Engaging employees to deliver a branded customer experience

8 March 2017 10:23 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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When we think about what makes a brand great, we often define it through our own experiences. And while we may experience brands through a logo, advertising or websites, the most critical touchpoints are people.
When the people within an organisation understand what their brand stands for, they are empowered to create truly memorable experiences that ultimately drive loyalty and enhance business performance. In this sense, the corporate brand provides a powerful engine to align the organisation and create a differentiated 
customer experience.
However, this process, which we call brand engagement, is not as simple as it sounds. Employees do not suddenly snap into action once they’ve watched a video at a company event. Mobilizing employees to deliver on the brand promise requires strategic planning, dialogue and cross-functional collaboration. Brand engagement begins the moment you start a branding programme and needs to be sustained over the long term.
From a process perspective, brand engagement means taking steps to inspire leaders and key influencers to act as role models, clearly defining behaviours, creating relevant communications and aligning the organisation around the brand (and ultimately around the customer). Here is a high-level roadmap that outlines some of the steps that all organisations—whether a B2B or B2C brand—can take to develop a brand engagement programme that helps connect your employees to 
your customers.
Connecting customer loyalty and employee engagement: Service 
Profit Chain
The connection between customer loyalty and employee engagement begins in the Service Profit Chain, the links of which are as follows: Profit and growth are stimulated primarily by customer loyalty.
Loyalty is a direct result of customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is largely influenced by the value of services provided to customers. Value is created by satisfied, loyal and productive employees. Employee satisfaction, in turn, results primarily from high-quality support services and policies that enable employees to deliver the experience (to customers) that has been promised by 
the brand.
The links between employee engagement and business impact are well documented. Most recently, Gallup found that more engaged workplaces:
 Are better prepared to engage their customers and experience a 240 percent boost in performance-related 
business outcomes
 Experience a 147 percent higher earnings per share compared with their competition
It has also been shown that the financial performance of organisations is significantly correlated with employee engagement. A business with an unenthusiastic workforce not only risks compromising profitability, safety and quality, but, according to Gallup, disengaged employees cost the US $ 450 billion to US $ 550 billion per year. Towers Watson’s global study shows that only four in 10 employees are highly engaged and 60 percent of employees lack the necessary elements to become highly engaged.
If the links between employee engagement and business impact are so obvious, why don’t we think about it more? And what does it really mean? When, where and how do we begin engaging employees? Like most things, it must begin with a purposeful plan.
Five steps to building your brand engagement plan
Through our work with clients around the world, we’ve learned that there are five essential steps required in developing an integrated brand engagement plan for 
your organisation.
1. Engage leadership at the outset
As we know intuitively, strong leadership is critical to business success. The CEO is the only person in an organisation who sees the complete brand. Therefore, the brand starts and ends with the CEO. We also understand that the leadership team must be aligned on the importance of the brand. Any misalignment at upper levels is readily obvious to employees. When the leadership team is actively engaged in the brand they can better understand how brand can be a filter for business decisions, behaviours and communications. However, managers are key influencers also. We know that employees will not change behaviours unless managers do as well, so it’s critical that managers understand their role.
2. Involve the right employees in the process
Often, organisations fail at employee engagement simply because they don’t segment their internal audiences with the same discernment as their external audiences. As part of our process, we work closely with communications and human resources (HR) to identify the most influential employees, by level and function, and engage these influencers in our 
branding process.
Ideally, we want to empower credible, influential employees to cascade information to others and to provide these influencers with the tools they need to be accountable and successful. Middle managers are a critical link to fostering employee engagement.
3. Identify which behaviours need to change
The corporate brand provides a powerful engine for aligning employee behaviour with the core purpose and promise of the organisation to help create a differentiated customer experience. While many think corporate values suffice, in some organisations they do not adequately do the job of connecting the employee to the customer, nor are they written with the brand in mind. There must be clarity around the reality that how you act internally within the organisation impacts the customer experience. In addition, high-level behaviours can be misunderstood in daily practice, so these should be defined on a functional level.
Connecting employees to the customer experience and educating them about the importance of their role is critical to branding success. By following a systematic, strategic process, you can transition your employees from having only a simple awareness of your brand to understanding and adopting on-brand behaviours in their 
daily roles.
4. Develop an integrated communications strategy
We know that clear, consistent communication is essential to the success of any project. But it’s surprising how many organisations move right into tactical execution without creating a comprehensive communication strategy that keeps employees informed and excited about the project and shows how it is relevant to them.
Decide early in the process what needs to be communicated and to whom, with the full knowledge that top-down communications rarely suffice anymore. Develop a plan to ensure ongoing dialogue, utilizing a range of communication vehicles. Create opportunities for feedback, seeking to constantly answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” and “Why should I care?”
Consider that you will be moving through various stages, beginning with basic awareness (knowing the brand), which is the most fundamental. However, the real work is in sustaining the brand beyond launch day.
5. Align the organisation around the brand
Branding is an opportunity to bring together marketing, HR and communication teams. However, to ensure credibility, organisations must redesign HR processes and procedures to support any changes in values and behaviours. This includes areas such as recruitment, orientation, training, promotion, compensation, reward and recognition. Align policy and practices around the brand and clearly define the criteria and behavioural expectations for areas such as compensation and recruitment to reflect your commitment to the brand. Then, put a process in place to measure, reward and recognize the right actions and behaviours—because what gets measured gets done.
Sustaining the brand
Whether you’re repositioning your brand or seeking to sustain a mature brand, it’s crucial to provide information, tools and training that builds employee understanding, trust and confidence. Creating a long-term plan to evolve and institutionalize these tools and resources is imperative to sustaining the importance of the brand to the business. The rewards can be considerable.
Organisations that put effort into increasing employee productivity, satisfaction and loyalty not only have a happier workforce, but also deliver a better customer experience and see stronger financial results. Time and again we have seen how vital meaningful engagement is to an organisation’s success—and that it is, in fact, key to sustaining it.

 

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