OK, any of us familiar with Chick-Fil-A restaurants know the yummy goodness of their chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. However, the stand-alone deliciousness of the food can not actually be separated from the quality of customer service. If I lived in Lenoir, North Carolina, for instance, I would drive across town to dine at operator Mike Sheley’s Chick-Fil-A. His character, kindness, and community commitment infuse his staff. “It’s my pleasure” is part of their heart language and also our customer experience.
My loyalty to Southwest Airlines is similar. The free bag check and cheap fares definitely matter as I choose what airlines to book. Then there is the customer service as fleshed out in Southwest employees like Candace Hewitt. She reached out to me, sitting at the gate, in a time of grieving over two years ago…and she still does from time to time.
That’s the kind of employee that inspires customer loyalty to a company.
Companies these days are often focused sharply on business processes that streamline innovation and the quality and availability of the product or service. Competition is a constant stressor.
What if we are missing the opportunity to nurture our hidden customers? The employees themselves.
Thought leader Michael Lowenstein researches and writes extensively on this. This making employees “ambassadors” of our companies. For those interested in exploring what he and others recommend, I’ve included links below.
In brief, if you’re thinking this might be an issue to address, here are Lowenstein’s recommendations for building such a workplace philosophy and ethic:
Some years ago, my colleague Jill Griffin and I identified nine ‘best practices’ for generating employee behavior which extends beyond loyalty to contribution and commitment.
1. Build a Climate of Trust – That Works Both Ways
2. Train, Train, Train and Cross-Train
3. Make Sure Each Employee Has A Career Path
4. Provide Frequent Evaluations and Reviews
5. Seek To Inform, Seek To Debrief
6. Recognize and Reward Initiative
7. Ask Employees What They Want
8. By All Means, Have Fun
9. Hire The Right Employees In The First Place
To build more of the first best practice, employee trust and empowerment, into the company culture, consider the following:
• Insure staff trust and empowerment are key values in the firm’s mission and vision statements
• Practice effective story-telling
• Create company rites and rituals that help reinforce the rewards of employee trust
• Maintain a free flow of information between management and staff to reinforce the trust factor and help prevent negative communication and gossip.
• Actively expose all employees to customers’ perception of experience value
• Teach senior managers the importance of ‘walking the talk’ and inspiring employee trust. – Michael Lowenstein
Whatever our company or organization, cultivating practices which enhance employee loyalty will yield the fruit of customer loyalty. Whether or not we can measure that, in the end, the former is a worthy goal all on its own.