After a number of years in the market research industry, I have now been a happy participant in the Human Resources sector for just over a year now working with organisations that are keen to improve their people-related performance.
During this time there is one thing I have noticed which I would like to bring to the table. Too many times, I seem to pick up on sentiment suggesting that HR is under pressure to justify value. Know this – if the company you work for has happy customers, chances are that you have significantly contributed to this. Is there any greater value?
Before I start, I should explain that the position I am coming from is one of first-hand experience. In the 8 years prior to my current role, I have had both HR and Marketing reporting through to me, have worked for both large international organisations and smaller private companies, and been heavily involved with a lot of market research involving customers.
1. Happy, repeat customers are everything
For most companies, customers are essential. Without them, most organisations will struggle to survive. Wouldn’t it be awesome if customers just turned up all by themselves, paid the asking price for whatever product or service your organisation is offering, and not only kept coming back, but told everyone they knew about it? Yeah right!
For most organisations, this is simply a pipe-dream. It takes a whole lot of effort (often combined with a bit of luck) to not only win customers, but retain them in the long-term.
2. Happy employees create happy, repeat customers
My experiences have convinced me beyond any shadow of a doubt that long-term business success comes from being able to attract and retain happy customers. And one of the most important lead indicators of customer satisfaction is happy, positive and committed employees who are focused on the customer. Almost exclusively, organisations rely on employees to be successful:
– Employees discover potential problems
– Employees deal with customer problems
– Employees have ideas which turn into new product opportunities
– Employees suggest improvements to processes which improve the customer experience
– Employees ensure products and services remain relevant in the market
I know you get my point.
No matter how good a particular product or service is, things change. Today’s successful but complacent organisation is tomorrow’s unfortunate case study.
Customers don’t just spend their money with anyone, and they can be fickle. One bad experience can lose customers forever, and in today’s social-media age, one disgruntled customer can wipe a business out completely with a bad review on a trusted site. An average experience is not going to keep customers coming back either. In other words, customer loyalty is no accident, and takes a concerted effort internally to ensure everyone in the business is focused on the customer.
3. Continuously measure ‘Customer Focus’
HR has a major influence on the ability of an organisation to be customer-focused. Starting right at the beginning of the employment journey (yes, right from the first interview), HR helps to establish and reinforce a customer-focused mindset within an organisation. And for this reason, it is a metric that should be regularly monitored. It isn’t something to simply throw into an engagement survey conducted every 12-24 months, it is too important. To achieve this, HR can use simple tools like Employee Life (www.employeelife.com) to monitor performance against such important metrics on a more regular schedule. Picking up on any loss of focus towards customers allows for quick corrective action before it is too late. Proactively ensuring that all employees (not just outbound sales people) are focused on the customer can be an important contribution by HR to the success of the organisation. Most importantly, it is something which can be measured. Is there any greater value than contributing to happy, repeat customers? If there is, I would like to hear about it.
The final word
So to everyone in the Human Resources industry (yes I am including all aspects of HR), imagine being credited with helping to attract and retain happy, repeat customers? Any HR Leader who can justify this would have a seat at my senior leadership table anytime.
And if you are having trouble convincing your CEO/MD or Marketing Manager that your role impacts directly on customers, give me a shout. I would be happy to help change their minds.
Jason Buchanan – General Manager; Insights & Innovation