As employees and customers alike integrate technology into all facets of their personal and professional lives, there is an increasing expectation that employers and businesses will stay in step and create environments that are tech-friendly. But ultimately it’s about creating strong customer and employee engagement.
In a recent workshop with municipal employees, we discussed and debated whether or not employers ought to provide wifi in their public spaces. Not surprisingly there were generational differences in the responses. Younger employees were surprised, and somewhat frustrated, that they couldn’t access free wifi in their office building and the local community centres. I asked if they received several complaints from customers as well, which they had. So, what is the risk is you don’t engage customers and employees?
While traveling outside of the city, I needed to find a place to take a client call and be connected to the internet. I assumed that the resort in town would have wifi that I could access in the lounge or dining room over lunch. When I called to confirm, I was informed that they only allowed guests to use wifi. When I indicated I would be coming for lunch and would be a customer, they reiterated their position and weren’t flexible. Not only did this experience frustrate me, it highlighted the ways in which businesses unintentionally disengage customers and the unintended consequences. I will never likely lunch at that resort, nor will I recommend that others do so. Not partnering with me to help find a solution to my problem (finding a spot to access the internet), meant they missed an opportunity to engage me as a customer. The same is true for employees.
Employees in our workshop stressed that while they recognize that free wifi is a benefit, it has become an expectation. If they can access wifi at Starbucks and the mall, why not in the lunch room? Why not make it easier for your employees and customers to connect with each other and to leverage technology to enhance your brand? The cost to get and keep an engaged employee and customer will far outweigh the cost to maintain and strengthen customer and employee loyalty. As the saying goes, ‘don’t cut off your nose, to spite your face’. Investing in small things, can lead to big returns.
Other Ways Employers Miss the Mark
Many of our clients admit they have missed the mark in the past by overlooking small things that can make a big difference to employee engagement. Employees share with us the small things that can turn an engaged employee into being disengaged. The top 9 missteps are:
- Not providing the technology required to be successful – hardware and software
- Banning access to the internet or social media sites
- Repealing existing benefits such as free coffee
- Not offering summer hours – reduced work week options
- Using a one-size-fits-all approach to HR policies / practice – not taking into account individual situations
- Missing an opportunity to reward a high performing employee
- Not addressing poor performance in a team which negatively impacts others
- Not apologizing when something has gone wrong
- Demonstrating a lack of trust in employees
Taking Small Steps
Brainstorm of all the ways that you can increase employee and customer engagement. They don’t need to be big changes, often small steps will be noticed and appreciated. It’s the details that matter when you are trying to build and maintain a relationship internally with employees and externally with customers.
Some suggestions include:
- Be better at anticipating customer needs – how would different customers want to engage with you?
- Solicit employee opinions more as to how to make their work environment engaging and fun
- Say thank you more often – customers and employees appreciate recognition
- Make it easier for customers to do business with you – eliminate obstacles to the buying process
- Inject some fun into your work environment through fun team events
- Collaborate on a fundraising initiative involving customers and employees
- Demonstrate the behaviours you want employees to model
- Profile amazing employees and customers
Regardless of your business, you don’t want to unintentionally disengage a customer or turn off a high performing employee. Evaluate your sales, customer service, HR and leadership practices through the lens of engagement and you will find ways to make small adjustments that can results in very positive results.