Those of you who know me a bit will know that a reference to a “Madam” is usually to one of my delightful, yet high-maintenance, daughters.
Not this time.
Last night, I attended a seminar given by Madam Becky Adams, who has turned 20 years of experience in the sex industry into a customer service and mystery shopper consultancy with an unusual (but nevertheless compelling) take on why potential customers either take the leap, or run away and never come back.
Customers buy if their fears and preconceptions are soothed. No matter what the business is, emotional connection to the customer is the key to winning the business. On more than one occasion at last night’s seminar, someone was heard to proclaim that “people buy people”.
Which is why – NEWSFLASH – a business that invests in ensuring that its employees are fully engaged with the ethos and purpose of the business will always do better than one which treats staff as no more a necessary evil.
Now, Madam Becky was not talking about employee engagement. She was talking about what gets customers through the door for the first time and then again and again. In her (paraphrased) words, successful businesses are those that communicate to potential customers not only their “what” and “how”, but also their “why” – the driving force, the vision.
However, the parallels to employee engagement are so obvious. Engaging employees is not about the “what” a business does (the products or services), or “how” a business does what it does (the resources and processes). It is about buy-in to the “WHY”, the very reason for its existence. People who understand and are are passionate about “WHY”, will exude that to potential customers and thus enhance the customer service experience from first contact throughout the relationship, which may endure for decades.
An oft-cited exemplar of engagement is of course The John Lewis Partnership. Their “WHY” is – and I quote – “the happiness of Partners through worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business”. This is, in my view, the ultimate in employee engagement, a business that exists for the benefit of the employees. And my goodness, doesn’t it work? I have never yet had a bad experience in John Lewis or Waitrose – have you?
Whilst businesses who exist purely for the benefit of their staff rather than shareholders or investors are relatively rare, there are still plenty of businesses whose employees buy in to the “WHY” and who benefit from employee commitment. Take, as another example, the Save Britain Money Group, currently 5th in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies To Work For. Anyone who knows me will know how much of a fan I am of Call Centre. Like a “house of ill-repute”, it is a difficult business with challenging working conditions (we all know how we feel when we’re cold-called). Nevertheless, they say:
“Our mission is to increase the disposable income of consumers across the UK through money saving products and services. From home energy efficiency to great value insurance products we are saving Britain money.”
If you’ve ever watched The Call Centre on BBC3 you’ll have seen the (in many cases) indirect buy-in to the business mission, often secured with reference to the MD’s catchphrases. My favourite is “SWSWSWN” = Some Will, Some Won’t, So What, NEXT! What a mantra for cold callers.
For anyone who may be wondering at the “WHY” of a “house of ill-repute” (Madam Becky’s words, not mine.), it was in their case simply this: SAFETY, RESPECT, FUN. Anything suggested by a customer that didn’t meet those criteria was rejected. End of. Everyone in the business was empowered to make that call. Anyone who didn’t buy into those values, was out.
Do you have a “WHY”? Have you empowered your employees? Does everyone buy in to your values and do you tolerate those who don’t?
BIG QUESTIONS – I’d love to know your thoughts….