Monday, June 29, 2009

Can Engaged Employees Sell More Soup?

The answer is definitely yes!  SOUP's ON at Campbell's. 

In a recent Forbes article, Douglas Conant, the CEO of Campbell Soup Co. discussed the importance of employee engagement and how their strategy to pay attention to this metric paid off for their company. 

Conant took over when Campbell's was close to a takeover and its soup sales were nothing to brag about.  He had a very uncomplicated strategy to turn things around:

"To win in the market place, we believe you must first win in the workplace."
Conant then began studying engagement levels at Campbell's and took action on the results.  He stated, that of all the elements related to culture that engagement was the most highly correlated to shareholder returns.  He discusses other benefits of paying attention to engagement like:
  • revitalization of the entire culture (#1 benefit, according to Conant)
  • better financial performance
  • better market performance
  • more innovation
  • more self governing
So, I ask myself after reading articles like this, why don't more companies pay attention to engagement?  The logic and research is there, so why don't we just do it?  (Please feel free to comment, I really want to know!)

I have heard many reasons for not tracking and measuring engagement like:
1) We are too busy (see benefits above)
2) We don't know how (many firms specialize in this)
3) We are in a recession (perfect time, so when we turn around, you are ready!)
4) Not sure what to do with the data (take action on it!, form improvement teams!)

So, do you want to sell more soup?  Try a little engagement!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Date Your Employees and Customers

Just when we thought we had the customer experience figured out and were rolling out customer loyalty strategies in our companies, current thought leadership now focuses on making an emotional connection with your customers.

What do customers want today anyway?

  • They want an experience with you that delights them
  • Their needs are met
  • Their expectations are exceeded
  • They are treated as unique and special
  • The experience they have with your company is about them – not you
  • They want things to be easy and they want help fast.

When you design an experience through the eyes of your customers, you will be rewarded with profitable buyers who are unwilling to leave. Anything less leaves you vulnerable to switching and churn.

So, what drives the customer experience is a combination of emotional and rational drivers – hearts and minds – but the most important from your point of view is winning the customer’s heart…every single time, at every point in your customer experience.

Who delivers the experience? Your highly engaged employees that want:
  • An employment experience that delights them
  • Their needs to be met
  • Their expectations to be exceeded
  • To be treated as unique and special
  • They want things to be easy and they want help fast.
  • A job that is challenging and offers learning

So it looks like you need to have an emotional connection with both your customers and your employees.
How can you recognize whether you’ve got their hearts and minds? Ask them, with well thought out customized surveys so you know where to improve both experiences. Just remember it is all about the Service Profit Connection, engaged employees delivering an exceptional customer experience leading to increased revenue.

The company should always be in "date" mode with its employees and customers making sure that all interactions are like first dates, where you are always trying to impress each other!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Employee Engagement: In or Out?

Should we be worried about employee engagement during this recession? After all, we are all trying to survive, should we be concerned if our employees are engaged?

I read a very interesting article in BusinessWeek on the subject. The authors made some very good points. Paul Hebert states that the managers are at the root of our employee engagement problems and that "they need to be improved.". Where Gregg Lederman discusses the link between engaged employees and a better customer experience. By paying attention to engagement and by increasing engagement, you will reap the rewards in customer loyalty and revenue.

I believe both ideas are important. It is true, employees don't leave companies they leave their manager. The manager plays a pivotal role in engagement of their employees. There is a ton of research that discusses this relationship and the importance of communication, job expectations, job content and training have on engagement scores. All of which the manager has "control" over.

Maybe managers do need to be improved, but they may need to be engaged as well. They are employees as well. Perhaps, they need leadership and direction from their own managers. So when we discuss employee engagement it should be for ALL employees including our managers.

We have always believed in the relationship of engaged employees and loyal customers. We define the relationship as a "service mirror" or "spillover effect", where customers actually reflecting your employees engagement.

So to answer the initial question should we be concerned about engagement now, I say absolutely yes! I believe the companies that are paying attention to engagement will definitely weather this storm.

So what are some steps you can take to understand who is engaged and who isn't?

1) Make sure your employee survey measures engagement as well as satisfaction
2) Look at your data in a granular way, In other words, slice and dice your data so that you can see which departments, managers, divisions have high and low engagement.
3) Conduct follow ups to get ideas for improvement. Ask your employees they have great ideas.
4) Do this in the spirit of continuous improvement and not a "witch hunt"
5) If possible track customer engagement data to see changes over time after improvements in the employee experience have been made.

What are your thoughts? Is employee engagement so yesterday or is it still in?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I Will Take an Order of Great Customer Service Please

I have been surprised over the last few months by several customer experiences that I have had. I wrote about one at the Tag Office that was a great experience, and quite frankly a huge surprise. It was refreshing. I would think that most companies during a recession would be in the business of hanging on to the customers they have. I believe this starts with hanging on to the high performing employees that you have.

Mike Haberman, at HR Observations wrote about, Employee Attitude or Management Attitude? or both? which I found to be very accurate with regards to Kroger vs. Publix as I have had a similar experience myself. He discusses how attitude affects the customer experience both from the employee and the manager. I believe it is both. I have been very frustrated by Comcast over the last 4 months regarding their absolute disregard for the customer. I got so upset I sent an email to Rick Germano, Their head of Customer Experience. See below for the email I received back:
Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback regarding your experience with Comcast. Your feedback will assist us in our efforts to continually improve the Customer experience. To respond as quickly as possible, I have asked members of my leadership team to join me in addressing all "Ask Rick" messages.
Thank you for being a Comcast Customer. Regards, Rick Germano, Senior Vice President of Customer Operations
Now, that was exactly what I expected. But then about 15 or so minutes later his staff member called to discuss my problem and she did not even have my history in front of her. She did not have any clue why I was upset over the last four months. So, I ask myself what sets the truly exceptional customer experiences apart from the ones like Comcast? I believe it comes down to:
  • Customer loving employees with customer loving managers
  • Customer complaint resolution given to customer facing employees
  • Customer loyalty recognition
  • Customer feedback that is collected and acted upon
  • Service culture that puts the customer first
  • Management support
  • Effective and streamlined processes
  • Integrated technology that allows customer data to be accessed by those that need it
  • HR practices that reward, hire and retain those that understand the "service profit connection"
From a customer's perspective you can feel a "good experience" almost when you pick up a phone or walk through the door. I know when I go to Nordstrom's, it will be a great experience. My son had to have minor surgery at Wellstar Cobb hospital a few weeks ago. They understand every one of the bullet points above. I felt it when I walked up to register him for his surgery. In my own experience, Comcast does not have an integrated approach to customers and needs to work on the areas listed above to improve their experience. One day, they too will have competition and consumers will have a choice... How do your customers feel about your experience at their first touch point? Is your experience monitored and measured from first touch point to last? Are you a Nordstrom's or a Comcast?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hey HR...Please No More TABLE Talk

I have been to several events over the last month geared towards HR professionals. At each event the inevitable is brought up....that illustrious strategic table and why HR has received a seat or why HR does not have a seat.

I think we need to stop discussing the table and just get on with executing value added work for our organizations. If you are delivering service that is of value then you do not have to worry about the table, you have earned your right to be there.

We have been discussing this table now for about 10-12 years. I can remember having this same discussion in 1995 as I was beginning my MBA. Here we are 12 years later and we are still rehashing the same old stuff. That table has been a key topic for many years, but so misunderstood.

The goal is for HR to be strategic, adding value to the organization. The prize for this is to be invited to participate at executive level strategic meetings. The invite is key have to do something to be asked to the party. Now, I believe we have come a long way since 1995, unlike others that write so many unkind articles.

However, I think now is the time for us to shine and not whine.....We have a huge opportunity to assist our companies with getting through the recession, plan for recovery, and to get poised for growth. Now, that sounds like value added work.

What if you are able to identify you most productive and most engaged employees so that you can develop a strategy for retaining those individuals through the hard times? That's valuable

What if you have redesigned your performance management system and compensation structure so that you are only rewarding those that are performing? (Thus saving compensation dollars) That's valuable

What if you analyzed your current benefits packages and were able to save the company 20% and the employees like their new coverages better? That's valuable

What if you were able to identify the 10 behaviors most valued by your customers and designed recruiting, performance, and training tools around those behaviors? That's valuable

If you are able to deliver on cost saving or performance enhancing programs, I don't think you would have to worry about any table ever again...Thoughts?
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