By: Sally Glick of Sobel & Co.
In the Harvard Business Review case study entitled, “Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work” by James L. Heskett, Thomas O. Jones, Gary W. Loveman, W. Earl Sasser, Jr., and Leonard A. Schlessinger, the authors make the point that there is a direct correlation between customer loyalty and company’s profitability.
That makes sense, but when they dug a little deeper to discuss how customer loyalty is achieved, they arrived at the conclusion that loyal customers/clients are those who are satisfied – and they are satisfied because of the way the company’s employees treat them! So in the end it can be said that satisfied and loyal employees result in satisfied and loyal clients.
The chain that connects loyal employees to loyal clients to bottom line profitability is very powerful but it can be easily overlooked by a company’s leadership team. Those at the top often (rightfully) take credit for shaping the culture, the philosophy and the attitude of the company. But it is important to remember that everyone in the company contributes to making that culture a reality and everyone in the company influences the loyalty and satisfaction of the clients, and thus increases profitability.
Those employees who are on the front lines, interacting with the clients on a regular basis, are well positioned to enhance the client’s positive experience. It is the company’s leader’s responsibility to ensure that every employee understands his/her role and the opportunities available for developing a meaningful connection with the clients.
Questions to ponder
Do you empower your team – leveraging their loyalty and enthusiasm – to encourage them to interface with clients whenever it is appropriate? If the answer is no, you might want to reconsider.
Think of the way that Disney expects every employee (dubbed ‘cast members’) from the street sweepers to the in-costume characters to take ownership of creating a magical moment for their guests. They are trained to assist visitors to the park, to help build the image and to ensure that everybody is happy in the happiest place on earth. Each person recognizes that they have a personal impact on the families they meet.
What can you do?
You may not be operating a theme park, but your customers/clients deserve – and probably expect – that they will be well treated by everyone they encounter at the company.
• This starts with the way the phone is answered (pleasantly and with a welcoming greeting) to the length of time on hold to the ability of the staff to solve any problem. Of course today’s technology has gone a long way to eliminate human contact and has turned many of these touchpoints into less meaningful transactions, so you need to work twice as hard to infuse the spirit of humanity into your procedures where you can.
• Sending follow-up emails are useful but an occasional ‘real ‘phone call from an employee confirming a detail might be appreciated as well.
• Shorter waiting times for the company’s response, or at least managing expectations if there is going to be significant time involved while researching a problem, can go a long way to demonstrating that you are sensitive to your client’s anticipated time line. Employees who are actively engaged can add real value by keeping clients informed of the progress.
No matter what industry you are in, treating people thoughtfully never grows old. Regardless of any new social media platform or cutting edge tools, communication with clients – especially from front line employees – will always be a necessary tool when you seek to earn your client’s loyalty.
Making a difference
The critical concept for you to remember is that it is your own satisfied and loyal employees who have the best chance of ‘charming’ your clients and reinforcing a positive perception about the company. What are you doing to create a loyal and satisfied workforce? Opportunities for relevant training, the latest technology resources, a respectful environment where their thoughts are valued and their voices are heard, a nurturing culture, sincere concern, effective communication processes, an attitude that supports work-life balance and fair compensation and benefits packages all contribute to building a committed workforce that is eager to have a significant impact on the company’s profitability!