April 20, 2015

Want to Engage Your Frontline Employees? Treat Them Like You Treat Your Favorite Customers

You may have heard the recent bad news about employee engagement: according to the latest Gallup poll, employee engagement dipped to 31.7 percent in March. That’s down almost a full percentage point from February and from March 2014.

Transportation, manufacturing, service and sales workers tend to post the highest levels of disengagement, according to previous Gallup surveys. Unfortunately, these employees are often frontline, the ones that have the greatest contact with customers and prospects and those interactions have a big impact on an organization’s bottom line.

We’ve helped dozens of organizations engage employees with incentives and rewards and recognition programs, and one thing that stands out is this: Organizations that complement those programs with behaviors that treat their frontline employees like their most valued customers post the best engagement results.

So, what do we mean by “treating employees like valued customers”? Here are some things we’ve observed that you might consider:

Seek frontline employee feedback. You want to hear what your customers have to say—what they want, what their concerns are, and how you can serve them better, for example. Ask the same of your frontline. And don’t forget to seek feedback on your engagement efforts. Actively seeking that kind of feedback from your frontline can help you be a better manager and boost your engagement program, especially if you’ve implemented one that offers flexibility. Seeking feedback also demonstrates respect, a key ingredient of good customer—and good employee—relations.

Empower your frontline. You empower your customers by giving them multiple ways to interact with your organization. Why not do the same with your frontline employees by giving them choices in how they interact with customers? Let your frontline make the decisions about the best way to handle customer concerns, keeping in mind that outstanding customer service is a priority. Some organizations even give their employees budgets dedicated to customer service, and then leave it up to the employees as to how to use that money.

And, yes, we talk a lot about empowering employees—in a blog just last week, in fact.  But we talk about employee empowerment because it’s so important, and so often it’s seen as “nice to do” instead of “must do.”

Reward BIG for outstanding behavior. Especially in retail, great customers get loyalty points, VIP-type discounts, or other forms of rewards. Why not do the same for your frontline employees? If you have a rewards and recognition program in place, you’re already rewarding behavior related to specific goals. Why not kick it up a notch by calling out extraordinary effort with an extraordinary reward? Set aside an especially attractive reward for frontline employees who go above and beyond.

In sales, where incentive travel is a frequent award for outstanding performance, maybe give an outstanding performing a travel “budget” and let them construct their own travel reward itinerary. In other areas, why not the latest in wearable technology? And, if the employee is comfortable with it, make that achievement public with a special mention on your enterprise social network or, as some organizations do, even on your customer-facing website.

Too often, frontline employees are the unsung heroes of an organization. Make them your heroes by treating them like your most valued customers and you’ll see engagement soar.

Would you like to learn more about rewards and recognition programs that create positive employee engagement? Contact a Marketing Innovators engagement specialist today.

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