Embedded Engagement: It is a Process

We have discussed the ways in which building a culture of engagement in the workplace is like building a healthy home environment. One necessary component in this process is, well, process.

An organization dedicated to an engaged workplace will develop its processes in a way that supports this effort. It may seem odd to talk about processes when we are discussing culture, but when we think about it, isn’t this where the rubber really hits the road in an organization?

Everything is process in the workplace. Almost nothing gets done without it. And in this maze of competing processes lies one of the greatest opportunities for engagement to become lost, and never to be found again. There are even processes for shaping the processes.

Sadly, in the situations that provide the great opportunities for engagement, this opportunity is often overlooked or ignored. This is because these situations often involve urgent or unexpected developments.

They can lead to a reactionary response, designed to ensure secrecy and “hierarchical” behaviors. However, if the mission and culture of the organization are not being considered, and all employees who may create value included, the result may in fact not be responsive or confidential, because it will lead to further problems down the road.

Take, for example, two companies with urgent customer satisfaction issues. Both companies consider themselves to be dedicated to engagement, valuing the benefits of an engaged workplace to their organization.

However, the first company responds to the situation by bringing together a small group of individuals, on a “need to know” basis. The conversation in the room is mostly one-sided, and focused on gaining agreement, assigning blame, and protecting those not directly accountable from the incident being deflected toward them.

This process is being conducted quickly, so the organization can get back to its normal discussions, engagement practices, and celebration of those things that are going well. But does it really speak to engagement?

In the second company, a different approach is taken. There is sincere interest in not only solving the immediate customer problem, but creating a learning experience to ensure this customer, as well as others, have increased confidence in the company in the future.

Discussions include all employees who can contribute, and whose work impacts customers like this one. There is a dialog in which everyone is allowed to participate, and a solution is agreed upon and implemented.

Leadership is informed, the customer is made aware of the solution and the company’s commitment, and the developments are shared with all employees who support customer relationships. In this company, the problem is not likely to occur again, and if it does, employees will be better prepared to handle it.

This is one of the situations in which it is most important to “walk the talk” about engagement.

There are many other types of processes that should be examined to be sure they support the engagement effort. These include:

  • employee selection and on-boarding
  • employee development
  • performance reviews
  • strategic planning
  • budgeting
  • product launch
  • customer relationship management
  • project management
  • crisis management
  • community relations
  • media relations
  • meeting and event planning
  • employee recognition
  • employee surveys

In what ways does your organization design processes with engagement in mind? In what circumstances does this not happen? Do these circumstances usually have to do with unplanned or emergency situations? How can you better use these opportunities to create better results through the engagement of your employees?

Customer Engagement Starts with Employee Engagement

Content employees generate satisfied customers.  When a customer has a positive experience with a member of your staff, they are more likely to engage.  Engaged customers refer their friends and colleagues.  A single positive experience can precipitate a plethora of loyal customers.

What is the key to developing a content employee?  While there is no “magic pill” to address employee satisfaction, there are strategies you can implement to ensure your staff is gratified and eager to engage customers.

Ask for employee input

Whether it’s as simple as determining the new paint color of the lunchroom or as complex as developing a new branding strategy for your company, consider asking your employees for their opinions and input.  This not only reinforces the fact that you value them, but also gives them the opportunity to provide valuable insight from different perspectives.

Point out the positive

It’s easy to overlook an employee when they do something good.  Make a concerted effort to compliment your employees at every opportunity which presents itself.  This solidifies your rapport and builds confidence.  A confident employee will always shine!

Reinforce your appreciation

Communicate just how much you appreciate each employee.  Do this as often as possible.  When they feel appreciated, it resonates during their interactions with customers.

Offer public kudos and incentives

When an employee is promoted or honored in any way, send a press release to the local newspapers and/or publish it in your company newsletter.  Positive recognition sparks performance.  Also, consider developing an incentive program for outstanding performers. This can be in the form of cash, gift certificates, a special parking space or entry into a drawing for a big prize.  Incentives motivate employees, and motivated employees engage customers!

Encourage employees to “take ownership”

Make your employees feel like they are part of a team – a winning team – and that your company is “their” company.  When warranted, offer outstanding performers leadership roles with additional perks (i.e. a position on the employee holiday planning party committee, etc.).  When an employee feels pride and ownership in their company, they will overachieve!

Taking a few steps toward making your employees feel appreciated and important will also decrease turnover. Ultimately, keeping your employees engaged and content will translate into greater performance, loyal customers and increased profits!

Gina Smith writes freelance articles for magazines, online outlets and publications on behalf of a number of companies, including Global Response.  Smith covers the latest topics in the business, golf, tourism, technology and entertainment industries.

A Customer Disengagement Story-AT&T

One week has gone by and I still cannot get my AT&T internet service working correctly.  I have been on the phone with them and my email hosting company working to get my email working for at least 1 day.  If I were to charge them for my time then they would be paying me to use their service.

Now, I understand that there are technical difficulties with any service so while I was frustrated I am willing to deal with some issues when they come up.  However, I am not willing to accept lousy service.  It started with every time I called in I was told call volumes were high by a recording.  I typically had to wait at least 15 minutes to talk with a person that could help me.  When I did talk with an agent the conversation was so scripted that it demonstrated to me that they believe service is more about them than their customer and the customer’s problem.

AT&T also does not support any email except their own; not something I was told when I switched to their service(I was actually told they would make sure it worked after install) .  In fact, not only do they not support other emails they actually have their system set up so it is actually difficult to use other email.  They block ports etc.  It is a strange problem with my email.  Sometimes I can send email and sometimes I cannot.

When it was sold to me and installed I was told AT&T would do whatever it to make sure the transition was seamless and they I would be up in running right away.  I was told that if I had any problems they would come back to fix it.  That is not what happened.  They run tests remotely and if the tests on their end say everything works then they will no longer help you.  In fact, they will try and sell you a paid service plan.  The irony is that we have both Mac’s and PC’s and both are having problems not just with email but consistent connectivity.   Sometimes we can connect, but not access certain websites or parts of websites.  It is like the AT&T system is having trouble talking with other systems.

When I called to tell them I was in a time crunch and I needed to fix a problem the rep quickly told me that they could not provide support for that problem without diagnosing what was going on.  In fact, what I have found out is that they listen for key words such as “Outlook Email” and before they even understand the problem they shut down the conversation.  So now, here is the clincher…After telling them that their service did not work, and being told by them that they could not support me, they tried to up sell me on an even larger, more expensive package and make it sound like they were doing me a favor.  What nerve.  I did receive a call back from that person’s supervisor.  They left me a message asking me to not be upset with the rep because she was only doing her job.  She then went on to say it is a standard to always to up sell a person who calls in regardless of the circumstances.  How she thought that would make me feel better I do not know.  I mean, what kind of service standard is that? A stupid one!  There is a time to up sell and there is a time not to and knowing the difference is service.

I even used their paid service support tier who was not a help at all.  They wanted to pass me back to the U-Verse people who could not help in the first place.  Nobody there cares.  They tried to tell me that Delta, GoDaddy, Apple, and Outlook, and my computer were the issues when a week ago all was fine when I was with Comcast.  I blew up!  Still did not help.

Needless to say I will be on the phone shortly to ask about cancelling the service.

The Angry Customer

Customers are angrier than ever.  People are tired of poor service standards, but more importantly, they are frustrated with bad cultures and systems that hinder good service.  In a recent survey Consumer Reports identified the top customer service frustrations.  Check out the list…

How do these issues line up with your experience?  What is not represented?  Share an experience you have had…good or bad?

Customer Engagement is not a Bait and Switch!!!

I just got an email that says “Thank you” in the subject line.  Great who could it be from and why are they saying thank you.

The first line in the email says…”We love having you as a customer.”

And then it states, “We’d like to thank you for being our customer. To show our appreciation…”

Doesn’t that sound great?  They want to demonstrate their gratitude.  Well, actually, they want to sell me something.

The rest of the email continues…“we want to tell you about this special offer on…”

Talk about having the opposite effect.  If you want to thank me then thank me.  If you want to demonstrate appreciation then provide a gift of some kind.  But do not say you want to and then try and sell me another service.  It is disingenuous!  It is self interested!  And it is inauthentic!

Customer engagement and loyalty require transparency, authenticity and a sincere interest in your customer.  Let’s leave these old sales tricks that are outdated where they belong…in the past.

The Scion Story: Engaging Your Customers

I remember walking into the Toyota dealer and wondering what is this strange looking vehicle only to learn it was a new brand.  Then I came to find out it was selling and at a big volume.  I could not believe?  Why?  I sure did not want to buy one.  Well that was a good thing for Toyota because I was not their target customer for the Scion.  Who was…The Youth Market! 

What is even more amazing was how these cars were marketed, sold and built.  They created a unique process for engaging their customers. 

Want to know more?  Check out this video to find out.  It is a cool story!

Customer Engagement Not Here

Customer engagement and service are vital to the life of many companies, but we as customers experience great customer service rarely.  Typically, we get explanations, excuses, policy statements and questioned.  It is almost as if organizations do not want to help you or see you as guilty before even finding out the facts.  I came across this video that exemplifies what it is like to be a customer.  It is cute, but accurate in too many ways.  You will laugh when you recognize your own experience.