The Importance of Employee Loyalty in the Workplace

We all know that employee loyalty is important, but oftentimes we forget how employee loyalty is connected with customer loyalty and how loyal employees contribute to the success of the entire business.

“Profit and growth are stimulated primarily by customer loyalty. Loyalty is a direct result of customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is largely influenced by the value of services provided to customers. Value is created by satisfied, loyal, and productive employees. Employee satisfaction, in turn, results primarily from high-quality support services and policies that enable employees to deliver results to customers.” (Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work, Harvard Business Review, 1994)

Leadership and Loyalty

There is a strong relationship between employee satisfaction and employee loyalty and between employee loyalty and customer loyalty and, ultimately, profitability. So what is the secret to fostering employee loyalty and preventing employee turnover? Effective leadership.

In fact, according to a survey conducted by Korn Ferry, 33% of employees plan to look for a new job due to being bored and needing a new challenge.

Leaders who genuinely care about their people—who are “plugged in” to their organizations and listen to their employees for suggestions on how to improve—will develop corporate cultures that naturally support the concept of the Service-Profit Chain. By no surprise, employees who trust and respect the leadership of an organization often feel more empowered and motivated to do their best, which reduces employee turnover and its costs.

Those costs, particularly when layoffs are involved, can include low morale among stressed employees, and widespread distrust of the company by employees, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2014 Work and Well-Being Survey.

Metlife had similar findings in its 2011 Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, which reported that employee loyalty was  at a 3-year low. However, the study’s 2017 findings, titled “Work Redefined: A New Age” focused  on what companies can do to inspire loyalty: “With so much change, employees are looking for more stability, protection, and a safeguard against disruption. If they can find it in their employer, they’ll show their appreciation through loyalty.”

Much of the report examines what kind of benefits inspire loyalty in the workplace, but even great benefits can’t make up for a poor work environment, so it’s more important than ever for leaders to embrace and implement changes that encourage loyal employees who uphold your brand’s values.

Tips for Fostering Employee Loyalty

These tips, which are drawn largely from the experience of customer service reps (CSRs), are widely applicable since in the end we all ultimately serve the customer.

1. Give Employees the Tools They Need

Develop tools that allow employees to quickly look up the answers to common problems, share best practices and solutions with each other, and contribute to the company’s knowledge base. Train employees in soft skills as well, like de-escalating a situation, and feeling and expressing empathy.

2. Give Employees the Time They Need

Think about voice of the customer (VoC) for a moment, and how often feedback comes from a post-interaction customer satisfaction survey, whether it’s an automated phone call or email.

Now think about how much customer service is outsourced to call centers, which work effectively in keeping calls short. One call center explained the need for time limits this way:  “Companies account for customer service as a cost center, not a profit center, and companies need to keep costs down.” Talented, hard-working employees with great people skills might be forgiven for hearing this as, “You cost us, and the only value you have is your ability to keep costs down.”

This is hardly a way to build loyalty, and the pressure to keep calls short contributes to the call center industry having the highest turnover of industries worldwide. (In a 2016 post Talkdesk, a provider of call center solutions, reported the yearly turnover as 30-45%, double or triple that of all U.S. industries in 2013.)

3. Change How You Account for Customer Service

A better way to think about customer service and build employee loyalty is to think about how many customers your employees talk with and interact with each day. That gives them valuable perspective on customer wants, needs, frustrations, and satisfaction. Think about ways to record and gather that perspective, and how you can use the data to improve your services, products, offerings, and, especially, profits.

4. Measure the Right Things

Remember that not all projects take the same amount of time. Strict time limits or quotas may discourage talented employees from taking on difficult tasks. Quality Assurance and Training Connection (QATC) reported that one company saw a significant increase in retention by designating more resources and adjusting performance expectations a little for a particularly stressful call type. Think about the knowledge and experience the company held onto by keeping those employees. (Not to mention the cost savings.) QATC’s article ends with a table breaking out the line items behind the oft-quoted cost of about $6,500 to replace a non-supervisory employee.

5. Solicit Employee Feedback

ATB Financial, which has appeared repeatedly on Achievers’ 50 Most Engaged Workplaces list (and most recently as one of The Elite 8), encourages its employees to logon to the recruiting site Glassdoor and leave anonymous reviews of the company. The chief people officer’s response to fears that employees might leave nasty reviews? “Then we’d better get a hell of a lot better,” Lorne Rubis told the Financial Post. “I’d much rather know and have the courage, strength, and conviction to allow for the data to be free-flowing than to worry about what kind of governance we put on that.”

6. Study What Other Companies Are Doing To Build Employee Loyalty

Achievers compile an annual list of 50 Most Engaged Workplaces by looking at eight categories: Leadership, Communication, Culture, Rewards and Recognition, Accountability and Performance, Vision and Values, and Corporate Social Responsibility. A good place to discover what other companies are doing is the citations for The Elite 8, the top companies in each category.

InMoment was honored to appear as one of the 50 in 2011 as Mindshare Technologies, and we’re tremendously proud to have employees who are engaged, passionate about their work, creative, and committed to providing the highest quality of internal and external service. At the heart of our company is a phenomenal leadership team that has created a culture where people work hard, care about each other, are innovative, and fun to be around.

By constantly improving from our employee feedback, we were recently awarded the Top 50 Most Engaged Workplaces in the United States.

Ready to improve employee satisfaction in your company? See how InMoment can help you increase employee loyalty in the workplace and boost business success.

Leverage Your VoC Program to the Fullest Potential

If I were a betting man, and Steve Wynn’s newest car indicates that I am, I would bet your organization is not extracting as much value as it could from your Voice of the Customer (VOC) program.

Too often businesses maintain an extremely narrow focus with their VOC efforts and utilize it purely for front-line performance management. While I would be the first to acquiesce that performance management should be a core tenet of VOC, I would also state that the program should be used for much more.

To give you a flavor of what I am talking about, ask yourself the following questions:

Does Your VOC Program Assist in Testing New Products?

Typical VOC programs only ask about how a business did today and omit the opportunity to gain insight into new products and services they could offer tomorrow. As a business leader, you should constantly be striving to learn and understand how your business could be adding more value to the lives of your customers. An easy way to begin this process is to simply ask your current customers a few different questions, such as:

  • “How could (insert your company name) be adding more value?”
  • “You currently use/have used our Product X. Are there any additional products or services we could offer to help you get more value out of Product X?”
  • “Please rate your level of interest in purchasing Service X (a new product) from us.”

The questions above are purely intended to kick start the hamster on your ‘idea wheel’, not specific questions that accomplish what I am suggesting. Additionally, I am not insinuating that adding a few questions to a survey replaces your existing R&D and market research efforts. If you test the waters with your customers and ask them what they want in existing VOC channels, you could potentially spur more rapid innovation and significantly enhance your forward thinking efforts.

Does Your VOX Program Inform Customers of Feedback-inspired Changes?

It boggles my mind when I learn about organizations that make fabulous improvements in their products or service based on customer feedback, and they fail to communicate to their customers that this was based on their feedback. Tell customers when you change something as a result of their feedback!

I frequently get asked, “How can I improve my survey response rates?” A simple way to increase your survey response rates is to demonstrate to customers that you are actively using the data they provide. Too often customers think that their surveys go into the ether, and for most companies, survey results do go into a vacuum. Be bold, be different, and celebrate the hell out of customer feedback and what it is delivering to your business. Customers will respond by giving you more feedback.

  • Put a brief prompt in your call center IVR telling customers what you did.
  • Put up signage in your stores.
  • At least do something!

Does Your VOC Program Understand the Context Behind Feedback?

Most often VOC surveys will contain questions about individual employee or overall experience attributes. Such as:

  • “Please rate the knowledge of the individual that assisted you.”
  • “Did the associate take ownership of your issue?”

While those questions are good, unless you know the underlying customer perceptions and context of the response, the simple quantitative data they produce may be very tough to coach on. For example, Mindshare met with a fashion retail organization that uses a knowledge rating question like the ones above. When we asked the VOC leadership team what ‘knowledge’ in bullet 1 referred to, and how they should coach their store associates on the scores, we received some very different answers. It means “knowledge of fashion trends” or “knowledge of the store’s inventory and product location” or even “knowledge of pricing” etc. All are “right”, but all have very different coaching steps and context associated with them.

If there was no alignment among the 4 people in the room, there was probably a disparity at the field and store management level as well. They needed to quickly get to the bottom of what type of ‘knowledge’ is most important to their customer base, and drive that out into their training programs. To accomplish this, we suggested an insertion of a ‘verbatim’ opportunity, an open-ended response where customers could describe what a ‘knowledgeable sales associate’ was to them. This question was live in their feedback system for a short period of time where Mindshare gathered massive amounts of data which we then utilized our comment analytics technology, and “Voila!” – Instant coaching bliss. They now understand exactly what ‘knowledge’ means to their key customers.

My point here is simple: make sure you understand the customer’s perception of any experiential attributes you are asking about in your VOC programs. Without that underlying understanding, your coaching efforts could be a little off.

In Closing – Continually Innovate on How You Use the Voice of Your Customers.

This is just a sampling of some of the innovative things you can do with your existing VOC programs. If you are only doing basic performance management, we need to talk… or talk to your current VOC Advisor, Evangelist, Guru, or whatever her/his title is… because you are not fully leveraging the power of your feedback program and you are leaving precious information and money on the table.

If implemented properly, these insights can be gained in very simple, tactical ways. You can potentially save your business massive amounts of money and provide the enterprise with phenomenal new data. You can avoid survey toxicity, enhance customer experiences, and we’ll all live happily ever after.

Mystery Shopping vs. Customer Feedback: Which is Better?

Thanks to the internet and mobile technology, it’s become a lot easier to gather valuable feedback from a larger sample of customers. So does that mean that more indirect, “old school” methods like using mystery shoppers has become passé? Not necessarily – but it’s probably not the best method of gathering customer experience insights, especially if it’s the only solution you’re using.

While mystery shopping can still be a part of your customer experience management activities, it plays a supporting role as an auditing of minimum service standards. A trained mystery shopper can tell you whether or not a product or service is being sold in the way it was intended. Is the sales staff covering off key points when describing the product? How hard are they working to close the sale? Is it being displayed properly in the store?  What you won’t learn is how the customer feels about the actual product or the way it was presented to them. What’s more, mystery shopping isn’t overly cost efficient. For every one observation you get in a month, you can get 30 more from actual customers using customer feedback – and while you might be able to chalk up one bad mystery shopping experience to a bad day, it’s harder to argue with a multitude of real customers who feel your store isn’t living up to their expectations.

That’s not to say that mystery shopping can’t serve a purpose for you. You can still use it to provide an audit of your customer feedback efforts that will provide a better understanding of your customers, their expectations and their interactions with your brand.  A focused campaign of mystery shopping on underperforming locations can help uncover the tangible problems in that store or restaurant.

If it’s a true customer reflection you’re looking for, direct customer feedback can provide you with more relevant and more accurate “in the moment” information.  In fact, it’s become the method of choice for companies who are looking to understand the voice of their customers. And the ROI on listening to your real customers who are emotionally invested in your brand is far greater than feedback that comes from someone who’s paid to make observations on pre-determined criteria.

Mystery shopping has historically helped organizations understand the difference between good and bad – but only direct customer feedback allows you to understand great and striving to be great is the only thing that will transform your business.

Learn more about Customer Experience Management solutions.

4 Keys to Keeping Your Job in Retail

I came across a rather thought-provoking quote the other day. It was from Sam Walton, founder of Walmart:

“There is only one boss. The customer.  And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

It’s a thought that most would consider common sense. It’s obvious that with no customers to buy your goods, then you’d have no business. Not only is it critical to have customers, but ensuring they keep coming back is even more important.

It’s interesting then, that according to Empathica’s consumer insights research this past May, we discovered that 58.5% of consumers agreed that customer service was getting worse. That’s an incredible stat that seemingly flies in the face of common sense. Why would you want to alienate close to two thirds of your customer base?

The result of this is, in today’s world of retail, the biggest opportunities for growth no longer lie in product innovation. Instead, as some have started to promote, the idea that exceptional service should be added to the list of products you offer.

Retailers need to tap back in to the emotional connection that consumers can build when brands are able to deliver on an exceptional experience and compelling promise. But where does one start? Or rather, how can I define a path to improvement? At a brand level, and at a location level.

That’s where customer experience programs come in.

The reality is that customer experience management is not a new concept. However, customer behaviors are changing and the expectations they carry have changed as well.  That’s why at Empathica, we see four keys to building a better customer experience.

  1. Identify the key touch points in the customer journey
  2. Orchestrate a memorable and unique retail brand experience
  3. Build an emotional connection and link the shopper + brand + lifestyle + associate + product equation
  4. Build customer advocacy

Building that memorable experience for your customers can give them a sense of ownership and emotional connection to your brand. In today’s retail climate this is the only way to grow your business in a sea of commodity products.

If Sam Walton where still around, he might even tell you it’s the only way to keep your job…

Harnessing the power of the wired guest through Customer Experience Management

Food services and social media are a natural fit. Going out to a restaurant or bar has always been a social activity, even if it’s a quick lunch with co-workers. And diners have taken to social media enthusiastically, taking pictures of their meals before they dig in, racing to check each other into Facebook places, and competing for the position of Mayor of their favorite restaurants on Foursquare.  Savvy restaurateurs have made social media part of their marketing plans as well, taking advantage of Facebook and Twitter to promote their brands and keep in touch with their customers.

There is a down side to the rapid adoption of social media and mobile technology, of course. It’s just as easy for a dissatisfied customer to broadcast a negative experience to their peers as it is for them to praise you for a positive one. Consumers are dining out less, yet their expectations remain high. A negative post or tweet may persist and remain searchable for some time, influencing the decisions of others who are researching where to dine this evening.

Customer rescue strategies and experience management

Social media platforms are more than merely broadcast channels, of course; they are places where conversations and discussions happen. The same tools that allow consumers to research brands can also help business owners to find out what is being said about them and act on those reviews. A negative “tweet,” for example, is an opportunity to initiate a dialogue and, ideally, a customer rescue – by letting a customer know you are listening, and have a sincere interest in improving their experience.

The next logical step is to develop a proactive, rather than reactive, approach. It’s important to act quickly, and on a personal level, to win back a negative reviewer. But is there a way to close the barn door before the horse escapes? Can a restaurant owner do anything to help ensure that the messages that get posted online are positive, rather than negative? The goal of Customer Experience Management (CEM) is precisely that – to use customer feedback in a measured and strategic fashion to fine-tune business practices and generate increased customer loyalty.

Successfully applied, a CEM program can help you to:

  • Capture customer feedback in a timely fashion and identify rescue candidates early in the process
  • Analyze and quantify feedback so that it can inform adjustments to your operations
  • Improve your customers’ brand experiences to encourage repeat business and advocacy
  • Motivate brand advocates to recommend your restaurant to their peers through social media

In a sense, a CEM program takes what the social media-aware business owner does on a one-to-one basis with a single negative Twitter review and applies it at the brand level. Inviting feedback at point of sale can help diffuse and reverse the effects of a negative brand experience, while at the same time providing you with an opportunity to turn negative feedback into constructive criticism – which then can be leveraged to improve the brand experience for all your customers tomorrow.

Learn more about Customer Experience Management solutions for the Food Services industry.

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