The South African philosophy of “Unbuntu” is a concept that acknowledges a community’s interdependence on one another – for both individual happiness and the betterment of the community as a whole. In that spirit, I’m exploring a “scratching the surface” look at Communications, HR, Operations, Finance, Product Development and Sales, and their role in designing the customer experience.
Human Resources Role in Marketing
In my last blog, I introduced the concept that, whether you are offering a product or service, your reputation depends almost entirely on the customers’ experience. The individuals that deliver that experience are none other than your employees.
HR’s responsibility for protocols around hiring, training and performance development provides direct impact on setting the tone to produce a sustainable, customer-centric culture. The foundation of the customer-centric culture is the development of your brand promise. HR plays a vital role in formulating the promise your brand makes regarding what customers can expect from their interactions with your organization. (For more on the Employee Brand Alignment and its role across the organization, read Susan Nettles blog on the Seven Steps to Employee Brand Alignment.)
Whether you are in a hiring frenzy or methodically adding employees to meet capacity demands, you should begin with transparent expectation setting regarding each employee’s role in designing the customer experience. Beyond their fundamental responsibilities, each prospective employee should be evaluated on their capability to deliver in a customer-centric culture. Can they think on their feet in a manner that consistently generates applause from your customers, while ensuring profitability for the business? In today’s ultra-competitive environment of abundant choice for customers, we can ill afford to hire bodies, we must hire brains. Businesses that are succeeding prioritize one of Malcolm Gladwell’s tenets in his book Good To Great … they are ensuring the right butts are in the right seats.
HR executives are accountable for the relationship the company has with its employees. The HR function is perceived to be much more effective when employees are aligned and focus their efforts on delivering value to customers. For this reason, HR’s perspective naturally is inside-out and they must apply this perspective in acclimating employees to the importance of delivering value to customers. Then include the employee in the value delivery process. In other words, allow them to make your product and service delivery processes and systems better. What we’re all looking for are employees who take a proactive role in creating a positive customer experience. Remember, the most effective internal branding initiatives take this equation to heart: acclimation + inclusion = ownership.
Performance Review and Development
Hire the right folks, train them, provide them with mentors, invest in their ability to deliver your brand promise, then get out of the way.HR’s efforts to develop a connection between employees, the company and its customers can be most clearly seen after a prospect completes their active evaluation and commits to being a customer. That’s when the customer begins their true journey through the inner workings of your organization. They encounter a set of related interactions that, added together, make up their experience. They do not distinguish between departments (HR, Operations, Finance, R+D). They take them as a cohesive whole. For this reason, ongoing PR&D should incorporate customer service measurements into each and every employees review. Semi-annual reviews can serve as opportunities to remind and clarify any questions that may exist regarding the employee’s role in delivering customer value.
When employees are highly engaged and connected to their role in impacting the customer experience, the result is a strong brand. And that strong internal brand produces high-performance customers that deliver above average revenue, better profit margins and purchase a broader portfolio of products and services. Giddy up!