorm opportunities to ‘start small’ – for example, with HR team members – before rolling the scheme out more widely once the benefits become clear.
  • Getting your senior executives in front of customers and the frontline
    For a strong focus on your customers, everyone in your organisation needs exposure to them – from the bottom to the very top. Consider how you can bring customers into senior decision-making processes. And make time for managers in head office roles to visit local branches or units for informal visits that include shadowing a frontline colleague, or doing a customer facing role. Again, the secret is to start small. Assess where it would be easiest for a test team to slot in. Then ask for volunteers to work on the frontline one day a week for a month.
    Make sure you get good qualitative and quantitative feedback for any pilot scheme you run. It’ll help you build a business case for expanding the scheme across the organisation.
  • Involving your employees in finding solutions
    Look at the channels you have for reaching – and hearing from – your employees. Are there enough opportunities for them to share customer feedback, and suggest what they’d do to make improvements? If not, think about how you could encourage this bottom-up feedback. For example, you could use your employee survey to ask what one thing your people would change to improve the customer experience.
    Or you could encourage managers to put time aside to gather feedback from their teams – either as part of their weekly team meeting or by dedicating one meeting per month to thinking about the customer. Make it easy for managers to communicate this back up by giving them a template to use and a designated point person to send it to.

For real life organisation examples and more practical advice on linking your employee engagement and customer programs read our latest report Joining the Dots.

What is your organisation doing to help your employees better understand the customer experience? Leave your comments below.


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About the contributor

Chris Mayler is a Senior Client Director for Korn Ferry Advisory, Australia. For the last 15 years, Chris helped organisations maximise the potential of their workforce to drive business performance.

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