Research & Insights


Want Engaged Customers? Then Engage Your Employees!

(October 19, 2009)

Early in my career, I worked for an NFL quarterback who is now in the Hall of Fame. Late in his career he was having trouble throwing the long passes down-field and his production dropped off dramatically. The team feared his arm was “dead." They ran every test possible to diagnose and fix his arm to no avail.

It transpired that he had a torn stomach muscle, which affected his throwing motion and eventually his arm strength. So to fix his arm problem they had to fix his stomach problem.

Everyone understands in today’s challenging economy, you need to deliver a truly compelling and differentiated customer experience to actively engage customers. Most organisations have focused on what needs to happen at the customer interface to create the kind of customer engagement that builds loyalty and deepens relationships. While actions like these are clearly critical, they are not sufficient. It is like trying to increase customer engagement by fixing only the “arm problem." What about the “stomach problem”?

Research from ASTD (American Society of Training & Development) showed that 83 percent of managers consider engaged employees a critical factor in attracting and retaining customers. That’s great news right? Managers understand a very important point: If you want engaged customers you need to have engaged employees! So, how do you then explain the following? According to research done by Towers Perrin, only 21 percent of employees say they are fully engaged at work. Organisations talk a good game about understanding the connection between needing engaged employees to have engaged customers, but are not rising to the challenge to do enough about it.

I think the “stomach problem” that needs to be addressed is Leadership Effectiveness. My experience tells me that most leaders fall woefully short in creating a culture of employee engagement that:

  • Inspires an emotional connection to the organisation’s vision and purpose.
  • Leads employees to commit their full energy to work and contribute to customer engagement.
  • Creates loyalty and commitment to the organisation.

One reason I feel so strongly about this is that recently I presented this point of view to a large group of HRD executives. They agreed very quickly that employee engagement is critical to customer engagement. And, they were quick to recognise the link to leadership as all they wanted to discuss was what they needed to do to improve their leadership effectiveness. I guess the idea that leadership effectiveness must improve if they expect to have more engaged employees, and therefore more engaged customers, pardon the pun, hit them right in the gut.

That’s what I think…what do you think?

About the Author
Tom Roth

Tom Roth

Tom Roth is Chief Operating Officer for Wilson Learning Worldwide. He is responsible for the strategic direction and business performance of Wilson Learning Worldwide operations and leads the global marketing services and R&D solutions group. He also served as President of Wilson Learning Americas. He assists global executive leadership teams with issues related to employee engagement, leadership development, strategy alignment and business transformation.

Mr. Roth has spent over 35 years developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions. He is co-author of the book Creating the High-Performance Team and is published in numerous business publications. Mr. Roth is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and client events. He speaks on a variety of issues, including leadership, employee and customer engagement, change and strategy implementation.

Read more by Tom Roth