Posted by Paul Beesley from Beyond Theory .

Have you ever received poor customer service? Have you been disappointed or not had your expectations met? I imagine that the answers to each of these questions are all too often, ‘Yes’.

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to visit Sicily. Fine wine, beautiful scenery and gorgeous weather. Not to mention wonderful food. My holiday inspired me to re-create a Sicilian dish called Pasta alla norma to add to my dinner party repertoire. A key ingredient is aubergine. In preparation I set off to my local supermarket to buy everything I needed. Fresh pasta, ingredients for the sauce, bacon lardons, onions…. and aubergine. The green crate in the food and veg section just had one poor little aubergine left. I tracked down an assistant to ask if they had any more. ‘If it ain’t on the shelf mate, we ain’t got it’, was the response. I left and shopped elsewhere.

So how engaged was the supermarket assistant? How well had he been trained to show more interest and empathise with customers and maybe go and check the stock? How long had he been on shift? What were his levels of motivation? How well had his manager and work colleagues been communicating with him that day? Did he really want to be there?

These are all very good questions. In my view, the answers were all probably negative. However the effect on me was negative too. Here I am, well over a year later still talking and writing about it.

However, when I think back to the excellent customer experiences that I have had, the employees were highly engaged in what they were doing. They gave a sense of wanting to be where they were. They appeared to be enjoying their work, be thinking about what they were doing, why they were doing it and the impact they were having.

For me, the relationship between delivering a great customer experience and employee engagement is clear. How can we expect employees to deliver great service if they are poorly trained, ill equipped and under resourced to do the job we are expecting them to do – and with any sense of passion? If employees are poorly led, have inflexible processes, are not communicated with and are not asked for their ideas, then we’re relying on their own energy and enthusiasm. This eventually dwindles as disillusionment takes hold.

Everyone knows that your customers are the lifeblood of your business. However I am consistently amazed by how often I receive poor service. In a world where customers are choice rich yet time poor, my plea to employers is simply to engage your people for success by following this simple, yet effective framework:

  • Make sure all your employees are clear about where your company has come from, where it is heading and how their role fits in.
  • Equip and encourage your managers to have and use engaging behaviours to direct and support your employees to do the job they’ve been hired to do.
  • Give your employees at all levels the permission and opportunity to have a voice, asking them for ideas and contributions to deliver what is needed.
  • Act with integrity by sharing your company values and embed these into your performance review processes. Customers and employees will judge you and your company on your values and behaviours, so make sure they’re making the right judgments.

Having engaged employees is essential to delivering a great customer experience. It’s not just about face-to-face employees. Everyone throughout the company needs to appreciate that it they are not serving a customer then they are serving someone who is.

My belief is that most employees want to do a great job. As well as an employment contract they have a psychological contract. Very often the latter is broken before the employee decides to leave or is asked to leave.

I also believe that customers aren’t stupid either and they vote with their feet (and wallets) too. Our job as leaders is to bring these two beliefs together to safeguard our futures in today’s competitive world.

Paul Beesley

Paul Beesley
Senior consultant at Beyond Theory manages Beyond Theory, an independent training consultancy that specialises in employee engagement. As a member of the guru group within the Engage for Success movement, he has a real appreciation of what motivates people at work and how this impacts customer service and business performance. He is a regular blogger who is convinced that it’s not businesses that succeed, it’s people that succeed. He is passionate that the way to make this happen is through sustainable employee engagement.

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