Inspiring employees to deliver great customer experiences

With retailers such as Toys 'R' Us, Sears, and Claire's closing shop, the industry has learned a big lesson this year. No, it's not that retail is dying. It's that consumer expectations have changed when it comes to the brick-and-mortar retail experience.

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Today's consumers are walking into stores expecting more from brands. They've done their research, are digitally connected, and are looking for top-notch service delivery. According to Google, consumers now research low-end items like toothbrushes or shower curtains before purchasing, let alone higher-value items such as computers or cars. People care about the products or services they're buying. And, they expect a seamless brand experience at every touch point throughout their journey.

For retailers, this means store employees should be fully equipped to deliver a great experience. Research shows there is an un-ignorable link between employees and customer experience. Why? Happy employees lead to happy customers, which leads to stronger loyalty and profitability. According to Gallup, companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147 percent.  

The stakes are high. According to Gartner, 89 percent of companies expect to compete against others based on customer experience alone. If customer experience is the name of the game, why is it that employee experience so often falls to the wayside?

Take Starbucks as a leading example: 87 percent of its customers' affinity for the brand is driven by the way they treat their employees. From offering health insurance to those who work 20 hours a week, to paying for college tuition for full and part-time staff, Starbucks puts their employees first. That investment is certainly paying off in terms of brand value, employee engagement, and the customer experience.

How can retailers replicate what iconic brands like Starbucks are doing to create great experiences? Involving front line employees in the customer experience strategy is a great first step.

Getting your employees on board

To win a customer's loyalty, you need to engage them on an emotional level. To do this however, employees must be emotionally engaged with the brand. That's why a winning customer experience strategy always starts with your employees.

Here are some of the tips we've shared and implemented with global retail and hospitality brands.

First, it's important to help employees understand how their role fits in to your brand vision and values. Give them the context they need to understand the impact of their actions. If you're looking to improve customer experience, keep track of metrics such as customer satisfaction, sales growth, and loyalty. Going back to Starbucks as an example, employees need to understand why it is important that team members ask for a customers' name. They also need to know what value it delivers when they ask a customer if they've had breakfast yet. When employees understand what goes on behind the scenes, they can get a better sense of the bigger picture and the importance of their actions on the metrics being tracked.

Second, make sure you're providing teams with the proper resources and know-how. Help front-line employees become true experts by offering training, support, and a community. By doing so, you can build a workforce that's more knowledgeable and invested in the task at hand. For example, when launching a new limited time offer, employees need to know every detail of the offer. To ensure employees are confident, you should be training them on product details, sharing objectives and numbers to reach, as well as asking for feedback on the plan of action.

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Finally, you should empower employees to make the customer experience their own. Once you've shared the 'why' behind initiatives, trained employees on activating them, and collected feedback, your work is done. Let your front-line staff take it from there. Encourage your teams to personalize customer interactions and create an authentic experience. When you set goals for customer experience initiatives, don't forget to share results and progress along the way, such as the top performing teams for sales or customer satisfaction. Recognizing certain locations, managers, or team members for their hard work can go a long way.

At the end of the day, implementing an employee-first strategy is an important first step in ensuring a great customer experience. And having the right tools in place to execute on this strategy will be key. Given the evolution in technology and the computing power now available in your employee's hands, it may be time to consider a move towards a mobile-first solution for employee engagement, instead of an intranet or print materials. With the right communication strategy and technology in place, you can unlock the potential of your workforce.

Qualtrics introduces the first Employee ExperienceTM management platform that helps companies reduce unwanted attrition, improve employee engagement, develop top performers, and build strong teams, by optimizing the employee experience.


About Qualtrics

Qualtrics is a rapidly growing software-as-a-service company and the leader in experience management. More than 8,500 enterprises worldwide, including more than 75 percent of the Fortune 100 and 99 of the top 100 U.S. business schools, rely on Qualtrics. Our solutions make it easy to measure, prioritise, and optimize the experiences organisations provide across the four foundations of business: customer, product, employee and brand experiences. To learn more, and to request a demo, please visit