At a recent Conscious Capitalism event, Corey Blake presented a workshop on vulnerability and he used a great metaphor to open the session. He asked the participants to list all of the qualities they desired in a life partner. With very little prodding, the flip chart filled with words like: integrity, transparency, trust, authenticity, assuming positive intent, time/attention, passion, intimacy and care. Then there was a bit of a twist. Corey asked, “Aren’t these also the qualities that we expect from the brands we love and the organizations we spend significant parts of our lives in?” It definitely makes you think about the emotional bond that is the glue to the loyalty and commitment to the brands you love and the organizations we donate significant parts of our lives to. Conscious organizations make it easy for customers and employees to love them and are crystal clear about what would threaten this love.
In Gallup’s article, “Customer Satisfaction Doesn’t Count,” they declare that “If you don’t make an emotional connection with customers, then satisfaction is worthless.” Their research proved that customers don’t buy strictly for rational reasons—much more important is engaging them on an emotional level. And, businesses that optimize this connection outperform competitors by 26% in gross margin and 85% in sales growth.
And, according to a recent Ipsos Mori study, emotionally engaged customers are:
- At least 3 times more likely to recommend
- 3 times more likely to re-purchase
- Less likely to shop around (44% said they rarely or never shop around)
- Much less price sensitive (33% said they would need a discount of over 20% before they would defect).
The same goes for employees. The world is too complex and full of choice to believe that the package alone will keep employees satisfied. Like the customers, the emotional connection employees have with an organization is a complex cocktail of pride, recognition, positive work environment, a voice, clarity, meaning and the relationship with their manager to name a few. Notice that money is not even in this list. For top talent, research shows that the two reasons employees leave are a lack of a clear advancement path and lack of work-life balance.
Here are the top three ways to pave the pathway to this elusive emotional bond and the things we have seen that are real risks for organizations committed to attracting and retaining top talent and becoming more customer-centric:
Stop talking and show me the love! Organizations all have declared values and culture but what lives and breathes internally doesn’t always match that declaration. It doesn’t have to be lived to perfection, but walking the talk of WHO you say you are as an organization is critical for trust, the foundation of this emotional bond. Employees and customers need to see that you are not all words, but that your actions, policies, stories and the experience you create match who you say you are. When there is a miss, the swiftness with which an organization addresses it in alignment with their values says more about who they truly are as an organization than any declaration of values.
“Trust implies accountability, predictability, reliability. It’s what sells products and keeps organizations humming. Trust is the glue that maintains organizational integrity”.
– WARREN BENNIS AND BURT NANUS –
Happy Employees translate into Happy Customers. This seems like a small thing, common sense but not common practice. Employees have lives and you would want them to. The greater demands that are being placed on your top talent – “do more with less,” “work weekends and long hours,” “true success requires great trade-offs and sacrifice” – the more you risk losing talent to organizations that have become more conscious about work-life balance and really see their employees as whole people and support them to have full lives outside of work. The impact on your employees’ ability to represent the best of your brand promise is compromised if they are exhausted, uninspired and working in less than positive conditions. In this article in USA Today “Do happy workers mean higher profits?” publicly traded companies in the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list have gained an average of 10.8% a year since 1998. Many of the publicly traded companies named as Best Companies to Work For in 2013 saw their stocks perform admirably:
- Whole Foods soared 31% vs. 13% for the S&P 500.
- Marriott gained 28%.
- American Express advanced 22%.
Eight of the 10 companies that have made the customer service Hall of Fame at least once before Trader Joe’s, UPS and Apple have made the list at least five times since 2009. Investing in employee happiness is investing in customer satisfaction.
Stay Relevant. This may be the hardest one to accomplish because irrelevancy can creep up on a company and many cultures don’t recognize it until it’s too late for the organization. Staying relevant means committing to innovation throughout your organization for the benefit of your employees and customers. Constantly making sure your products and services are useful and a pleasant experience for your customer has become table stakes these days. How do you plan on WOWing your customers? When you have WOWed your customers you will breathe life into your culture. Just about everyone likes working on stuff that people are engaging with, and having innovation as a priority at your company gives people a reason to come to work every day. Just like the other points, don’t just say innovation. Make a commitment to it from the top down, make sure everyone gets involved and be certain that you are following a proven process.
Create an emotional bond with your employees by generating a happier work environment, walking our talk and partnership. The same is true for your customers. Put them front and center and everything you do. Listen – really listen – to them and invest in a work environment that reflects the values of your organization. Pay attention to what employees and customers truly want and value.
“There are many who subscribe to the convention that service is a business cost, but our data demonstrates that superior service is an investment that can help drive business growth. Investing in quality talent, and ensuring they have the skills, training and tools that enable them to empathize and actively listen to customers, are central to providing consistently excellent service experiences.”
– Jim Bush, Executive Vice President at American Express –
“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability”.
– Anne M. Mulcahy –