With the frenzied rush to make happy customers, engage them emotionally, and be transparent and relevant at all times, many companies unwittingly skip over the more important goal: making happy employees, engaging them emotionally, and being transparent and relevant at all times.
No company can exist without happy employees. Trite but true. When customer service representatives, live or in-person, love their job and feel invested in the company they represent, their energy and enthusiasm are contagious. And when we experience that happy employee who wants to make us as happy as they are with their company, we tend to spend happily.
We often experience those hormonal rushes that make us feel like we’re valued, appreciated; that we got a great deal, that we are part of a brand tribe. You know, those dopamine and oxytocin rushes that make us feel infallible and that all is right with the world. And when this happens, we buy. We buy at a higher price than maybe we would have normally, and we buy a larger quantity, or we buy something we really didn’t know we needed.
On the flip side, when we experience an employee who drones on through the process of fulfilling an order, or has no spark, no appreciation, no concern about whether we are happy or not with the product, service or brand, and seems apathetic about their products and customers, we tend to capture that mood, as well. Often, we start to wonder if we are working with the right brand and buying the right products. And when we feel like that, we are much more open to listening to competitors, shopping for options and switching brands.
We humans are drawn to light, energy and enthusiasm with the same intensity that we are repelled from darkness, inertia and lack of confidence. This will never change.
Yet it seems that the employee morale initiatives always take a backseat to delighting customers. And when this happens, our business climate goes from light and contagious enthusiasm to fear and anxiety that sets any kind of organization up for failure. Corporate psychologist, Judith Bardwick, in an interview with NBC news, states it quite well:
“Today, in most organizations, there’s vastly more fear and anxiety than joy and optimism. That’s seriously bad,” says Dr. Judith Bardwick, a corporate psychologist. “While success and recognition generate positive attitudes and energy, failure and non-recognition deplete and exhaust people. Organizations’ must get fear and anxiety levels down, and replace those feelings with a sense of hope, the purposefulness of a united and supportive community and a conviction the future will be better.”
Replacing fear and anxiety with joy and optimism is really quite simple. We humans tend to respond quickly to even the slightest glimmer of hope, making employee morale an achievement that really doesn’t require a lot of money, time or energy.
Consider these simple steps with powerful outcomes:
Make employees feel valued by listening to ideas. Few things stifle creativity, enthusiasm and productivity more than having no voice and knowing no one cares to hear your great idea or what you learned from a customer. I remember once being told by a supervisor that I was too full of new ideas and enthusiasm and that it was really not appreciated. Needless to say, I found a new job within a year that really valued and appreciated those new ideas.
One of the best things I learned from the Gore School of Business, where I got my MBA, was how GoreTex celebrates failures just like it does successes. When a big ideas fails, the company still celebrates. GoreTex celebrates that someone had the confidence to speak up, share an idea and try something new. This is brilliant, as innovation is key to all industries’ success; and if you stifle innovation, that one really brilliant idea that could put you at the top of your game, industry and profitability will be silenced. Until perhaps that bright employee leaves your company and shares it with your competitor.
If your business is experiencing change — slowing down or speeding up, or considering merging or adding new business services — share as much as you can with your employees. Those meetings behind closed doors get noticed and interpreted for better or worse. When people feel they are not being informed of situations or circumstances that could affect them, they become anxious and fearful, and that is when enthusiasm dies. And most employees in customer-facing positions are not skilled actors; and so that lack of trust, enthusiasm, hope and even respect will be transmitted to customers. Never a good thing.
Do What You Say You Will
Don’t promise employees a business update, incentive plan, profit-sharing program and such, and then never bring it up again. Idle promises are noticed and create rifts of trust that can be difficult, if not impossible, to fix.
Not only does morale matter for better engagement with customers and contagious enthusiasm that can drive more sales and loyalty, it has some pretty serious fallouts, as well. When employees leave, they often leave for competitors, and take not only their enthusiasm with them, but quite often your business plans and ideas, and knowledge of weaknesses that can be exploited.
Regardless of your role in the company, build a marketing plan for employees. Map out a customer experience that will create enthusiasm, hope and loyalty for your brand. This employee marketing and engagement plan is more important than your customer engagement plan, as no great marketing promises can compensate for a lackluster shopping experience. Without putting employees first, your outside marketing programs could result in one step forward and two steps back.