An engaged employee will deliver a great customer experience. Why? Because they’re interested in what your company is all about.
Have you ever walked into a bookstore, looking for a particular book, only to be told ‘eh, I dunno, over there somewhere’ when you’ve asked where you can find it? Most of us have experienced something like this in our lives, whether in a supermarket or a hardware store. It’s always disappointing.
To illustrate the point, let me take you to a small town outside Melbourne, Australia. I used to run a cafe in the area and made a lot of use of the supermarket there, small, but serviceable. There was a whole host of different characters that worked at the store, and after a while, you knew which ones were the ‘good’ ones and which ones to avoid.
I was hunting for cinnamon one day, only to discover that their entire spice collection had disappeared over the course of the week. I asked one of the employees for help. He just shrugged, mumbled that he didn’t know, and went back to stacking the shelves. Result? I shrugged and went to the bigger Woolworths supermarket the next town over.
The following week, I was back in the same little supermarket for black poppy seeds. Of course, they didn’t have it. Frustrated, I found ‘Sam’, who I knew was one of the ‘good’ employees and asked him. Sam promptly apologized and told me he’d check out the back. No luck, he apologized, but he’d keep looking and would run them down to the cafe if he found any. I went back to work, figuring I’d not see poppy seeds this side of closing time.
Less than twenty minutes later, however, Sam came into the cafe with five packs of the things. Since the local supermarket didn’t have them, he’d run down to the big supermarket and got them for me. I was both impressed and pleased as punch – no need to change my muffin recipe after all! Sam recited the little supermarket’s motto to me cheekily: “Let’s deliver.”
Sam was an engaged employee, and while he may not have been a rocket scientist, he was a genuine person who actually gave a damn about his work. To him, it didn’t matter that they didn’t pay him much, or that he often had to fill late weekend shifts when he should really have been at home with his Playstation. Sam likes doing what he does: not stacking shelves and organizing fresh fruits and vegetables, perhaps, but helping people. He made an effort to learn your name, and how you were connected to the community. For Sam, life at the supermarket was straightforward: people need something, you supply it. What’s more, you supply it with a smile.
I won’t say that this redeemed the local supermarket in its entirety. There were too many useless people working in there to make it truly a great place to shop and one engaged employee offering a better customer experience did not outweigh most of the downsides… but for the sake of convenience, and – after this experience – for the sake of Sam, I would often take the plunge and do my best to ‘shop local’.
What is an ‘Engaged Employee’?
Creating an ‘engaged employee’ isn’t something that just happens. An employee can start out being engaged, enthusiastic and ‘part of the team’, but that can change. Similarly, employees can become engaged over time. Everything depends on circumstance, and how the company treats, trains and helps their team members. We touched on this a few months back during a discussion about the importance of HR policies. In that article, we brushed up on talent retention issues and how an evolving HR policy is vital to a company’s survival:
“People stay with companies they value. The more an employee is allowed and encouraged to engage in the job, team, and company efforts, the more she sees the value. People stay with managers they trust. The more managers and employees engage in continuous communication about expectation, the more trust develops in their relationship. People stay with companies that offer opportunities for personal, even professional growth.” — 5 Links Between Talent Management and Employee Engagement, TalentCulture
Employee engagement is about trust, communication, and value. A company wants its employees to value its…well, its values; an employee wants their company to value their efforts and time. An engaged employee will be the one who has reached that level of immersion with company policy and message: they believe in what the company stands for and what it’s selling, usually because it’s in line with what they themselves believe in.
Why is an engaged employee so valuable?
An engaged employee is an employee that trusts the company they’re working for and is enthusiastic about the brand they represent. This interest shines through in their work, and, as a result, in the way they treat clients and customers. What better way to get a customer to buy a product or service an employee eagerly admits they’ve used themselves?
For example, there’s an Australian real estate investment company that operates throughout Asia, Meridien Group, and one of their regular sales pitches includes the line: “This is a good investment. I know because I’ve bought one myself. My boss has bought six.”
The rapport that’s developed between the engaged employee and the company has now spilled over into the customer experience, into the relationship between the employee and the customer.
“Trust me,” an engaged employee can say, “because I trust this company and what it stands for.” That’s a type of enthusiasm no one can fake.
The Bottom Line?
Forget marketing budgets, massive social media advertising campaigns – forget all the prime time television slots you’re still buying. Build up your employees and they will do that for you. After all, if your employees don’t believe in what you’re selling, why on earth would your customers?
An engaged employee will go the extra mile, and not because you’ve asked them to, but because they want to.