Customers today no longer have relationships with just the product or service, but with the organization and what it represents. Every offering is a reflection of the values, passions and ideas of the collective individual efforts that went into creating the experience felt by the consumer. The modern consumer not only values what went into the product they consume, they now have the ability to access it through multiple digital social channels, effectively making every employee an ambassador of the company.
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The employee voice is stronger than ever, and a newly released study from IBM Institute for Business Value says that harnessing that voice is truly the critical differentiator when it comes to really winning over those coveted customers.
According to one of the authors, Maria-Paz Barrientos, Vice President and Partner at IBM, “an organization is defined by its culture and how the employees interact within that culture.” For this reason it is imperative we take the employee experience into account when strategizing to shape the customer experience. The study revealed five areas of focus:
Personalization: It can be tough balancing the needs of the company with the unique characteristics of the multitudes of teams within the organization and the individuals they are comprised of. People have different needs and motivations and in the past drilling down to these individual differences was no simple task. Barrientos points out that times have changed and “we now have the data and analytics to help us create targeted more personalized experiences” based on individual needs. Every company should be exploring ways to leverage social technology to ensure individual needs are being met in ways that help connect employees to the larger mission.
Transparency: There is no doubt we are in a highly transparent world where both information and misinformation on just about anything is merely a click away. People want and need to understand as much about their world as they can, including their work. The study explains that “much as individuals are looking to gain a greater understanding of what goes into their food, clothing, and other goods and services, they are also seeking to understand their own organizations’ workings.” This is why transparency at all levels is important along with providing clarity around the “why” behind the work that employees are engaged in. Understanding the why allows employees to author more direct and approachable narratives for consumers around the value of the product or service they provide.
Simplicity: In an increasingly complex and globally connected world simplicity still rules. The fact is the more convoluted an employee’s work is the more non-value added it will feel. Barrientos points out “people know when they are doing non-value added work” and it becomes demotivating. The authors of the study note that “even simple activities, such as running an effective meeting, are often complicated by conference rooms equipped with incompatible technology and virtual platforms that freeze at key moments.” Always seek to boil every effort down to its core elements so as to reap the benefits of simplicity.
Authenticity: Leadership in any organization must pay attention to the way in which their behaviors reflect that which they preach. Organizations must accurately reflect who they are in all they do in order to authentically align with employees, so as to create an authentic consumer experience. It is a wise practice to routinely audit the way in which the organization represents itself both internally and to the outside world. Simple things like examining your physical space, benefit offerings, and lifestyle practices may reveal surprising contradictions that send mixed messages. As obvious as it may sound aligning what you espouse to be with who you actually are as an organization is a practice frequently overlooked.
Responsiveness: A recent New York Times article highlighted studies that have shown how corporate wellness and weight loss incentive programs tend to fail due to lack of timely feedback. Psychologists have long since known positive feedback is only reinforcing when it is timely enough to be associated with the specific behavior. Thus, waiting until yearend to reward that hard fought battle of the bulge is more of an administrative check-the-box than a motivational tool.
The same holds true for managing and motivating the work efforts of those same employees. When it comes to timely feedback Barrientos notes “it’s so easy to do, yet most organizations fail at it so well.” Whether it’s lack of training, poor communication skills, or cultural barriers, managers at all levels just seem to struggle with giving timely and constructive feedback to their direct reports.
In the digital mobile age there is just no excuse for this lack of leader engagement. Modern mobile technology now provides us with access to the right performance data and the ability to provide timely feedback directly linked to that data. The fact is managers don’t even have to provide feedback in-person. It can be a mere click on your smartphone or a comment on a team’s social dashboard.