A couple of months ago, in the thick of bad news involving political corruption, massive layoffs and disastrous winter storms, I made my way down Walnut Street in Philadelphia to meet a friend. Approaching a street corner, I noticed a homeless man sitting in front of a convenience store. As I leaned down to drop some change in his cup, a young woman emerged from the store and handed the man a hot dog box and some napkins. Turning away to cross the street, I happened to catch his reaction as he opened the box. “All right! She got me relish, too. You did good, girl!” he called after her. And just like that, I remembered how easy it can be to make someone’s day.
When we think about the little things in life, it’s usually in the context of supporting family and friends. But this practice also applies to businesses, internally and externally. In “Brandtender Marketing,” a recently published book on customer engagement, author Dan Day emphasizes the role employees play in customer satisfaction and loyalty. He explains how marketers invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch and maintain largely undifferentiated loyalty programs only to ignore the value of their organizations’ true customer touchpoints—interaction with employees.
Between sales, customer service, marketing, financial services, shipping, reception and other departments, Day explains, customers come into contact with your company on many levels. And their treatment on any one occasion can flavor their opinions positively or negatively. To protect and strengthen the relationships customers have with employees, he advises businesses to take better care of their employees so they, in turn, will provide better care for customers.
For example, “Brandtender Marketing” shares the following insights from Hal Rosenbluth, CEO of global travel management firm Rosenbluth International (acquired by American Express in 2003): “We’re talking about a change that puts people in organizations above everything else. People are cared for, valued, empowered, and motivated to care for their clients. When a company puts its people first, the results are spectacular. Their people are inspired to provide a level of service that truly comes from the heart. It can’t be faked.”
Even without a recession, customer retention is a tough job. But as many a business goes into panic mode—downsizing packaging, product, service and staff—the link between employee loyalty and customer loyalty must not be forgotten. A free shipping deal might get the sale, but the employee who makes sure a late order gets on the last FedEx truck of the day before Christmas keeps the sale.