Employees must Engage with Customers

“In this age of the customer, the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge and engagement with customers.” – Forrester

The importance of a great workforce – engaged and energized – cannot be overemphasized. Employees interact with customers and the manner in which they do so could either engage customers or chase them away. Companies face many challenges in business and with their customer relationships, and it would good if they could use their employees to engage with customers. In fact, a report revealed that along with challenges in technology and mobile apps, the next big challenge was to get employees to engage customers, which was at par with the difficulty in retaining their top talent. People are perhaps the most critical part of any company and success would be easier to attain if a company were to use skilfully its employees to engage with customers. Of course doing so is an uphill task, given the diverse workforce that companies now employ.

As mentioned, retaining talent is a tough task for companies as it is and if a company is unable to motivate employees to engage with customers, the problem becomes even bigger. Untrained and apathetic employees would either, engage with customers in the wrong way or not at all, which could spell doom for the company. Companies can no longer afford to remain complacent or ignorant of the importance to use employees to engage with customers. Does your company face this challenge? What steps has your company taken to tackle it?

It is the responsibility of a company to inculcate and sustain a culture of service. The leaders and top management alone would not be able to maintain it and employees have a major contribution towards this business need. It would therefore be wise to make wise and right decisions at the time of hiring – choose people who would have relevant service experience and would inherently be helpful and empathetic. They must have the willingness to engage with customers consistently and in a pleasant manner. An attitude of service is hard to instil – hence hire people who exhibit this trait – training them for added knowledge and skills would be a lot easier.  .

Make customer service a part of each person’s job description and link it to performance appraisals – this would exhibit the company’s commitment towards its customers. It would also display the importance a company places on how much and how often its employees engage with customers. Many companies make the mistake of ignoring the effort that employees make to engage with customers and as a result, over time, employees lose interest in doing something that is not an essential part of their job. In order to cement such behaviour, it would be important to reward and recognize those employees that consistently engage with customers and as a result become satisfied and happy customers of the company. Positive reinforcement works very well with employees and companies must make it a point to acknowledge all those making efforts in the right direction – others will follow suit.

Before expecting employees to engage with customers, the leaders of the company must set an example of doing so. Such behaviour must first be exhibited internally – with the employees. The employees would be more willing to engage with customers pleasantly and consistently, when they are shown care and empathy from the company at which they work. Employees tend to support the company more when they first receive it from the leaders of the company. Leaders that interact personally with all levels of employees would be in a better position gain respect and employees would happy to engage with customers happily at the behest of their respected leaders.

The hope, of gaining more business through employees engaging with customers could be dashed, without proper and effective communication. The messages that go out from the company either directly or through employees must reflect the values and culture of the company. If employees engage with customers in an unpleasant manner, the message they would deliver is that the company does not care about them. Ensure that to engage with customers means gaining their business, loyalty, and willingness to encourage others to do business with the company – not putting them off or driving them away from the company.

To engage with customers well, employees must display genuine interest and enthusiasm about their company and its products. Their zeal would make customers believe that the company is worth doing business with and the offerings would add value to their lives. As a customer a happy and cheerful representative of the company would influence you more, as opposed to one who seems disinterested to engage with customers or to give them any real value.

The essence of ‘engage with customers’ is that it would be a ‘conversation’. Once a company presents its offerings and ideas to customers, it would be necessary to afford the customers enough opportunities to ‘talk back’. In fact, this is extremely important – customers must know that they are heard and that the company would listen. Companies must make it a habit and a policy to respond to anything that customers say – whether they complain about or praise the company. Whatever happens, ensure that your company and employees consistently engage with customers in a professional and courteous manner, through whichever channel of communication the customers prefer.

Employees must understand how best to engage with customers – the manner and tone to be used. Being consistent in engaging with customers does not mean that the company overwhelms them with information or tries to dominate the relationship – this would lead to customer frustration. To engage with customers, means that the employees first listen actively to customers, understand their problems, and swiftly take action to deal with the problems. Communicating and engaging with customers cannot happen effectively if the company does not make it possible for customers to reach it through any channel available. If you want employees to truly engage with customers, ensure that your company uses the customer’s most preferred channels of communication and allows flexibility in when and how they connect with the company. Employees must understand the importance of maintaining a professional image even on their personal social media sites. The whole idea of being able to engage with customers encompasses a wide spectrum of methods and channels and each employee must be aware of all.

We would like to reiterate that before you expect your employees to engage with customers, your company must ensure that employees are treated well such that they feel engaged with the company. Low morale, poor attitude and dissatisfaction are easily perceptible and will be apparent when employees try to engage with customers – this could actually backfire on the company’s attempts to gain positive attention from customers. A happy workforce translates to a happy customer base.

Employees are a company’s greatest assets and in order for them to engage with customers in a positive manner they must first receive appreciation. A company needs its customers and to keep them happy and loyal, everyone in the company must strive towards preserving and growing the relationships. Each one must strive towards and make every effort to engage with customers positively and consistently.

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