By now, everyone understands that company culture trumps strategy every day of the week. Sophisticated plans and Gantt charts are no match for a high-performance culture where employees thrive when they get to work.
The felt experience of an organization’s culture is delivered in many ways: engaged employees, fast-paced change, innovation, media attention, exciting products and disruptive services are a few. How employees feel and act, especially in ways that touch customers, is critical in most companies and nonprofits. CEO’s ask me every week, “How can I get more of that engaged vibe?”
The typical approach to encouraging a more engaged workforce is the more visible perks, such as coffee and tea bars, communal break areas with couches and lounge chairs, and even rooftop bars for after-hours socializing. But there are a lot of other, lesser-noticed aspects that define how a company’s workplace environment impacts staff behavior and attitude.
One of the most crucial and overlooked of these aspects is investing in employee professional development. Employees, especially the newest entrants to the workforce, respond positively to opportunities for training, including certifications, off-site classes, and job skills improvement. In addition to improving the more technical aspects of their day-to-day job, leaders should consider focusing on providing top-notch customer service skills—regardless of their position—to improve the felt experience for both internal and external audiences.
In most companies, the employees who are being taught these valuable skills are the customer service and sales staff. Being in customer-facing positions, this makes sense. They’re likely measured by and compensated for the level of customer satisfaction they report.
However, the look and feel of a company are also built on the behaviors of many employees in positions outside of those specifically in customer service, such as receptionists, delivery drivers, and service technicians. While people in these positions may not be thought of in a traditional way as customer-facing, given that their interactions with the customer may be indirect,t brief, or not focused on making a sale, they’re still contributing to the customer experience that in turn contributes to the likelihood of a sale, upgrade, or renewal of services in the future.
In fact, in many organizations, it’s the lowest-tier employee that has the leading edge of the customer experience. Walk into a bank and you first do business with the lowest-paid employee at the teller’s window. Order satellite television and the installer will be the only human face of the brand you see.
How much training are we giving these important team members to create the best possible customer experience? Do we teach them the value of direct eye contact, a smile, a greeting, and a consistent and predictable felt experience?
When you train every staff member to maintain a standard of excellence for the customer experience (as opposed to the less effective focus on customer service), the most likely outcome is more engaged, loyal customers.
I recently asked the staff at a company I was working with, “Who among you has the closest touchpoints with your customers?” You would think everyone in the organization would immediately know the answer. Instead, they shrugged their shoulders and looked back and forth until finally one person finally said, “Well, I guess it’s our drivers.” The people who were delivering the product to the client were serving as the face of the company, but they weren’t being trained to deliver the same excellent customer experience the sales representatives were.
Look at your organization and ask yourself if every employee is being trained to create a better customer experience for internal and external audiences. And, when you’ve done that, consider giving your employees more resonant and emotionally-driven titles. Instead of having a receptionist, what if you had a Director of First Impressions? For many customers, the voice tone of the person who answers the phone is the first and most defining example they have of the company culture — and their likely experience with the brand. If that person doesn’t feel enabled or valued in their job, they may interact with customers in a way that leaves a negative and lasting impression. Sometimes something as simple as a title change, and of course some training, is all it takes to transport your employees and customers into a culture of excellence.