What do bookkeepers, receptionists, delivery drivers and sales reps have in common? Whether front of house, a delivery driver doing the rounds, accounts balancing the books or a rep on the road, all employees are internal stakeholders for any business and can influence how customers relate to your organisation.
Sometimes the link may be more obvious than others. But in one way or another all of your staff have a role to play in the success of your business. Like the proverbial links in a chain, they can all make a difference between a returning customer or one you never see again, so it stands to reason that nurturing your internal relationships is key. Yet experience shows it isn’t always an area than garners much attention.
Clearly it’s important to ensure your customers understand what product or service you’re offering, why they need it and why you’re different to anyone else. But at the same time, how well do your own employees understand your point of difference? Do they ‘get’ your brand? Do they understand the bigger picture for your business? Do they even fully appreciate how they’re expected to interact with your customers?
Employees are your strongest brand ambassadors.
Whether they’re 100% customer facing or tucked snuggly away in the back office, your employees are your ultimate brand ambassadors. One way or another their satisfaction within the business reflects upon your customers, both positively and negatively, every day.
Apple employees, for example, are referred to not as staff, but as ‘internal customers’. They’re hired, motivated and empowered to do what is right for Apple customers. This all helps contribute towards the overall brand experience in physical stores and online and a seamless and positive customer experience at every touch-point. Every time.
No matter what industry you operate in, customer experience comes with a certain expectation so whether you’re an online business or a face-to-face service, consistency is everything for your customers. It helps to build trust, confidence and, ultimately, greater business success.
Do your employees understand your vision and values?
When employees fully understand – and buy into – your vision and value proposition, external marketing becomes so much more effective. Why? Simply because the better your own team understands the bigger picture, the better they understand how to deliver the brand experience that reinforces it – whatever role they might play in your business. The same applies when it comes to understanding your brand values and what they mean to your customers.
Beyond your team, it’s also critically important to ensure all aspects of your business are aligned to your values from the top down. This includes your intermediaries. Whether they’re distributors, external sales representatives or agents they also influence the wider brand experience of your customers.
Whilst there’s no question brand values can be a useful tool to establish whether a potential new hire or supplier is right for your business, it’s not the be all and end all. Consider the induction processes you provide. Can you immerse these newcomers into your business and engage them in the values from the outset? Do you have a manifesto, a brand book or simply a document that explains ‘how we do things’ to ensure they feel a part of the brand as early as possible? If not, it’s something well worth exploring.
Using internal marketing to creating good external customer relationships.
Great internal marketing helps drive great external marketing to customers, suppliers, distributors and other intermediaries. Fortunately, internal communications have changed with advancing technology like email, mobile and online meeting software to enable far closer collaboration and transparency.
Of course, whilst technology can certainly enhance collaboration sometimes there’s nothing better than a face-to-face internal marketing to help create a real sense of unity, transparency and purpose within a business. It could quite simply be the ‘all company meeting’ on a Monday morning to get everyone up to speed on how the business is going, personal news, growth opportunities and new business. It’s also a great forum for sharing information and providing accolades for staff who’ve been delivering excellent performances against your brand values.
Monthly presentations from the senior management can also keep your employees engaged in the business, by staying aware of business health, new clients, changes in industry policy, as well as individual performance recognition. The more informed and aligned your staff are, the more impact they can have on driving positive customer experience.
Training your employees in this way (it may not seem like training, but it certainly is) leads to better performance and internal customer value through recognisable encouragement and investment from senior management. Enabling your employees to be more proactive and take more responsibility provides a sense of pride and also personal achievement which, ultimately, can greatly strengthen their commitment to the business.
Establishing good customer relationships.
Healthy internal relationships contribute to good external customer relationships. With a commitment from the management to nurture internal customers, all employees will be clearer on their role within the company and more motivated. Providing information and learning support provides employees better opportunities to understand the market and their customers. Better customer service is also a source of competitive advantage and this can be supported by better internal communications.
Listen and learn
One of the most important things to consider is how you improve your internal marketing by listening to your staff. This doesn’t have to be ‘death by survey’, but merely a health check for you to gauge if there are things that can be improved which can in turn bolster productivity, employee satisfaction and better customer value. If you see your staff as ‘internal customers’, then consider getting a better insight from them on how they can help contribute to better business success. In the end this benefits everyone, both inside and outside your business.