Engaging employees to create magical customer experiences

The role of employees in customer experience and the impact of employee engagement programmes

A tale of a happy customer

After returning from a family trip to Disney World, four-year-old Wes discovered that his new Slinky dog toy was lost[1]. After contacting Disneyland Resort customer support to ask about the toy, Wes’ mother received a call saying that Slinky had been found and would be returned to them free of charge.

The Disney support team took this opportunity to go above and beyond on customer experience. Not only did they include extra toys in the package returning Slinky, they also created a letter and a series of photographs, showing Wes the adventures that Slinky had been with his new friends around the theme park before returning home. Bringing the characters to life and creating magical moments for their guests are key values of the Disney brand, but this exceptional customer experience did more than just demonstrate brand values. Wes’ family shared their experience on Facebook, along with pictures of the toys, letter and photographs. To date, the post has received 108K likes and 98K shares.

Employee engagement

By creating a customer experience exceptional enough to share on social media, the post became viral and the positive brand associations reached thousands.

The role of employees in CX

Disney’s employee philosophy is to continually align the objectives of teams with the common objective of the organisation: to ‘create happiness’[2] by providing exceptional guest experiences. New employees spend several days in a ‘University’ where they are introduced to and trained in the Disney culture. After which, employees are given the resources and freedom to provide exceptional customer experience, as exemplified in the Slinky example above. This investment in employees is reflected in the resort’s 70% visitor return rate and consistently high rankings in customer experience.

Another example of exceptional customer experience is Trader Joe’s, the US food retailer which recently ranked top in Dunnhumby’s Retail Perception Index 2018[3]. Like Disney, which refers to all its employees as ‘cast members’, Trader Joe’s employees are known as ‘crew members’, reinforcing the idea that all employees work together ‘on the same ship’ with a common goal. Trader Joe’s mission statement is to give customers ‘the highest quality of customer satisfaction, delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, fun, individual pride, and company spirit.’ Employees are hired based on these qualities and are given autonomy to deliver the brand promise as they see fit after their initial training. There are countless stories of acts of kindness from Trader Joe’s employees; from delivering groceries for free to an elderly man stranded in a snow storm[4], to giving flowers to a man returning tablets for his dog which had just been put to sleep[5]. When these stories are shared online, they reach thousands of existing customers (and potential customers) improving brand perception on a large scale.

Taking forward a CX employee strategy

Many of the traditional change management frameworks can be applied to frame strategies for engaging employees to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

  1. Reinforce with formal mechanisms: Provide employees with the autonomy and resources to resolve issues or proactively deliver exceptional customer experience
    Example: Pret-A-Manger staff are being given the power to give away up to around £5 a day in hot drinks and food each week to customers as they see fit
  2. Develop talent and skills: In our recent post, we highlighted the importance of emotional intelligence in CX. Staff training should look to upskill employees in self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy and social skills
    Example: Trader Joe’s new recruits reportedly receive 10 days of training in how to deliver exceptional customer experience in store, with a focus on building empathy skills using role play activities[6]
  3. Role modelling: Lead by example. Show that excellent customer experience is a shared purpose at all levels
    Example: Walt Disney would often visit his parks to identify any pain points and delighters that customers encounter, constantly re-evaluating the brand’s customer experience priorities

A happy consequence

Effective employee engagement provides a direct vehicle to improve the experience of customers and the perception of the brand. The engagement also increases employee satisfaction, which positively impacts customer experience and profitability, as demonstrated by the service profit chain[7]. As well as the benefits of improving staff wellbeing and reducing turnover, research indicates that employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction are correlated. In effect, businesses can benefit from an effective employee engagement programme by both directly and indirectly improving the experience of customers, as shown in Figure 1 below.

Further, magical moments in customer experience have been shown to result in significant earned media exposure, as shown with the examples above, which has the impact of marketing without the associated costs (indeed, some would argue genuine virality is priceless). All avenues combined, employee engagement creates what is known as a virtuous cycle, in which the positive consequences of programmes are continuous and far reaching. As a result, companies that engage employees in providing exceptional customer experience report x2.5 higher revenue than companies with low employee engagement[8].

[1] https://www.babble.com/entertainment/lost-toy-story-disney-world/

[2] https://www.disneyinstitute.com/blog/customer-service-101-happiness-is-a-purple-balloon/

[3] https://www.dunnhumby.com/resources/blog/grocery-retailer-preference-index-2018

[4] https://www.zingle.me/blog/trader-joe-tracking-through-the-snow/

[5] https://www.ttec.com/resources/articles/employees-make-your-brand-promise-count

[6] Gardiner, G., Build A Brand Like Trader Joe’s. Bikewriter.com.

[7] James L. Heskett, W. Earl Sasser, Leonard Schlesinger The Service Profit Chain: How Leading Companies Link Profit and Growth to Loyalty, Satisfaction, and Value. New York: The Free Press, 1997.

[8] https://www.qualtrics.com/blog/customer-experience-and-employee-experience-common/