Employee Engagement: The Business Problem Costing America over $450 Billion a Year

Effectively managing the customer experience is about understanding your customers and their emotional response to an interaction. People want to feel that they matter to the business, and because people are people, what works for customers works for employees too. Employees need to feel that they are valued, their work is meaningful to the organization, and that they are being appropriately rewarded.

But how engaged are your employees? Today there is real concern around the level of staff engagement. A recent Gallup Poll (2013 State of the American Workplace) found that in the US, 70 percent of the workforce is either unengaged or actively disengaged, costing the country somewhere between $450 billion and $550 billion a year. This study was even picked up in the UK media with the BBC News website running a feature on happiness in the workplace.

There can be a whole host of issues affecting each business and why employees are engaged and happy with their working life. But let’s focus on some of the key issues I believe are contributing to that figure of 70 percent.

Most, if not all, businesses capture customer feedback of some sort, on some part of the customer experience, but from my experience only a handful actually share this with the staff. As a result, employees have little visibility into what impact the work they do has on the people they serve, which can cause a sense of detachment from their day-to-day work. This can be the case with frontline staff in a call center or the design teams working on the latest product range.

What's worse, in certain situations, businesses may attribute feedback to an entire group of employees instead of to the individual involved in the customer interaction. High-performing employees are then unfairly judged and their performance is tarnished by negative feedback directed at other staff members.

By fairly measuring staff on KPIs within their individual control, businesses can not only promote a positive atmosphere, but give themselves the opportunity to highlight and effectively reward their top performing (and subsequently most valuable) staff members. This philosophy is a cornerstone of what we believe in.

For example, directly linking customer feedback with the specific interaction that it follows enables frontline managers to work with their team and provide coaching based on this feedback. This type of engagement has a clear impact on the experience of the end customer.

Some of our most innovative clients are engaging their workforces in a similar way to deliver a superior level of service to their customers. In one contact center, agents receive tokens for good feedback scores that can be saved up and spent in the office tuck shop. Another example of the creative use of feedback is where a client’s office choir has taken to singing verbatim customer comments to staff in the canteen during lunch.

This approach may, at first glance, seem the wrong way around, but to deliver a superior customer experience, it is absolutely critical to start by focusing on your staff. 

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