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16 Jun Empower employees to serve your customers

By Sharlyn Lauby

The two top drivers of employee engagement are recognition (for 72 percent of employees) and understanding how work contributes to the bottom-line (for 70 percent of employees), according to Harvard Business Review’s report “The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance”. After analyzing these two drivers, I’ve concluded engagement is the result of an employee’s connection to both the company and their work. It recently occurred to me that customer service is a key in creating that connection (and subsequently, employee engagement). We know businesses need customers, and employees are the ones who deliver service to those customers. We also know that delivering excellent customer service improves both the business and the bottom-line. We know the recognition employees receive often comes either directly from customers or as a result of an interaction they had with a customer. As a result, organizations have an opportunity to use customer service as a way for employees to understand and increase their connection to their work and the organization.

I came to this realization during the annual Workforce Institute board meeting where Joyce Maroney, senior director of customer marketing at Kronos, discussed the rollout of a new customer community on the Salesforce.com platform as part of Kronos’ overall transformation as a SaaS provider. “The community connects customers, partners, and Kronos employees with each other and with the content they need to derive the maximum value from their investment in Kronos technology,” Maroney said. I also had a conversation last month with Dave Almeda, chief people officer at Kronos, where we discussed how Kronos is creating an engaging candidate and employee experience. Having been a part of the conversation with both Maroney and Almeda, understanding how customer service is an engagement driver truly connected the dots for how the principles of the customer community applied to both external as well as internal customers (i.e. employees).

4 Key Principles to Creating a Customer Community

Whether you’re focused on internal or external customers, there are four core principles that apply in creating a successful

community:

1. Knowing the business. For employees to feel engaged with the company, they need to understand how the organization operates. In addition, employees need to understand the company’s customers, including what the customer looks for in a product/service, how the customer uses the product/service and what the customer likes and dislikes about the product/service.

2. Making connections. Employees need to work with others to get things done and smart companies provide avenues for these connections to be made. In Kronos’ platform, members can pose and answer questions in the community. “The member doing the asking can identify an answer as a ‘best answer,’ making it that much easier for a future query to be resolved quickly,” said Maroney.

3. Leading the way. Employees want to control their work. That said, they’re also open to hearing about proven best practices they can use or adapt to make their jobs easier. The new Kronos customer community allows members to do exactly this. “They can enter ideas for new functionality they’d like Kronos to develop and vote on these ideas,” Maroney said. “Members are providing Kronos product managers with insight about how popular a particular enhancement might be with the broader community.”

4. Empowering people. Employees do not necessarily need every question answered by a manager. They just want answers. Organizations can facilitate this by giving

employees the tools and systems to solve their own problems. Examples include collaborative technology and employee self-service. The same applies to customers. Many customers are very willing to search for their own answers, provided the organization creates a system that will facilitate this level of service. In each of these principles, the employee and customer views are similar. To become engaged, you need to know the product, listen to how others successfully use the product, find proven strategies that work for you and take advantage of the technology solutions available to you.

The Bottom Line: Customer Service Drives Engagement

Businesses know that customer service drives customer engagement. That philosophy applies both inside and outside the organization, and the reverse is also true. Companies with high levels of engagement realize higher levels of customer service. Stepping up the company’s customer service game isn’t only a win for external customers. It can engage internal customers as well.

Sharlyn Lauby is the author of HR Bartender (www.hrbartender.com), a friendly place to discuss workplace issues. When not tending bar, she is president of ITM Group, Inc., which specializes in training solutions to help clients retain and engage talent. She can be contacted on Twitter at @HRBartender.

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