During our last holiday I had a chance to see emotions at every range of their spectrum. Love, joy, excitement, anger, frustration, even avoidance played a part of the holiday show. I was reminded of the energy and effort necessary to manage customer expectations as well as team communication and morale. In the sea tempest of human emotion, there is an elite group of companies who sail unscathed to distant customer relationship shores – and, it nearly always results from employee engagement.
Studies indicate that 70% of employees do not feel engaged in their work. Additional research has shown that employees are more likely to leave your company because of their boss than any other reason. Yep, that’s you. Yet, entrepreneurs and company leaders mistakenly think employees leave for more money than any other factor.
I’ve coached fast growing companies in 17 countries and my experience is that less than 1 in 4 leaders have a strategy for employee engagement. In many companies, over half the workforce even knows the goals and strategy of the organization. But get this – engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their positions. When you create happy, engaged employees, statistics support that your company earns 2.5x more revenue than teams with disengaged members. Additionally, you’ll enjoy two times the net income of any competitor who creates (or tolerates) unhappy, disengaged employees.
Rather than answer the question, “how do you gain employee engagement?” answer me this: do you believe reward or punishment gets the best results? My experience is reward. Contrary to common thinking, rewards aren’t just financial. Rewards include knowing the company’s Core Purpose, sharing it, and getting the team to buy in. This simple act allows team members to tell friends and neighbors what their company is up to with clarity, which will make them proud of their company, your team, and what they do.
Additionally, engaged team members will feel that company leadership has concern for things like the greater good, empowerment, honesty, accountability, respect, and that team members stand a chance for real personal growth.
According to management expert Gary Hamel, “The real damper on employee engagement is the soggy, cold blanket of centralized authority. In most companies, power cascades downwards from the CEO. Not only are employees disenfranchised from most policy decisions, they lack even the power to rebel against egocentric and tyrannical supervisors.”
Here are just three recent experiences with a disengaged workforce:
- Massage Envy
My wife is an award-winning wedding designer – and, after a 250-person wedding event, she is worn out. I surprised her with 1-year of monthly massages to help in her recovery from these events. Not knowing if she would actually use all of them, I asked two questions before purchase:
- Can I stop the monthly charge/service at anytime? Yes.
- Will unused massages be carried forward for future benefit? Yes.
My wife actually used one massage about every two months. So, at her request, at the six-month point I called to cancel the monthly massage. I discovered that I failed to read the fine print and that the #1 answer above was not completely true. I was rudely informed, “You can cancel but we will still charge you every month until the twelve-month agreement runs out. Oh, and it’s your responsibility to give 30-day notice before that time or it rolls over and you’ll be charged beyond the contract date.” Fine, I thought, I’d just pay through the end date.
As the contract end approached, I dutifully called in the cancellation. I was treated with disgust and informed that I must complete a “special form” to end the agreement. Even worse, the answer to #2 above was only partially true. Yes, you can roll over paid (but unused) massages, but only if still paying the monthly fee.
I have no envy for anyone working with this company since the workforce was disengaged and company policy seems to encourage it. I called the local owner but never received a reply. I think I’ve identified a pattern.
- US Airways
I was next in line at security. As I walked up and handed over my driver’s license, I placed my phone on the electronic reader. Oops! At some point in my last five steps the US Airways app stopped displaying my ticket. Back of the line please. We have other people to service.
Finally, I successfully made it through security and made my way to the gate. As I was boarding, it happened again. The app would not display my reservation. We were boarding when it occurred and as I fussed over the app failure I heard, “We can’t board you without a boarding pass.” I asked if she could look me up? “No, you must have a boarding pass.” And I asked, if your app fails (I showed her my screen), then what? “Sir, you’ll have to have a boarding pass.” Thank you for your concern.
Since an airline is a “gimme” for a disengaged workforce, below is a third example.
- Bojangles Chicken and Biscuits
I immediately poured out the coffee, rinsed out my mouth and went online to leave a comment on the company website. I then called and left a message as well. Frustrated, I went back to finish my biscuit. While eating, I noticed that even after the coffee had been poured out, that the cup continued to disintegrate. You can see it here.
Three days later I got a call back from the regional manager. He apologized once but didn’t sound like he really believed me. He requested I send the photos I told him I’d taken. OK, so that’s the end of the call – no free biscuit, no coffee replacement, no written apology. Oh, and for me, no satisfaction.
Your team can be better than the above examples. Create a Customer Service BHAG or vision and discover that you have fewer angry customers. Stretch your team to determine how you can delight your customers. Create a service vision and look at it through the eyes of your customers. When they’re delighted – you’ll see employee engagement rise along with increased customer satisfaction.
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images