MVCs: Most Valuable Customers

7 Dec

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Is customer service just designed for external customers? I don’t believe so. My theory is that it starts from within the organization. Keep reading!

Who is the Most Valuable Customer?
I was reminded recently of the incredible value of employees because of some firsthand experiences. Not only do they complete the day-to-day activities that make a business run, but they have the potential to be your most loyal and committed cheerleaders. So why is it that when creating customer service strategies, we simply forget about them? I know a company that has an incredible customer service philosophy…I mean absolutely incredible. Everything they do is customer-centered. It’s amazing; truly. However, in carrying it out, they often inconvenience or frustrate employees with ridiculous and frequent policy changes, lack of communication between departments and different standards for all levels of employment.

The trend for employees these days is to put in some time (a year or two) in one position and then move onto another company and do the same. However, this is costly to employers for a number of reasons:

  1. the hiring process alone
  2. training of the new employee
  3. prospect search
So, how do you keep employees satisfied?

Employee-Centric Management
Here’s an idea: Employee-centric management. Herbert D Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines told Fortune in 2001 that “[y]ou have to treat your employees like customers…When you treat them right, then they will treat your outside customers right. That has been a powerful competitive weapon for us.” It starts from within the company and works its way out. When your employees are happy, they will translate that into their work. To reinforce this idea:

“There isn’t any customer satisfaction without employee satisfaction…He recognized that good employee relations would affect the bottom line. He knew that having employees who wanted to do a good job would drive revenue and lower costs.”Gordon Bethune, former CEO of Continental Airlines, longtime friend of Kelleher’s

“When an employee is delighted, he will delight the customer.”

Internal Marketing Plan
Consider instituting an internal marketing plan. Since we’ve established that employees are indeed another form of customer, they should also be marketed to. According to a spot-on research paper on the subject, “the establishment of internal marketing implies that the business must have positive relationships with employees.” Create and implement a marketing plan that specifically targets this very integral ‘market’.  Your plan should include items from the list below. A good plan will also require continuous research and evaluation of employee empowerment platforms and skills and training programs.

How do you convert an ‘employee’ into a lifelong ‘fangelist’? Here is a very brief list of ideas:

  1. Earn their respect by being competent, the best you can be at your job.
  2. Integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Enough said.
  3. Trust them. And then, go out of your way to let them know that you trust them.
  4. Value and utilize employee opinions. Give them an outlet to share their opinions. Actively consult this resource.
  5. If your company is going to be charitable, don’t force it upon your employees.
  6. If you are the CEO, be visible and accessible. We all know the CEO has responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean he/she can’t be accessible. Let your face be known in the workplace. An interesting idea: a two-way blogging platform where the CEO sets aside several hours per week to address employee questions or concerns and interacts with employees.
  7. Career advancement pathways. Hiring from within is a great motivator.
  8. Employee recognition programs.
  9. Be flexible/fun. Modern businesses have game rooms and cafes for employee enjoyment/relaxation.
  10. Communication, communication, communication. Set expectations and continually follow up so that no employee has a question.
  11. Treat them like people, not cogs in a machine. They have hearts, have feelings, etc….
  12. Employee loyalty programs like those offered to external customers.

“The internal market of a business encompasses its employees. This market is continuously being influenced by the ability of the employees to work together as a unit to reach and maintain the objectives of the business.” 

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