28th Nov 2016
A retail assistant helping with a tricky purchase, a customer service advisor handling a bank account query with sensitivity, or a chef doing everything they can to meet a diner’s special dietary requirements – it means a lot when someone goes the extra mile to serve us in a shop, bank or restaurant. But staff need to feel motivated to provide this level of service – and new research by The Institute of Customer Service has found that only one in four UK employees feel actively engaged in their job.
The finding spells bad news for organisations whose disaffected employees could be turning customers away. Data shows that just 11 per cent of customers say they would repurchase from an organisation following a bad experience with an employee. Worse still, 43 per cent of customers would actively warn others against using the organisation.
If an unhappy workforce means unhappy customers, then engaging employees must be a key part of any organisation’s customer service strategy – with training at the heart of that strategy. Yet it’s clear from The Institute’s research that a majority of UK employees have not received customer service training in their current organisation.
Jo Causon, chief executive of The Institute of Customer Service, said: “The low level of employee engagement we’re witnessing in UK organisations should be setting alarm bells ringing in the boardroom. There is a clear correlation between employee engagement and customer satisfaction: disinterested staff often fail to make a lasting impression with customers, with the result that they take their custom elsewhere.
“Where organisations focus on understanding their employees better, developing their skills, and recognising a job well done, we will see better engagement and with it, better business performance.”
The Institute’s report, The Customer Knows, offers guidance on how to improve employee engagement. It highlights the critical role of line managers, regular and authentic communication, and the importance of recognising and developing staff. It also advises boardrooms to develop programmes that bring their organisations’ vision and values to life, and to involve employees in decisions that affect them, so they have a genuine voice.
Organisations that take such steps reap the rewards, found the research. Business executives interviewed for the study cited engaged employees as being more efficient and more likely to develop emotional connections with customers and get their interactions ‘right first time’, leading to better customer experiences, reduced costs and returning custom. Customers supported this, with two-thirds saying a good experience will lead to them buying again.
“Engaged and empowered employees are not only great ambassadors for an organisation, they are crucial to driving long-term customer satisfaction and securing future profitability,” concluded Causon. “If employees are not given the tools or environment to deliver a great customer experience, Boards should not be surprised to see the bottom line affected.”