Industry Update
Opinion Article 3 January 2018

How Employee Engagement Drives Customer Loyalty

By Ozan Dogruyol, Hospitality Executive at Hilton Worldwide

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Investing in your employees’ knowledge and happiness are sure pointers that can lead to improved business outcomes. To achieve this, the relationship between business owners and the customers they serve must be properly cemented and built on trust. This is where your employees come into play, as they are the ones who play the role of connector between customers and your business. However, to get them to play this role effectively, it is imperative that you adequately train and equip your staff so that they are able to engage and create experiences that eventually lead to customer loyalty.

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Employees hold so much power in driving an organization forward and in getting customers committed to your brand. This is why it is important that your organization create an enabling environment that allows the fostering of your business’ core values as well as bring out the best in your employees. Every staff on your organizational hierarchy either has direct or indirect impact on the accumulation of your customer’s experience and ultimately on the customer’s perception of your business. Thus, the core values of your business should inspire each of your staff to play their roles impeccably and team up with other employees to achieve your company goals.

So, how do you prepare your employees for the service they will render to your customers? Does your work environment inspire them to be the best they can be? Or does it inspire them to do the bare minimum to get by?

Here are some key steps that play a vital role in building and sustaining a healthy work environment:

  • Organizational Culture: One of the key drivers of employee engagement is organizational culture. The organizational culture of any business determines to a large degree the public’s perception of the business. This perception is highly driven by your employees and it is important that they not only conform to the culture, but play active roles as proponents of the organizational culture. What this perception from the public does to your business can be summed up in two different ways; it can either attract customers to your brand or repel them. No business wants the latter and this is why your organizational culture should be healthy at its core and resonate with every member of your staff.

  • Core Values: These values are all about what your company stands for. Your core values should be communicated to your staff members so that they in turn act as ambassadors of your brand and extend these values to customers. After all, the employees who represent your brand are the first point of contact for customers, and therefore it is imperative that upon first contact, they create long-lasting positive impressions that will further solidify the core values of the company in the minds of customers. However, challenges often arise when core values are not clearly communicated to staff, leaving them unaware of the weight of responsibility on their shoulders. So, how do you ensure that your team members make the core values a part of them while at work? Drafting a mission and vision statement and holding meetings on a weekly basis or fortnightly (as you find applicable) to reappraise each of the values is a good way to go. When these values are constantly on the minds and in the spaces of your employees and holds a special place as part of their daily activities in the office, it becomes so much easier to outline the challenges facing your business and execute strategies.

  • Engagement: A Harvard study shows a strong correlation between employee engagement and customer loyalty, which in turn impacts business outcomes. In fact, many reputable studies have affirmed this link, but in a rather unfortunate twist, less than 40% of workers in the U.S alone are engaged with their jobs. Why does this matter? Put simply, there is a significant difference in the demeanor and results achieved by engaged employees and unengaged ones. Engaged employees want to make an outstanding, lasting impact in the roles they play for the company; they are not only interested in earning money, but in providing exceptional value and making a difference. How does this happen? Of course, the engaged employees are not special people born with any special innate abilities, but rather, they have learned and trained themselves to be that way. From playing active roles in the key decisions concerning their respective departments, to taking up extra responsibility and brilliantly finding solutions to challenges, these employees have made themselves invaluable assets for any business environment they find themselves in. Best of all, acting this way becomes a part of them when efforts are geared by the business owners towards empowering everyone and getting all hands involved, realizing that everyone has a role to play in delivering the brand promise.

  • Observation: Businessman extraordinaire Richard Branson once remarked that, "If you look after your staff, they'll look after your customers. It's that simple." People who aspire to hold leadership positions are often advised to pick up various leadership traits ranging from courage, integrity, dedication, being a great communicator, etc. Most often though, being able to listen and make correct calculations about your immediate environment are shelved aside and considered unimportant. Business owners want their employees to get work done without doing as little as checking up on them. An assessment of a business doesn’t start when the figures are returned, but from the general, internal feel gathered from employees. In fact, a lot can be said about how far a business is likely to thrive just based on that data. In essence, listening and observing create awareness about the extent of work and the ease or difficulty in getting it done. Furthermore, it makes you aware of likely challenges that might be looming on the horizon and gives you the opportunity to deal with them before they pose any serious obstacle to your business.

  • Regular Feedback: To quote Tom Peters who is best known for his great book titled In Search of Excellence, "Excellent firms don't believe in excellence, only in constant improvement and constant change." For high performing companies “constant improvement” is not just a flashy catchphrase. It’s a true commitment based on feedback from across the entire organization. In the same way, one of the reasons engaged leaders are able to lead the field and create engaged employees is because they act differently and approach business from a different mindset. They proactively solicit feedback from customers and use it to formulate business decisions and improve the service in ways that empower employees. Feedback also allows us to build and maintain communication with others. More often than not, the number one reason for project failures, missed deadlines and misunderstood expectations among coworkers is miscommunication. Checking in with your team at regular intervals and providing regular feedback on an going basis is the best way to making sure that it never happens. Constructive feedback has numerous benefits for the giver, receiver, and the wider organization.

  • Consistency: Maintaining consistency and reliability is without a doubt the true hallmark of a successful business. For instance, Hilton brand has this unique trait about it; it is known for its exceptional guest service, which cannot be found elsewhere. For businesses, the challenge of maintaining quality and being consistent with service delivery is vitally important in ensuring that customers remain loyal to the brand. With that said, a business can only achieve this outcome if the employees are kept happy, engaged and committed to the job they do. With this in place, employees will not need to be reminded of the company’s core values and goals intermittently, as it will be part of their daily routine when playing their roles and serving the customers.

Bringing It All Together

The extent to which customer loyalty drives the success of a business cannot be underestimated. Interestingly, since customer loyalty is directly tied to employee engagement, both of them hold equal importance to the success of any business. Thus, it goes without saying that business owners should not neglect the ones who serve the customers. A great customer service is one of the leading factors that guarantee long-term brand loyalty, but this cannot happen if your employees do not realize the importance of their roles and feel committed to the success of your business. Employee loyalty is a critical part of building customer loyalty. When your employees are loyal and committed to your organization, they will feel a personal commitment to ensuring that their customers get the best kind of service in every single interaction.

Ozan Dogruyol

Ozan Dogruyol is an Hospitality Executive with a passion for writing on exceptional guest experiences and creating wow moments. He has 10+ years of experience working with leading hospitality brands, mainly with Hilton. He has broad front office and guest relations background, coupled with a long track record of exceeding expectations and delivering exceptional levels of guest service.

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