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Look after your employees and they will look after your customers. By Emma Miller
Employee engagement represents, at its core, a measure of the worker’s emotional commitment to their company and its values and vision. It is one of the fundamentals of running a successful business and the jewel in the crown of the most successful companies worldwide. By taking this into account, it is interesting to observe in which way employee engagement actually relates to improving customer relations and increasing customer loyalty.

In this era of digital marketing, companies’ main focus is boosting sales by using various targeting tools for attaining new customers. The main drawback of this approach is that customers are much more easily gained than retained. This article attempts to explain the fundamentals of understanding the customer experience and the relation of extrinsic and intrinsic factors which influence customer loyalty.

Laws of Customer Experience explained

In 2008, Temkin Group, which specialises in customer experience, published an article entitled The Six Laws of Customer Experience, in which they took an in-depth look at the ways in which customer experience operates. Two laws that were described in the list resonate very well with the topic of this article, namely:

4. Unengaged employees do not create engaged customers; and
5. Employees do what is measured, incentivised and celebrated.

By glancing over these two points, it is easy to conclude two things – in the time where it is getting easier and easier to find brands that have good business practice, it is key to have your employees motivated and focused on attaining and retaining new customers. For that particular reason, it is necessary to communicate this well with customer relations and equip workers with the tools and energy to do this job as best as possible.

Customer loyalty VS employee engagement, correlation or causality

Kevin Kruse, the author of We: How to Increase Performance and Profits through Full Engagement wrote a very interesting article a while ago focusing on the relationship between positive business outcomes and the engagement of workers. According to the studies he conducted, coupled with the research done by a Swiss team of scientists, organisational commitment of workers has a much bigger influence on the overall performance than a success of any particular business unit. This conclusion points to causality rather than to simple correlation between performance and worker happiness, which goes in line with the argument that a happy worker leads to a happy customer.

Customer service and customer relations

More and more companies are including programmes intended to increase their customer retention rates. The basic customer loyalty programmes, such as incentivising return shoppers, can always give a solid boost, but targeting so-called ‘checkout dropouts’ with more advanced remarketing tactics also has the potential to increase the sales. All of these are done through implementing the advanced customer service strategies. A very successful way of gaining concrete data, tracking sales and building stronger connections with your customers is by using CRM systems, or Customer Relation Management tools.

The CRM is designed to allow a company to evaluate the needs and behavioural patterns of all customers. Bain and Company conducted a survey including 362 companies and their perception of the success level of their customer service. A clear 80% of surveyed businesses believed that their service was superior. The reality was very different, with as little as 8% of paying customers quoting this same superiority in their experience. They called this the delivery gap.

This is where CRM tools come into play. By giving you concrete data on purchases and preferences of your customers, as well as mapping the progress of the company’s relationship with its target market, CRM allows you to observe, comprehend and then much more easily reduce this gap. To take things one step further, some companies started using virtual receptionists, who use natural language analysis to comprehend user experience and create a more positive customer response across all communication channels.

Engaging employees for the big win

The usual business practice of stimulating workers with financial benefits and expecting that the job itself will keep your employees content is slowly being proven wrong. Study after study shows that, although higher pay cheques may make employees less dissatisfied, they do not necessarily make them more satisfied and engaged. For this reason, modern workplaces are moving ever more towards improving employee engagement in more creative ways, such as:

•    defining concrete target goals and keeping everyone in the loop about the progress;
•    empowering the workforce by giving every individual a sense of ownership through involving them in the decision-making processes, making labour more meaningful;
•    giving employees flexibility when necessary, and taking care of their overall well-being; and
•    rewarding candidness and honesty, and supporting manager fairness.

By having a finger on the pulse of your employees and being responsive to their needs while encouraging collaboration, acknowledging success and praising failures as a normal part of the work process can give your company a much-needed impetus to focus more on retaining a healthy customer base in the future. By implementing a more relaxed approach to conducting business and tracking your customers and paying attention to their needs and practices, a positive change in the company is most certainly assured.

Emma Miller is a marketer and a writer from Sydney, Australia. Her areas of focus are digital marketing, social media, start-ups and latest trends. She's a contributor at Bizzmark blog, and a mother of two.

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