Think great customer service and the first company that comes to the mind is Zappos. This despite the fact that the brand doesn’t deliver products in many countries, including mine. But who can ignore the amazing stories one hears from both its customers and its staff about the company’s commitment to being customer-centric. So much so that even after its acquisition by Amazon, it still has a freehold in the way it manages its customers! So what makes Zappos click for everyone? A complete alignment of the company’s leadership and its employees to its vision statement – Deliver WOW through service.

Zappos’ employee engagement culture includes a few innovative and interesting employee encouragement programs such as providing a WOW parking slot closer to the office building for a week for an employee who has gone above and beyond their call of duty to deliver great customer experience, to several fun rewards, open acknowledgement and public thank yous to those who accomplish goals aligned to the company’s vision – both monetary and non-monetary. And the outcome is what the world has been hearing constantly.

Employee engagement is being enmeshed into organisational culture as an integral ingredient today. A large number of companies – small and big – have realised that the more their employees are educated about their brand’s vision, the stronger is employee commitment towards this vision and this results in better customer engagement. Strong emphasis is being laid on centering all activities around the company’s vision to seamlessly align employees across all departments and levels of the hierarchy to the goal. And there’s a massive reason to it.

According to our Employee Engagement studies we’ve found four consistent findings that result in a brand’s financial success:

Passion, Purpose & Leadership – The Key Ingredients of Impactful Employee Engagement

Take Google for instance. The search engine giant has a policy around every employee spending 20% of their work time indulging in activities outside their normal work function. This freedom to do what they like has helped Google’s employees tap into their creativity and think out of the box, which in turn has empowered them to contribute creative ideas and solutions that has strengthened the company. With employees being made a part of the company’s growth, Google’s engagement of its employees has translated into its gigantic global presence.

Empowerment of employees comes in a myriad ways, and in some it’s just a matter of designation that makes a world of a difference. John Lewis, a high-end department store in the United Kingdom, refers to all its employees as partners. This one word awakens in its staff a sense of feeling valued and evokes strong emotions of ownership; and this translates into high performance levels. It brings in a sense of personal responsibility and empowerment that results in commitment towards providing great customer experience at a personal level. Hyatt is another brand that fits this bill. The luxury hotel chain that boasts of high employee retention can attribute a key force towards its practice of addressing its employees as associates. All its associates are encouraged to creatively resolve each guest’s concerns without referring to a hardcoded rule book, thus making them feel responsible towards the business’ success and champion its vision.

These are just a few examples. Unfortunately, there are only few companies across the world that have integrated powerful employee engagement concepts to channel all the energies of their organisation towards delivering great customer experience. And at the crux of this lies the efforts of the leadership. On the positive side, this is a fantastic opportunity for all other companies that are committed to making a positive impact to adopt best practices in employee engagement.

If I have to liken an organisation to a marching band, I would look at the leadership as the drum beater. From beating the rhythmic base sound for the rest of the band to time their pace – be it fast or slow – and from waving the baton to direct formations during a march, the drum beater leads the marchers in the intended direction and organises them the way he plans – and the marchers follow the directions with precision and with faith. In an organisational set up engagement has always been meant to be the highest at the lowest level of the corporate hierarchy. Let’s go back to Zappos. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, is known to popularly say – “Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes”. This is a powerful message broadcast down the line for every staff member that their focus must be centred on the customer’s happiness. It’s the company’s vision and why it does what it does – and this translates into its mission of selling shoes successfully.

As I sign off this article, here are a few questions for you to ponder about:

  1. Are your employees aware of and are they committed to your brand’s strategy and direction?
  2. Does your Leadership result in staff providing discretionary effort?
  3. Do your employees feel cared for, valued and supported?

If even one is missing from the matrix, you might be in trouble.