Thinking

Brand is as Brand Does: Your Employees Are Your Customers, Too.

To truly reach employees and make your messages stick, you need to approach them as any company would approach their potential customers.

Sound crazy? We will attempt to de-crazy it for you. Check it out:

Employees are consumers of your messages, just as your customers are consumers of your product. Like your customers, your employees are busy. Their attention is being pulled in a dozen different directions at any given moment. Therefore, it takes strong, authentic and cleverly presented messages in order to cut through the day to day clutter and really reach an employee.

And we’ve found that when employees are treated not as assembly line producers, but rather as humans whose allegiance an organization is fortunate to have, something very beneficial happens—employees will work harder and better because they feel an emotional attachment to their employer. This is something theCEO of Southwest Airlines learned long ago – and to great benefit. Over the years, whenever reporters would ask CEO Herb Kelleher the secret to Southwest’s success, he had a consistent response. “You have to treat your employees like customers,” he told Fortune in 2001. Friends and peers of Kelleher’s would often see his philosophy in action.

“There isn’t any customer satisfaction without employee satisfaction,” said Gordon Bethune, the former chief executive of Continental Airlines, and an old friend of Mr. Kelleher’s. “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.”

Makes sense, right? This next bit is a mouthful but break it apart piece by piece:

Beyond professionalism and happiness at one’s job, an employee’s sense of worth within the context of their work identity directly affects the quality of the service they provide in the eyes of their customers. Got that? Let’s look at it from another angle.

There are many ways to make your employees feel proud. Rewarding them is not something you can fake or buy off with shiny plaques or small bonuses. It’s something that has to feel real. You have to make them feel like they are always on a mission. They need to always feel good about the work they do for you.

The good news: this is really not a difficult goal to accomplish when you create authentic, emotional and dynamic employee messaging. Starbucks is doing it. So is Apple. So is L’Oréal.
And here’s another study:

Big River Telephone, BMW Canada and Charter Communications – all three of these companies have leaders that continually stressed the importance of treating employees with the same respect and value as customers to achieve long-term business success. This approach is currently delivering growth for all three of these organizations.

And recent studies of factors common to successful companies, conducted by Max Clarkson have found that those companies whose goals reflect the interests of not just major shareholders and owners, but give serious consideration to employee and customer satisfaction — produce better results. This tells us that those companies focusing exclusively on the financial interests of shareholders at the expense of customers and employees are actually shortchanging themselves. They are, in fact, weakening the organizational conditions that would account for 40 to 80 percent of their overall growth and profitability over the long term.

Another study found that those companies with the highest employee and customer retention rates (“loyalty”) also earn the strongest profits. Put simply, if you pay attention to those conditions that empower employees to do a good job, customers will stick around and in turn, revenue and profits will grow.

Another beneficial side effect of empowered employees is retention. It is pointless to talk of building long-term customer relationships if you have high employee turnover. A constant cycling of employees makes it impossible for them to build long-term relationships with customers. Don’t expect to have long-term customers without long-term employees.

In recent years, a customer focused approach has become the mantra of many Fortune 500 companies. But we must remember that before we congratulate ourselves with a “customer comes first” mission statement, we need to first take care of our own troops. In doing so, there will be big rewards in the form of long-term loyalty and more positive brand experiences for all.

When you pull back the curtains, what we are essentially looking to do is build a psychological contract in which employees feel valued by their employer, and the employer values (and is seen to value) employees’ contributions. Enhanced employee commitment should in turn feed into improved work performance, reduce staff turnover and make it easier to recruit good employees because the employer has a positive brand and employer image.

Bottom line is this:

When your employees win – your customers win. Which is why it often makes sense to look at them both as the reason for your company’s continued success in equal measure. Which is also why your employee messaging is just as important as your customer facing communication. Wouldn’t you agree?

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