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You Are Only As Strong as Your Weakest Link!

Stop Focusing on Customer First, Start with Your Employees…

Tell me, which of these do you relate with yourself? One of your friends recommended a restaurant in the city center and you are really wondering that food she/he praised so much. You reserved your table with high expectations and started to wait for the waiter to order. He is late a bit but it is ok for you. You want to learn about the items on the menu and ask questions. Unfortunately, the waiter seems not very enthusiastic like you. He answers with short sentences, and looks around during this time, checking other customers. He seems that he is in a hurry. You can not get enough information from him and just order something from the menu because you felt stressed that you need to order quickly. You waited longer than usual for your order. Moreover, you could not able to call for the waiter since he never looked towards your table. Your food was tasty but it wasn’t the taste you were looking for. You wished you could get more information. You left the restaurant with disappointment. Or, you need to buy a pay-TV, you did your research and found the best option. You spoke with the call center, bought it, and wait for the installation guy to come and finish it. The pay-TV brand has a great brand promise and campaigns, however, the employee who came to your home for installation was not in line with the brand’s image. He was talking too much on the phone and very slow. He went out a couple of times for smoking and did not answer you properly when you asked about the time he needed to finish the job. He makes you nervous and at the end of a couple of hours, you did not have a good experience with this brand. I can give more examples like these. As a brand you can have a purpose, invest in brand-building like determining brand guidelines, defining brand mission, creating a value proposition. You can invest in technology to make your customers have a differentiated experience from competitors. However, at some point, your customers are in touch with your employees. Even if everything you do is outstanding, if you forget some of your employees especially in the frontline all your efforts can go to waste. Brand reputation, brand building can not only be created from headquarters, with consultants and advertising and PR agencies. It can be complete with the employees. Vision, strategy, and guidance are of course starting points and employees need them first. However, you need to have your employees execute your strategy and behave in line with your vision/ambition. Imagine yourself as a commander, you can not achieve a victory without your soldiers. Your soldiers should be capable to execute your strategy and plan. You can not go to war with an unequipped army. You have to choose your executors just after you chose your strategy and write down your plans. Execution with unhappy, incapable, disengaged employees will not give the expected results. Of course, a brand's ultimate aim should be focusing on customers, but your customers' happiness is more or less dependent on your employees’ happiness. A toxic environment created by one of your employees is contagious. it will have a tremendous impact both on other employees and ultimately on customers. This is why I am telling you that your brand is only strong as your weakest link. You have to repair that chain, if not unfortunately you need to let him/her find a place to be happier :) One of the most important subjects in both brand experience and customer experience is consistency. You need to focus on providing consistent experiences to your customers. Consistency can not be achieved with disoriented employees. So, we should not lose the attention of employees when obsessively focusing on customers. Don’t worry, your employees will take care of your customers if you first see and listen to them.

If you want to build a robust brand, you should focus on your customers. If you want to deliver a great customer experience then you should focus on your employees first. Ok, but what does focusing on employees mean? What makes employees happy, engaged, and willing to be “branded”? A couple of years ago, research on employee experience is conducted by Forrester. They created an index based on 3 pillars; empower, inspire and enable. according to this index, employees want to feel like they are contributing to something meaningful. Also, clarity about work expectations and getting praise for good work makes them happiest. They need to believe in the company values and be inspired by them. They want to be enabled by training, tools, and technology. Easy access to technology and information lets them easily collaborate. Another research was conducted by Josh Bershin Company at the beginning of this year. This study also emphasizes similar subjects for sustaining a positive employee experience. According to this research; employees need a feeling of purpose, trust in their leaders. They want to feel that they belong and the team will take care of them. Moreover, they wanted to be treated fairly and respected their identity as a person.

In conclusion, in customer experience, we started to use human experience with a belief that it has to be considered holistically. You should take care of all your people without making a distinction with them. The rules are the same, we are all people, we have the same desires, same expectations, be it, customers or employees. Yet it starts with employees. If a company, brand wants to solidify its image in the market, in the eyes of its customers, the starting point is simple; treat your employees first, they will eventually take care of your customers.

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