While products and services are what businesses sell, brand loyalty is a key aspect of good business. And loyalty is largely built through the personal interactions that happen every day between employees and customers. Even further than that, it is the shared ethos within a company that moves a business from simply providing products and services, to growing relationships and delivering experiences.
Today leading international brands are doing their business with personality. And this personality is the product of employees that are passionate about the brand and are empowered to make decisions within the company. Most importantly, these employees are an active part of the brand experience.
Of course service is important, great customer service is what impresses people and motivates them to use a product or service. But with every company out there trying to deliver perfect service, it has become a requirement rather than a reason for customers to connect with a brand. Experience builds the brand, differentiates it from competitors, and experience starts at the heart of a company.
Often at the heart of the company are employees trying desperately to please managers, bosses and customers alike, but they are often unsure of the parameters they are working in. Their needs and aspirations are often sidelined in order to feed into a customer satisfaction ideal that can sometimes be too rigid to live up to. The result: building frustration and confusion amongst employees, who quite frankly, are one of the most important customer touch-points. Added to this problem are employee incentives and rewards that can only be achieved by robotically efficient service that doesn't necessarily deliver a differentiated experience. Targets are based on quantity rather than quality, and the employees not reaching those targets are either up for warnings or retrenchment - instead of better training and guidance.
The reason is that it seems easier to shout at an employee than it is to reason with a customer, even though both are people. But the employee should be seen as a long term asset, able to grow the company, and the customer base. Instead of placing the focus solely on the customer, and neglecting employees, companies should be equipping and empowering employees so that they can deliver a worthwhile experience to the customer.
A genuinely friendly, passionate and helpful employee can add immense value to a brand. Through personal interactions, employees grow customer loyalty, repair negative experiences and they can understand the customer's needs in a very human way. Experience builds loyalty, and that loyalty is reflected in steady profit margins. Quite plainly said, employees who are valued and included in the brand ethos are financial assets to any company as they are the ones who build and make real an experience.
So the challenge for every single company doing business today is to treat their employees as internal stakeholders. Where customers and other stakeholders invest money in a business, it is the employees who invest their time and effort into growing the brand. Before attempting to deliver an experience to the customer, make sure that each and every single employee feels that experience on a daily basis. It really is a case of not policing staff, but rather growing and strengthening their relationship with the brand.
While we offer services that can assess employee-customer interactions, we urge clients not to use research as a method of weeding out bad employees. Research should lay the foundation for better customer experience guidelines for employees. It should lead to innovative ways of enhancing personal interactions, rewarding employees who grow customer experience, and aiding those who aren't. We believe in the right kind of research grows businesses and brands holistically from the inside out, because research should benefit not only the customer, but every other stake holder of the company too.