The link between customer experience and employee engagement: More art than science

Amazing Graffiti by Banksy close to the Roundhouse - Camden Town, London
Creative Commons License photo credit: canonsnapper

A couple of days ago I was asked to go and speak to a large financial services firm about engagement, both customer engagement and employee engagement and the link between the two of them.

What was and is interesting is the rising consciousness amongst many firms of how connected employee engagement is to delivering a great customer experience, customer service, retention, loyalty and, thus sustainable business performance.

Moreover, Bruce Temkin in a recent blog post (Discussing 13 Customer Experience Megatrends), puts ‘Employee engagement enlightenment’ at the top of his draft list of 13 Customer Experience Megatrends, which his research tells him “will have a significant effect on customer experience over the next few years.”

Isn’t all of this self-evident?

RARE Business title graphic

I mean, how can we expect employees to take care of customers if the business does not trust, recognise, support and treat them well too?

Or, is it more complicated than that?

Many businesses will look for process, system and technology fixes and assume that more and better internal communications or more surveys will increase engagement. It might. But, I don’t think there will be any guarantees with those type of initiatives.

Why? Well, if we look at different sources of what drives engagement:

The Institute for Employment Studies goes onto to advocate that if you don’t get the basics right then any other initiatives are destined to fail.

What basics? These include:

  • Good immediate management
  • Two-way communication that is listened to, responded to and acted upon
  • Effective team work and cooperation
  • A focus on developing people and giving them the tools and the skills that they need to do the job that they are being asked to do
  • Commitment to employee wellbeing and looking after the person not just performance; and
  • Clear, understood and agreed policies, practices and ways of working that are accepted and committed to by all eliminating the one rule for us and another for them syndrome.

There is a lot of ‘science’ in that list of basics but there is a lot more ‘art’ than we would normally acknowledge.

From Wikipedia’s definition of Employee Engagement:

“An “engaged employee” is one who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about their work, and thus will act in a way that furthers their organisation’s interests.

According to Scarlett Surveys:

“Employee Engagement is a measurable degree of an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job, colleagues and organisation which profoundly influences their willingness to learn and perform at work”.

Thus, engagement is distinctively different from employee satisfaction, motivation and organisational culture.”

Much of employee engagement is about relationships. The relationship an employee has with their job, their colleagues, their customers and their organisation. And, relationships are all art and very little science.

So, let’s not sweep the art under the carpet and start getting better at it.

What do you think?

27 comments On The link between customer experience and employee engagement: More art than science

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  • Hello Adrian
    Lets look at this at a different level.

    When I look at young children I notice that they are naturally engaged, totally immersed, in some stuff and not others. I notice the same with adults. I also notice that young children feel content/happy/safe/loved by some people and not others – when the are in the company of people who act as secure bases, the children are expressive – they come alive and I have been blown away by their amazingness. I notice the same with adults. I notice that some environments (houses, rooms, playgrounds, beach….) bring out the best in children and others close children down. I notice the same with adults. Finally, I have noticed that children will do stuff that is unpleasant if they totally get that doing this stuff is essential to some higher purpose – like going around asking adults to contribute to a charitable cause even when many adults ignored them. I have noticed the same with adults.

    We know what lifts us up as human beings and brings out the best in us:

    Pursuit of a noble purpose – in line with a purpose that touches our hearts, makes us shed a tear, brings forth joy when we think about being in the service of that service. Incidentally, pursuit of profits to line up shareholders pockets and pay £m+ in bonusses to the Tops does not lift us up.

    An environment that makes us feel safe and calls us into being/doing that which is in accordance with the noble purpose;

    Secure bases – people, resources, places that we absolutely know that are there for us and we can turn to if we are struggling and/or taking on stuff that threatens our sense of ourselves, our social standing, our financial prosperity or our physcial well being. Think about the safety net and what it does for the trapeze artists. How many of them would reach that level of excellence without the safety net?

    Community – experiencing being a part of a community that is up for the same noble purposes, where you listened to, talked to, treated as a unique human being of worth, who matters, who is up for and doing great stuff.

    Self-expression, creativity, learning and development – we feel fully alive only when we are expressing ourselves as who we are (what really matters to us), creating stuff not just following the process/script, learning (About ourselves, others, the world at large) and developing towards our ideal self.

    Now the issues is that the corporate world (which after all is modelled after the school and the army) is almost the opposite. Fear is rampant, greed is rampant, self-expression and creativity are stifled….. Until this is addressed then all the employee stuff is simply putting lipstick on s**t. And the people in the organisation know that even if the Tops and their advisors kid themselves otherwise. Just stop and take a look at the word “empowerment”. Free men are empowered else they would not be free. Only slaves are not empowered and therefore only slaves can be empowered to do x, y, z – and they are still slaves because their degree of freedom is determined by their masters and can be altered at any time, according to any whim.

    How do slave work best? Through the whip on their backs and the constant threat of the whip.

    What is the access to ending slavery? The competition – the boat that is manned and captained by free men in pursuit of a noble purpose, where everyone matters, there is genuine teamwork and ‘no member is ever left behind’ no matter what the cost.


    • Hi Maz,
      What a great and thoughtful comment. I think that you are spot on when you speak to ‘noble purpose’ as the a big part of the means of inspiring and motivating us to do great things and help others around us succeed. However, I don’t think the command and control structure that you allude necessarily prevents that. Particularly, when you mention the army and noble purpose they are not, I believe, mutually exclusive. In fact, when you say ‘no member is ever left behind’ this is a mantra that is adopted by many, if not all, of the forces whether military or otherwise. Therefore, yes I agree that ‘noble purpose’ is part of the ‘art’ that is needed to really created an engaged group of people but it is not the only thing and there are, as Herzberg would call them other ‘hygiene’ factors, that we need to really take care of and not ignore too.

      What sayeth you?


  • It does strike me Adrian that if people don’t like there jobs they won’t be very good at them.

    I know that this is truly stating the bleeding obvious, I am afraid I am not as eloquent or thoughtful as Maz.

    • Hi James,
      Perhaps not as in-depth a comment as Maz’s but certainly pithy, to the point and on the money.

      Presents a big challenge to recruitment. I, particularly, like the approach taken by Zappos where towards the end of their induction process they offer their new recruits $2,000 to quit as a way of testing their resolve and commitment to what they are trying to do. No place for clock watchers in that business.

      Wonder if we’ll see that being adopted in the UK? Would it work in your business?


  • Pardon me, but I attempted to email you in regard to something on your site but the given e-mail address didn’t work. Is there an alternative place I might get a hold of you?

  • Hello, is your site having any troubles recently? I had to refresh the article about eight times before the 503 error went away and I could look at this post!

    • Hi Iris,
      Had a couple of issues yesterday, I think. Apologies for any inconvenience. Should be fine now.
      Hope to see you here again soon.

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  • Hey this is a great post . Can I use a portion of it on my site ? I would obviously link back to your page so people could view the complete post if they wanted to. Thanks either way.

    • Yes, of course, you can quote a portion of this site but please make sure that you clearly show the source of the material. Thanks, Adrian

  • Could there be a problem with the Style sheet here? I can’t make out anything here without highlighting it with the mouse, because it’s all black. I’m using Firefox if it makes a difference.

    • Sorry for any problems that you are experiencing. I’ve checked the post and all seems to be well now.

      Hope to see you here again,


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