A great deal of emphasis is put on the customer experience because of its impact in determining satisfaction and loyalty. In turn, satisfaction and loyalty influence profitability. An element of customer experience that can be easily overlooked is the internal relationship between a firm and its employees. When employees are ill equipped to serve customers in terms of training, of course the desired outcomes will be more difficult to attain. But, what happens if trust between management and employees has not been fully developed? The stage is set for failure to reach satisfaction and loyalty targets.
The Three Legged Stool of Customer Experience
Customer experience expert Shep Hyken discusses this situation using the analogy of a three legged stool. To effectively manage customer relationships, the three relationship “legs” must be made strong:
- Management must trust employees
- Employees must trust management
- Customers must trust the company
If any of these legs are weak or are missing altogether, the stool will collapse. While the analogy of a three legged stool could suggest independence among the three relationships, the reality is that the three legs are highly interrelated.
Needed: A Culture of Trust
One word describes what is needed to ensure that the three legs that support customer experience are strong: Culture. A culture of trust must be established in all three of these relationships. In particular, employees must trust management’s decisions, programs, and leadership. Employee trust breeds confidence in the firm and empowers employees to do their part to deliver great customer experiences. Unfortunately, this leg of the stool often is damaged by managers’ failure to get employee buy-in, solicit their input from the front lines of servicing customers, and not viewing the firm-employee relationship as a marketing priority. A culture of trust sustains the firm-employee relationship by educating employees on their role in serving customers, acknowledging their successes, and giving them permission to fail occasionally.
View Employees as Customers
It is disheartening to see companies that espouse to be “customer focused” treat their employees as an afterthought. Extend the marketing concept to the internal market, your employees. Of course, they are not customers in the same sense, and if you subscribe to the adage that the customer is always right you may want to reconsider it when it comes to employees. But, there is little room to argue that if employees do not have a great relationship with their own brand, they will not be able to advance customer-brand relationships as well as they could if their leg of the customer experience stool was stronger. What is the current state of firm-employee relationships in your organization? Are they doing their part to hold up the stool, or is it a weak point that could break if not addressed?