Last month, I looked at the relationship between keeping employees engaged and profitable business growth. I explained that employee engagement was just one part of a wider, cohesive strategy to boost business performance, generate customer loyalty and drive growth.
One of the other elements in this strategy that I touched upon was customer engagement. For years businesses have recognised that customer satisfaction is a key component to business success, but what they often omit is how integral the Voice of the Employee is to this process. Most businesses treat customer-related activity as an entirely separate entity to employee engagement, and vice versa.
Renowned business leader Jack Welch once shared his view into the value of employee engagement for business success. He said, “If you’re running a business, whether it’s a corner store or a multi-product multinational, we would say there are three key indicators that really work: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow.”
While this quote appeared In a Business Week Magazine article back in May 2006, in my view it is as true today as it was then – but I’d go one step further to say those three elements are inextricably linked to each other. It makes sense that engaged employees are more likely to engender customer satisfaction, which in turn is more likely to increase cash flow. With more cash, a business is able to invest more in its employees, driving up employee loyalty and satisfaction….and so on.
This, of course, is not rocket science. Why then, when we fast forward to a 2013 Temkin Group study1 of more than 200 customer experience professionals from large organisations, do we see participants reporting that most companies measure employee engagement but less than half place a high priority on taking action based on that feedback?
Organisations continue to take action based on customer satisfaction levels alone, which is only one piece in the larger business puzzle. If analysts and well-known business icons are stating the importance of employee engagement for business success, why are companies not taking their advice?
It’s not hard to understand how engaged employees can lead to engaged customers. And the fact that companies are measuring employee engagement does demonstrate they understand, at least in principal, that connecting employees and customers is an important facet in organisational success. However, drawing an association between the two is often where the process stops, either because it appears too difficult or too time-consuming.
Businesses that are prepared to invest the time and effort into a combined approach towards Voice of the Customer and Voice of the Employee programmes can reap great rewards. Front-line employees, for example, have much greater insight as to what’s happening in stores and call centres and can usually provide much better feedback on trends than customers themselves can. What’s more, studies show that engaged employees show a greater than 50 percent better understanding of customer needs than unengaged employees2.
Engaging employees effectively is therefore crucial for two main reasons:
- They will be able to engage customers, provide better customer experience, and drive greater profitability.
- They are able to provide valuable insight into customer experience and offer a view that an organisation may not derive from customer feedback alone.
Leading-edge companies who understand the need to go further than annual employee surveys are now starting to build actionable employee engagement programmes that also drive customer engagement. This combined approach measures the Voice of the Customer through the Employee (VoCE) and brings the theory of the close relationship between employee engagement and customer engagement to reality.
There are several key considerations for those looking to set up VoCE programmes, not least the fact that such programmes need to adhere closely to established Voice of the Customer best practices. In VoCE terms, this means:
- Capture key moments in the employee lifecycle. As with VoC initiatives, an annual survey just isn’t enough. It is important to think about key moments in the employee lifecycle, and capture feedback at all of those moments.
- Use the best channels to reach your employees. Short, relevant and timely surveys, using the right feedback channel (online, SMS, paper, mobile device) can maximize responses and elicit much more accurate insight. Utilizing the correct channels is essential to obtaining the feedback your company needs to succeed.
- Analyse employee feedback alongside other insights. Employee engagement must not be a silo in your business data. Bring your employee data into the same reporting hub as customer feedback, industry benchmarks and financial data to create a holistic view that will uncover drivers of employee engagement and customer satisfaction together.
- Show employees the results of what they do. To engage employees you need to prove to them that what they do really makes a difference to customers. Make customer feedback available to all employees, through the right channels and with the right level of detail, and recognise their role in delivering great customer experiences.
No matter how well standalone Voice of the Customer or Voice of the Employee programmes are implemented, conducted and analysed, ignoring evidence from parallel programmes means organisations will always be missing a crucial part of the picture.
Tore Haggren holds the position of Senior Vice President, Voice of the Employee at Confirmit.
He initially joined Confirmit in 1998, two years after the company was founded in Norway. During his tenure, he established offices in London, New York and San Francisco with a focus on Market Research and Voice of the Customer. In 2006, Haggren shifted his focus to successfully building Confirmit’s presence in the Voice of the Employee (VoE) market. Today, many of the leading employee engagement consulting companies have standardized their production-delivery system on the Confirmit solution, making it a fundamental part of how their businesses operate. He is committed to helping companies take a strategic approach to understanding the employee lifecycle and harnessing the Voice of the Employee to drive business change.