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By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service

This week sees the launch of our new report ‘Are you being engaged? 2014’. It is an update of the 2012 research carried out by the Institute to investigate the link between employee engagement, attitude and aptitude on customer satisfaction and business performance.

As the economy begins to recover we wanted to gauge the level of employee engagement, how it has changed and its effect on customer service and business performance. The survey, which was completed by more than 2000 respondents, examines customer experiences in four sectors where customers typically make repurchasing or renewal decisions, retail banking, insurance, high street retail and utilities.

Customers who said they had had a memorable experience (either good or bad, with a member of staff in the last six months) were asked to provide ratings (on a scale of 1, 10) for nine specific attributes and behaviours displayed by customer-facing staff. The eight positive indicators are: ‘friendly’, ‘helpful’, ‘interested in meeting my needs’, ‘enthusiastic’, ‘passionate about doing a good job for me’, ‘enjoying their work’ and ‘seemed proud to work for the company’. Customers were also asked to rate how ‘bored’ employees appeared to be.

The report found that, employees who come across as helpful, interested in meeting customer needs and passionate about their job are much more likely to create a positive customer experience, and this has a marked effect on customers’ purchasing decisions. 62% of those who have good experiences say they have bought again from the organisation; 51% bought an additional product or service. In contrast, 77% of respondents who have a memorably bad experience subsequently avoid the company when they get the chance.

In addition, 69% of people who have a memorably good customer service experience with an employee go on to make recommendations to others. Most of the respondents who reported good experiences said they had bought more from that company, with 51% claiming to have gone on to buy an additional product or service. Since our last survey of customer perception of employee engagement in 2012, the level of engagement displayed by staff in customer-facing roles has fallen, albeit only slightly. The average consumer rating across eight key indicators of employee engagement, as measured in this survey of over 2,000 customers was 6.8 in 2012 and 6.5 in the current survey.

The message for all parts of the UK economy is clear. Where customers perceive that employees are highly engaged and appear to be friendly, helpful and enthusiastic, they are much more likely to recommend or buy again from an organisation. But where employees appear to be less engaged, customers are much less likely to recommend and more likely to take their business elsewhere or even discourage other customers from using an organisation.

With the economy beginning to recover, effective employee engagement will be increasingly important to customer satisfaction, sales, retaining employees and ensuring sustainable business performance.

Jo joined The Institute as its CEO in 2009. She has driven membership growth by 150 percent and established the UK Customer Satisfaction Index as the country’s premier indicator of consumer satisfaction, providing organisations with an indicator of the return on their service strategy investment.

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