Customer Experience and Employee Engagement

The marketplace demands more than a great product. You know that. It starts there, and requires a sound strategy to both position the brand and engender a conversation with the target market. The foundation continues to evolve and build new facets that creatively destroy or enhance all that has come before.

In the 1990′s success depended in large part on gaining distribution, in getting your brand and the message visible in an emerging on-line marketplace, amidst a fast-growing global competitive base, all trying to gain an advantage in access and logistics.

In the 2000′s, the focus moved to information…content became “king” and the distribution challenges were no longer “new and different”. The notion of paid-owned-earned media became of increasing importance as the decade flew by. Crowdsourcing, flash mobs, guerilla and viral marketing went merged into the mainstream marketing toolkit.

In the decade of the 2010′s, continual reshaping of the landscape is taking place, with an emphasis on customer experience. The consumer has no problem finding the options to address a want, need or desire. The relative value propositions are in full display. Branding efforts surround consumers in their daily lives, with an explosion of new media ventures.

It is against the backdrop of this ever accelerating evolution that customer experience has been elevated to a central factor in determining acceptance, trial  repurchase, loyalty and advocacy. A new generation is overtaking the market, demonstrating a far more transactional relationship with products and brands. What is “hot” today, may be passe by tomorrow. What will keep consumers coming back? One answer is a powerfully positive experience, starting with the promise of the brand, through to the acquisition of the product or service, to how the experience makes the consumer “feel” about themselves, others (both users and non-users) and the sometimes subtle nuances that shade one product differently than another.

The ability of the front-line employees to deliver a performance, a shared experience, a uniquely positive interaction, that embeds a positive memory, seeding a desire for engagement, is vital for survival, and indeed for endurance. It is for this reason that a culture and environment that breeds and encourages a commitment on the part of the employee to the mission of the brand or company is critical.

Unfortunately, in most companies today, employee strategies are housed in a wing of the organization chart that is distanced from those responsible for customer experience engineering, marketing or branding. In fact, there is a clear need for both to be connected, measured and aligned if the customer experience is to be optimized. As Vineet Nayar put so eloquently in his book of the same name, “Employees First, Customers Second” may represent a prioritization that is both counter intuitive and essential.  If you fail to serve the desires, needs, goals and characteristics of those who bring your brand promise to life, how well do you think the customer experience will be?

On Wednesday, November 7th, myself and Rodd Wagner (author of several best-selling books on the topic of organizational culture and employee engagement) will lead a discussion in Boston, in concert with the Ad Club of Boston (as part of their ongoing “Under The Dome” series) and the New England Chapter of SHRM. The central theme will be building a better customer experience through employee engagement. You can find details on the event here: http://tinyurl.com/b6e5423

This is a conversation that will continue in future posts as well. It is one that will differentiate market leaders from also-rans for years to come. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic as well, and hope to see some of you at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge on the morning of the 7th!

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