Most companies spend a lot of money testing their brand logo, catchy marketing phrases, and demographics, but spend little time training and validating that their employees can deliver exceptional customer experiences. The result, according to an oft-cited Gallup survey, is that 70% of workers are not fully engaged and customer experiences are poor.
The customer experience is really your brand, as that’s what customers remember and communicate to others, rather than your marketing. Therefore, the real challenge in building your brand is to increase the level of commitment and delivery of your team. Gregg Lederman, in his classic book, “ENGAGED!: Outbehave Your Competition to Create Customers for Life,” offers eight key principles for defining and managing the experience to keep it consistent and profitable:
- Keep every employee on stage, providing an experience. At work, every team member (everyone who gets paid to do a job at the company) is responsible on stage for delivering a brand experience to co-workers and customers. They have to behave and outperform their competition. Is your crew acting like it’s on Broadway?
- Keep your team happy to create engaged customers. An unhappy team member cannot create an engaged customer. However, less than half of people working today say they are satisfied and happy at work. How many of your employees would say that what they think, what they say and what they do are in harmony? Money doesn’t buy commitment.
- Don’t just advertise your culture, make it visible. Your mission, values, brand positioning, and guiding principles are invisible unless your employees know specifically how to act on them through their daily behavior. You have to define these behaviors, measure them and reward them. Walking the talk is the place to start.
- Focus on cultural change instead of talking about culture. Culture is changed by the way we act (perform) and interact (employees and customers). Define and document a common mindset and make related behaviors non-negotiable. Everyone must know and do these things consistently. The secret to success is 1% training and 99% reminders.
- Turn common sense into common practice. The only real employee-driven measure of whether the workforce is “living the brand” is the perspective of others in each area of work. Use a company-wide assessment at least twice a year to understand and remind the team to outperform the competition. No more employee satisfaction surveys.
- Build relationships and stop surveying customers. Every senior leader needs to have regular quality conversations with customers. These allow leaders to see first-hand how the company is living the brand and when it is not. Relationships will get referrals, drive more sales, and build loyalty. Use feedback to improve and grow.
- Incentivize engagement with training and recognition, rather than rewards. Employees get far more value from the power of recognition and far less from actual rewards. Rewards programs do not drive sustainable cultural change or business results. Provide recognition for the right behaviors consistently, and the results will add up.
- Build trust in yourself as a leader by managing the experience. Without strong leadership, people just won’t follow through. Earn trust by making the right experience part of everyday conversation and reminding people of what you expect with your actions. Demonstrate a culture of responsibility and accountability.
Lack of commitment is very costly. According to Lederman, engaged organizations grew profits up to three times faster than their competitors. Highly engaged organizations have been shown to reduce staff turnover by 87%, improve performance by 20%, and increase customer satisfaction by at least 12%.
In general, successful startups and world-class companies are known to have fiercely loyal customers fueled by fully engaged team members, resulting in proactive referrals and more purchases. That’s the brand you want, and you need a minimal focus on logo and advertising to survive and outperform your competition. How would you rate your customer experience today?