Think of the businesses you patronize on a regular basis.
Your favorite coffee shop. Your local convenience store. The department store that’s a little out of the way, but still a go-to when in need of some retail therapy.
What is it that you love so much about them? What sets them apart from the other coffee shops, quick-stops, and department stores in your area?
Is the coffee really that much better at “your” spot than some of the other local coffee shops? Maybe, maybe not.
Does “your” convenience store offer a bunch of products the one across the street doesn’t? Probably not.
Why do you drive half an hour to the Target across town when there’s one literally down the road from your house?
Assuming that each of these establishments offer products similar in quality to those of their competition, there’s one major factor that has probably influenced your decision to become loyal to “your” coffeeshop, convenience store, or retail chain: your overall experiences when engaged with that specific company.
Believe it or not, most modern customers view their experience with a certain brand as more important than the quality of the actual product they purchase from said company.
One of the main variables that affects customer experience is, of course, the company’s employees.
How can you, as the owner or manager of a company, prepare and equip your employees to provide the incredible experience your customer is seeking? How can you get them to the point where they provide such service not because it’s their job, but because they want their customers to succeed?
The short answer: Keep them satisfied.
Of course, a lot goes into keeping your employees happy and content – especially over a longer period of time.
We’ll discuss the main factors that contribute to employee satisfaction, as well as how these factors relate to an employee’s ability to provide top-notch service and an overall pleasurable experience to their customers.
We’ll also discuss specific ways in which you can improve employee satisfaction in order to improve your customers’ experiences with your brand.
First, let’s start with why a positive customer experience is so important to customer retention and loyalty.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that customers who enjoy their time engaging with a company are more likely to do business with that brand in the future.
According to a 2011 report by RightNow, 73% of customers say friendly customer service can make them “fall in love” with a brand. 55% of customers say the same about access to information and customer support.
86% of customers report that they would pay up to 25% more for a product or service if it meant that their overall experience would improve. And, according to ZenDesk, 62% of B2B customers (and 42% of B2C customers) went on to purchase more from a brand after a positive customer service experience.
As a manager, enabling your employees to provide a positive experience to your customers can lead to huge gains for your company in terms of customer base and revenue.
On the other hand, a poor customer experience can not only cause current customers to churn, but it can also stunt your organization’s growth as well.
A report by Esteban Kolsky stated that 67% of customers say a single bad experience was cause enough for them to abandon a specific brand. Additionally, NewVoiceMedia reports that 58% of customers that have a bad experience with a brand will never use that company’s services again.
The ZenDesk infographic (cited earlier) also suggests that 95% of dissatisfied customers will share the story of their negative experience with others. In comparison, only 87% of satisfied customers will share their positive experience with their network.
In other words, providing a negative experience to customers is more damaging to your company, even more than a positive experience is beneficial. It’s clear that you need to put your employees in a position in which they are able to provide your customers with the best experience possible.
What Makes Up a Customer’s Experience?
We’ve already discussed the notion that the customer’s overall experience with a brand is one of the main determining factors of whether or not they return to that company in the future.
Now, let’s define the main aspects of a customer’s experience that go into determining whether a certain instance was “positive” or “negative.”
- Helpfulness: Customers expect employees to provide for their needs or, at the very least, be able to connect them with others within the company who can do so.
- Accessibility: Consumers expect employees to be accessible when, where, and how they need them.
- Consistency: Consumers expect the same level of service each and every time they engage with a company.
- Human Factor: Customers expect to be treated as individuals and they appreciate when employees put in the effort necessary to forge a personal connection with them.
Each of these areas requires a company’s employees to be fully “on” throughout the entirety of their assigned shift.
But that, of course, is much easier said than done.
How Can Employee Satisfaction Increase Retention Rate?
It’s not exactly shocking to discover that happy employees are more productive than their unhappy counterparts.
In fact, a 2015 study conducted at the University of Warwick explains that satisfied employees show a 12% spike in productivity. Unhappy employees, on the other hand, show a 10% drop in their own productivity levels.
According to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, these are the top ten factors that contribute to employee happiness:
- Relationships with colleagues and supervisors
- Work-life balance
- The financial stability of the company
- Opportunities to learn and develop as a professional
- Job security
- Interest level in job requirements
- Company values
In one way or another, each of these factors relates back to an employee’s ability to provide a helpful, accessible, consistent, and human experience to customers.
An appreciated and valued employee is an engaged employee.
In turn, an engaged employee will be right where the customer needs them. And, as this employee knows their efforts (and their successes) won’t go unnoticed or unrecognized, they’ll always be willing to go the extra mile to provide each of their customers with the best experience possible.
Valued employees also understand that their ability to provide exemplary customer service is the reason they’re so valued in the first place. Again, such employees will work diligently to meet the needs of all their customers – no matter how much extra effort it may take on their part.
Pro-Tip: Consider some creative approaches to showing appreciation for your employees, and always tie in how their efforts have improved company performance as a whole.
Relationships with Coworkers and Managers
Providing customers with a positive overall experience is almost always a team effort that requires a seamless passing of the baton between employees at a number of touchpoints.
For example, say a brand new customer walks into a store and asks the greeter for directions to a specific department. The greeter might then contact the colleague in charge of that department, preparing them to greet the new customer. After the customer finds what they’re looking for, the employee would then pass them along to another staff member to check them out.
If the relationship between the three employees involved in this process is weak or strained, the customer will ultimately suffer. If, however, all three work as a team to meet the needs of the customer, that customer will surely return the next time they’re in need of the company’s services.
Pro-Tip: Work to forge relationships between your team through various avenues, both within the context of work and during off-the-clock hours as well.
How can employees be expected to treat their customers like human beings if they themselves, are being worked like dogs?
If you’re familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you know the answer to this question:
If they’re overworked to the point of exhaustion, they physically won’t have the capacity to even try and offer help to their customers.
If, on the other hand, the employee’s basic needs are met, they’ll be equipped to work to the best of their ability, and to focus on providing top-notch customer service to everyone that walks into the store.
Pro-Tip: Actively encourage your employees to take time for themselves – whether a 10-minute break or a week-long vacation. On the other side of the coin, don’t make them feel guilty if and when they use that hard earned time off.
Company Financial Stability
According to a 2015 report by the Temkin Group, employees of a financially-stable organization are much more likely to be engaged than those of a company whose financial situation is lacking or uncertain.
On the one hand, this means that an employee in a successful company will inherently be driven to provide exemplary service to their customers, which increases the odds that the customers return to the company in the future. Of course, this allows the company to grow financially.
On the other hand, employees of a poorly-performing company may not be driven to do as well, making customers less likely to return once they learn that the company cannot provide for their needs.
Pro-Tip: Create goals for your organization and share your ideas for reaching them with your employees. Solicit buy-in from them, making sure they understand that their success with individual customers ultimately goes toward the financial stability of the company.
Professional Development Opportunities
Providing your employees with numerous opportunities to grow professionally has two major benefits:
- It increases employee engagement and retention
- It increases their ability to provide for the needs of customers
This goes hand-in-hand with some of the other factors we’ve mentioned, such as employee recognition and employee interest level.
By investing in your employees’ education, you show them that you trust and believe in their ability to help the company grow. This will encourage employees to take pride in what they do.
In turn, your employees will become equipped to cater to the unique needs of each customer they encounter.
Pro-Tip: Continually provide opportunities for your employees to learn more. This could mean sharing a 30-minute YouTube video with them or paying for their ticket to a 3-day workshop.
If an employee is constantly distracted by the idea of losing their job, there’s absolutely no way they’ll be able to function at their highest capacity.
In the same vein, employees facing the possibility of being laid off might begin working too hard, and unwittingly burn themselves out.
Either way, neither of these hypothetical employees will be in a good position for customer retention.
Pro-Tip: Provide assurance to your employees that, given they focus on accomplishing the goals of the company, you’ll work to ensure they always have a place in the organization. Furthermore, if things begin to change that may make it seem like their position is in jeopardy, communicate with them to alleviate their worries.
This one goes right along with job security, company stability, and work-life balance.
Yes, employees should certainly be motivated by more than a paycheck. But if they’re getting paid the bare minimum – with no potential for a raise – they likely aren’t going to care much about going the extra mile for their customers.
Let’s consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs again. If an employee is getting paid so little that they’re left scrambling to pay bills at the end of the month, they won’t be able to focus on providing their customers with the superb service they deserve.
Pro-Tip: Just as investing in your employees’ professional development can pay off in dividends, so, too, can providing them with a livable wage.
Employee Interest Level
No matter how competent an employee is at their job, if they aren’t interested in the position they won’t succeed. These individuals won’t necessarily care whether the service they perform actually helps their customers in any way, and will fail to actually make any sort of human connection with the customers they come into contact with.
An intrinsically-motivated employee will not only make it their duty to be helpful and accessible at all times, they’ll make it second nature. They’ll take an active interest in helping to solve the unique problems each of their customers face.
Pro-Tip: Maintain lines of communication with your employees to gauge their level of interest in their duties. If necessary, make small trade-offs between members of your team to better suit all involved parties (just as long as doing so doesn’t negatively affect the productivity of the company).
Rounding out the list of factors that most heavily influence employee happiness and satisfaction (and, in turn, that affect customer experience) is the overall company mission.
In addition to an employee’s level of interest in their job, their alignment with company values and goals plays a huge part in their ability to reach their full potential.
More importantly: the company as a whole needs to be laser-focused on providing value and a positive experience to its customers. If this is absent, employees literally have no reason to adopt a customer-facing outlook when it comes to doing their job.
Pro-Tip: Create alignment among your employees not just by making the company mission clear, but by discussing why the goals are what they are, and what needs to be done in order to attain them.
There’s no doubt about it:
A lot goes into ensuring your customers’ experiences with your company are positive and productive.
And their engagement with your employees is one of the main determining factors of whether or not they’ll become loyal followers of your brand.
Because of this, it’s essential that you keep your employees happy, confident, and prepared to take on any challenge they may face when working with their customers. In turn, they’ll be able to provide consumers with the exact experience they were hoping for – making it all but certain that they’ll return to your company when they’re next in need of your services.