With CX ever more important, recognising the potential of your staff in mobilising a brand experience that is aligned to business goals means that the customer experience journey must begin with internal customer brand engagement, i.e. with your staff. Getting your staff to be brand whisperers, avid advocates and a fundamental part of your brand power is so important for building and sustaining a resonant brand that internal brand engagement should form a core component of your company’s brand strategy.
It may seem possible to ignore it now, but in the long term, those who will win will require brand authenticity which will be carried through a strong image. If this falls at the employee front lines, it will create havoc for sustaining brand image and therefore the equity in your brand. Established brands already do some of this and may worry about it less because they can throw hundred of millions a year at advertising. Businesses without the resources or inclination to do this must focus on cultivating brand loyalty from within the business itself.
As discussed in part 1, your employees are more than just stakeholders, they are your people, they are the also members of your tribe. And they are powerful. They really see what your business is about and are a part of weaving whatever magic external stakeholders see. They are also more forgiving when things go wrong, if they feel part of things, and valued. They will fight for your ideals and they can show the appreciation and commitment on behalf of your business that elicits brand love and loyalty. It is important never to lose sight of this or seem to treat them with contempt or disregard. When people feel they are valued, especially in the workplace, they are more productive and loyal.
As discussed in Part 1, if, as internal customers, they do not buy the brand, if as internal customers they do not believe in your proposition, if they do not help your business play your position, they cannot sell the brand, they cannot influence people to buy into your proposition and certainly will not act to defend your position. You need to give them the tools.
The first part of that is to win them over, like you would and should, your customers. Win them and keep them. They need to stay engaged in order to help achieve the business objectives and correctly portray and reinforce the brand’s image. They are the one factor of continuity in the customer experience and CX chain that cannot be replaced.
Achieving all of the foregoing naturally must be backed by strong values-led policies and practices. What often happens is that for HR purposes, how to give as well as get the most out of people as individuals are often not considered holistically. Many such initiatives are HR Driven – read regulation and legislation driven, meaning the approach is often focusing on covering the back, understandably, of the employer. It starts and ends with HR requirements and risk management protocols. These are crucial but they are not everything – it means that the talk is on point but the walk is or maybe non-existent, with and cognitive dissonance setting in straightaway.
The faultlines crack open and the cracks get wider daily until the experience your customers are led to expect bear no resemblance to what actually happens to them when they engage with your brand. This is a huge shame and an avoidable one. There needs to be an additional approach with your internal customer at the center of the process to help to propel brand engagement that can impact growth.
Below, we broadly explore some key considerations for internal brand engagement.
Engaging your Precious People
- Know what your people ‘look’ like, what they value and understand and endorse their world view. Then find them, recruit them, train them, reinforce, nurture and retrain them. Always keep in mind how critical your staff are to the overall CX.
- Find the leaders and give them the right tools. Identify those who prefer not to lead and expose, refine and utilise their strengths meaningfully and visibly. Lead them all fully, accountably, honestly, transparently and respectfully. Make your people proud and empowered keepers of your brand values and approaches and make sure that this maps to the regulations on how they work. An integrated approach is required and should also have as participants, HR, Marketing and Legal, with parties that are focused on the internal Brand engagement.
- Have a clear and transparent risk and exception framework for when things do not go to plan. Build and maintain trust but be watchful for those who are no longer feeling engaged or involved and ensure there is a plan in place for remedying situations like these. Understanding what is causing apathy or stress may help businesses isolate early on where something is not working well in the business, but having and showing a sincere interest in the employee will influence and help optimise the process you adopt for this process.
- Prioritise people. If and when a transformation is required for the organisation, the impact on people, their comfort, confidence and security must be considered as a high priority when putting options in play and when choosing and implementing a new operating model, implementing new business systems and platforms. How will a new system affect their working lives, how does it change their ability to give the best experience to the customer?
- Have a customer-centric orientation in your organisation. Prioritise CX. Be outward-looking, not insular. Let people understand and believe the importance of the customer and the organisation’s wish to truly serve them and reward them by keeping the brand’s promises.
- Employees must be made to feel included and valued and an internal brand engagement framework should be considered as part of any (CX) Customer Experience Remodel.
There is plenty of evidence that positive work cultures where people feel safe and valued and able to grow to make them more valuable to the business in all kinds of ways. If the future for brands who want to be icons lies in customer engagement and optimised CX, it makes infinite sense to begin and maintain a process of internal customer brand engagement.
Every team member should feel important, valuable and feel they have the capability to perform their role and be happy to have responsibility for doing so.
So, what’s stopping you turning your people into firebrands for your brand? Treat them like they want to be treated. Long term success depends on it.