As products and services offered by different providers are morphing into one another and prices are becoming comparable, the onus falls on businesses to start looking for a new competitive edge. One of the more recent approaches to this is Employee Engagement; the ethos that the employees will treat and care for the company as if it were their own. In an ideal world, this would mean that the same level of care would also be extended to the company’s clients who after all, are the fuel on which the business runs. Unfortunately, the two do not always go hand in hand and indeed, in some cases, apathy and even negativity towards the customer can surface. This is especially strange and problematic in customer-focused industries such as Banking, Telecommunication or Transportation. Many Employee Engagement programmes do not attach enough importance to customers, resulting in an efficiently run organisation that still alienates its customers. This in turn can lead to the loss of benefits generated by Employee Engagement and, in the long term, erode any positive cultural changes that have taken place.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are companies which have acknowledged and begun to implement their bespoke customer care enhancement programmes, with the hope of making the necessary breakthrough in employee relations with customers. The costs of this, not necessarily insubstantial, must of course be justified. If improvements in customer care can yield sufficiently increased sales or client base then the project can be deemed a success. However, all too often, these programmes do not deliver the expected results. A lack of planning, cost control or even employee disinterest in changing their behaviours can all be key factors detrimental to the success of the project and the goals set in place.

Logically speaking, there should be no distance between Employee Engagement and Customer Service Enhancement, even if the two approaches may at times be out-of-sync with each-other. Engaged employees should care for their customers as these are a company’s most important asset. In order to achieve this, Employee Engagement programmes should have an element of “customer expectation perspective”. The required cultural change needs to ensure that all employees are service- minded.

Traditional Employee Engagement Programmes tend to focus mainly on the attitudes and behaviours of employees. They deliver on their promises but, they do so over a longer period of time and the improvement areas can be unpredictable if not guided. However, if we incorporate the Operational Excellence elements from Customer Service Enhancement into Employee Engagement we shift this focus to encompass customer service improvements. In essence, a successful Employee Engagement programme needs to be backed up by a good operational improvement programme.

By Peter Kristoffersson