5 Questions Leaders Can Answer to Empower and Engage Employees

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Jun, 10, 2014 @ 10:06 AM

employee empowerment, employee engagement









A lot has been written about the high levels of disengaged employees and the reason employees leave their employer.


Do you have an open and on-going dialog with your employees?


You need to if for no other reason than your employees will only treat your customers as well as you, and your managers, treat your employees.


Wondering what to talk to your employees about?


How about sitting down and sharing with them your answers to these five questions:


  1. Which of your life experiences can serve as an inspiration to your employees?

  2. What can you share that makes you vulnerable and relatable?

  3. What mistakes have you made that helped you become a better leader?

  4. What can you share that personally connects you to your company's vision?

  5. What have you learned from your employees that have helped you in your day-to-day activities? 


The more transparent and open you are with employees, the more trust you will earn. 


Having a face-to-face conversation with your employees, one-on-one or in small groups, lets them know you are human and you care about them as people.


The more they know this, the more they'll be engaged and want to do a good job for you, your company and the customers they serve.


As Theodore Roosevelt said, "No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care."


Getting to know your employees as individuals will let them know you care and will likely make them more empowered and more engaged.


Force yourself, and encourage your managers, to get to know the folks they're managing.


The number one reason an employee leaves a company is a poor relationship with their manager.


As the economy improves, you want to improve your relationships with your best employees to ensure they stay on your team rather than going to a competitor.

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Tags: trust, empower employees, employee engagement, empowered employees, employee empowerment, face to face communications

Core Values: Do You "Walk the Talk" Like Zappos?

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, May, 07, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

Zappos core values








I had the pleasure of going on a tour of Zappos' headquarters a couple of weeks ago when I was in Las Vegas for a voice of the customer (VoC) conference.


I read Tony Hsieh's, "Delivering Happiness," when it was first published and have followed the company ever since.


Zappos' culture is formally defined in terms of 10 core values:


  1. Deliver "WOW" through service.

  2. Embrace and drive change.

  3. Create fun and a little weirdness.

  4. Be adventurous, creative and open-minded.

  5. Pursue growth and meaning.

  6. Build open and honest relationships with communication.

  7. Build a positive team and family spirit.

  8. Do more with less.

  9. Be passionate and determined.

  10. Be humble.


Many companies have core values but they don't really commit to them. They sound more like what you'd find in a press release.


You might learn about the values during your orientation but after that isn't just a meaningless plaque on the wall of the lobby.


Zappos believes it's important to have core values you can commit to.


By commit, Zappos means that you're willing to hire and fire based on them.


If you're willing to do that, then you can build a company culture that's in line with the brand you want to build.


You see that Zapponians "walking the talk" when you tour their facility.


We saw eight to 10 members of the H.R. team welcoming new hires, literally cheering their arrival, at 9:00 on Monday morning.


We saw how the unpretentious, former Las Vegas town hall, offices are designed to encourage interaction and "collisions" between employees to facilitate the free exchange of ideas, friendship and collegiality.


All of these are important for engaged employees.


If they are empowered and engaged all of your employees can become brand ambassadors inside and outside the office.


At the end of the day, if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff -- including building a great brand -- will fall into place on its own.


What are your company's core values?


Do you and your employees "walk the talk?"

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Tags: transparency, trust, values, employee engagement, empowered employees

10 Reasons to Ensure Your Management Team Is In Alignment

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Feb, 18, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

align your management team for greater productivity







Having worked with more than 80 companies over the course of my career, I've had the opportunity to see how companies function, communicate and empower employees.


It is rare to see a company with a management team in alignment with regard to vision, mission, values and strategic positioning.


I daresay most senior managers don't understand the meaning of the words, let alone their importance to the company.


Following are 10 reasons why the management team needs to know what these words mean, as well as what they are for their company:

  1. Misalignment leads to miscommunication -- internally and externally. 

  2. Lack of a vision results management and staff not working towards the same end state since no one knows what they are working towards.

  3. No values, or unclear values, results in lack of understanding, or ground rules, about how to treat each other and customers.

  4. An unclear, or no, mission means no one understands or agrees on the purpose of the company beyond profit or market position.

  5. Lack of a strategic positoning leads to no clear story about what makes your company "different and better."

  6. Employees who are receiving conflicting messages from management are confused, unempowered and disengaged.

  7. Inconsistent messages and stories lead to confusion among prospects and customers. Confusion leads to loss, or lack of, trust. Loss of trust = loss of customers.

  8. Misalignment results in tremendous inefficiencies as employees and departments fail to work together as a cohesive unit or team.

  9. Silos will develop as each department head creates his or her own messaging in an attempt to fill the void.

  10. The conflicting messages that are created to fill the void will lead to greater confusion, inefficiency, miscommunication with customers and dissention between departments.

Have an independent third-party have an in-depth interview with each member of your management team to get their understanding of the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of the firm.


Understanding how they are communicating these to their department heads and how the department heads are communicating to the rest of the staff.


The insights you get from this research will be invaluable and rewarding.


If you find that everything's in alignment, congratulations, well done, keep up the good work.


If you find discrepancies, clarify and rectify them and get everyone on the same page.


If you need any help, give me a call.


Getting your management team aligned will help your company be more productive, your employees will be more empowered and engaged and your customers will be getting a consistent message about what your company stands for and believes in.


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Tags: alignment, consistent messaging, vision, mission, values, empowered employees, strategic positioning

Loyal Employees = Loyal Customers

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Oct, 18, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

loyal employees = loyal customers








Good insights from The Wise Marketer on the correlation between satisfied customers and satisfied employees.

It's easy to get so involved in the intricacies and technicalities of loyalty programs that the most important part - the human aspect - gets neglected.

The technology involved is a marvelous tool - without it, loyalty programs as we know them would not be possible.

But we must remember that loyalty (and its opposite, the desire to simply walk away) are both intensely human emotions. And, unless the program generates an emotional connection with people, it won't work.

We must also remember that humans aren't as predictable as technology.

Actions that might make one person loyal could well turn off someone else. It gets even more complicated: something that could engender loyalty in someone on one day might do the opposite on another day.

Customers are human, and loyalty is a strong emotional link.

Who is more qualified than customers to tell us what customers want, and what they don't want?

One thing is certain, building loyalty will not get any easier. While advances in technology have made loyalty programs more effective, accurate and appealing to customers, these same advances have made it much easier for customers to switch suppliers.

Comparisons of stock, prices, trading policies, delivery times and costs are now readily available to customers. And if the item is to be sent to them, do they care from where it comes?

Many suppliers are apparently equally trustworthy and reputable.

It is important to have some unique property that makes you stand out from the crowd. All other things being equal, a good loyalty program can do just that.

A loyal employee is more valuable than a loyal customer...

Employees are also human, and they bond emotionally with your customers.

The virtuous circle of "customer - employee - shareholder - customer" has become well-known in loyalty marketing.

These groups go together and if the loyalty or even co-operation of any of the groups is lost, the chain breaks.

To be completely successful, they must all work together, supporting each other, to build strong relationships.

According to Frederick Reichheld, the father of the Net Promoter Score, "the only way a company can build a loyal customer base is by building committed relationships with the employees responsible for serving those customers."

In fact, "loyalty leader" companies identified by Reichheld were seen to out-perform their competitors by a factor of 2.2 in the stock market.

Recent research supports the view that top executives are not only realizing the value of employee loyalty, but actually doing something about it.

It would seem that while there is no shortage of businesses that pay lip service to employee loyalty - even featuring it prominently in their company policy - fewer actually have procedures in place that percolate through the business right down to the bottom and exert a real effect.

The days when management could expect undying loyalty simply because they have employed someone have gone forever.

Add to that the fact that in many cases, it's actually the employees near the bottom of the ladder - those who are often treated most poorly and are underpaid - that have most personal interaction with customers, and it becomes clear that there is a problem.

Without loyalty to the business there won't be enthusiasm at the customer facing level, and that's enough to nullify very expensive marketing programs that are intended to show customers how important they are.

In this time of universal cost-cutting resulting in employee cutbacks, fewer employees are being asked to do more and more work and, quite understandably, are becoming demoralized and discontented.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for HR managers to maintain the loyalty of their employees.

And of course, the level of employee loyalty is influenced by factors other than those within an organization.

The state of the general job market has a major effect on whether employees change jobs frequently or not. As more jobs open up, the opportunities to defect increase.

So how should top management approach the challenge of increasing the loyalty of employees?


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Tags: loyalty, net promoter score, connecting emotionally with customers, empowered employees

Know Your Mission to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Aug, 26, 2013 @ 09:08 AM

know your mission to acclerate sales


This is the third in a series of blog posts on the need for a brand platform and the elements there of.

So how to vision and mission differ?

Vision is about the future, the desired end-state you want to achieve.

Mission defines the purpose of the organization in terms of something outside the company, beyond profits or market position. How is your company, product or service make the world a better place? What are you doing to help mankind?

If executed, the mission will ultimately lead to the realization of the vision.

For example, Henry Ford's vision was "To build a car his own workers could afford to buy."

His mission was, "To pass on to the motorist who buys our products, every efficiency possible, in the production of automobiles, from modern methods of procurement, manufacture and assembly."

Disney mission is: "We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere."


Apple's is: "To produce high-quality, low cost, easy to use products that incorporate high technology for the individual. We are proving that high technology does not have to be intimidating for noncomputer experts.

I'm not convinced Apple succeeded on the "low cost" portion of their mission, perhaps "high value" would be more appropriate?

What do you need to consider when developing your mission?

  • Your vision
  • The history and culture of your firm
  • Current preferences of the owners and management team
  • The resources available for achieving the mission
  • Distinctive competencies of the firm -- what makes you "different and better"
  • Current business environment, including your competition

The mission is the second of the four critical elements of the brand platform.

I'll address core values and strategic positions in the next two posts.

What are some other mission statements that resonate with you?

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Tags: dialogue, mission statement, empowered employees, integrated marketing, brand platforms accelerate sales

Build a Brand Platform to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Aug, 22, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

Build a brand platform to accelerate sales


What's a brand platform?

The foundation of a cohesive integrated marketing communications plan.

Why is it important?

Thirty years ago, marketing communications were likely to be in five channels: TV, radio, print, outdoor and direct.

Today, marketing communications, by the marketer and by the consumer, will be in more channels than I can count -- and new channels are coming online every day.

A well though-out brand platform will:

  1. Align the company's goals and aspirations with its resources and capabilities.
  2. Merge the company and its products as a single entity.
  3. Define the elements of the brand and how value is delivered.
  4. Create a consistent and cohesive story that every employee can remember and "own."

To do so, the brand platform must be:

  • Short enough to remember

  • Simple to understand

  • Powerful enough to inspire employees, customers and prospects

It must also resonate with customers' experience with the brand.  Any inconsistency will result in confusion and an erosion of trust for the consumer.

Given this, the company must have a clear understanding of its:
  • Customers
  • Business environment, including the competition
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Opportunities
The company must also empower its employees by ensuring:
  • They understand the brand platform.
  • Have everything they need to provide an outstanding customer experience.
  • They are encouraged to engage the customer in a dialogue that will uncover unmet needs and wants, as well as enhance the relationship.
A lot of companies with whom I've worked take communicating with employees and customers for granted.
The managment team thinks they already know what's on employees' minds and what customers want.
Every time I have conducted interviews with employees, customers or prospects my clients have learned at least two things that had never occured to them.
These insights result in a more effective brand platform and result in increased sales, improved products and services and more effective communications.
Don't miss an opportunity by assuming you already know what someone thinks without talking to them. Failing to do so can hinder your success.
With a well-developed brand platform, the company will emerge publicly as an organization with its culture, values and products in total alignment:
  1. One brand
  2. One set of values
  3. One consumer promise
  4. One face
  5. One, consistent, voice
Subsequent blog posts will address the elements of the brand platform: vision, mission, values and strategic positioning. Stay tuned.
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Tags: dialogue, empowered employees, integrated marketing, brand platforms accelerate sales

11 Rules for Customer Retention

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Aug, 16, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

11 rules for customer retention









Thanks to The Wise Marketer for the list.  

I've added my thoughts to each based on my experience:

  1. Don't just collect data -- use it.  Let your customers know that you hear what they're saying and here's what you're going to do based on their feedback.
  2. Treat customers the way you'd like to be treated.  I suggest treating your employees the same, since that's how they will treat your customers.  Your employees will not care about your customers if you don't care about your employees.
  3. Be different -- if you dare.  What are your vision, mission and values? How does that make you different and better than your competition?  Does your consumer confirm what you think?
  4. CRM doesn't belong only to the CRM team.  Everyone needs to be involved and empowered to know, use and update data in the CRM.  Otherwise, the data will not be current.
  5. Timing goes a long way.  Know the key dates in your customers' lives -- their birthday, their anniversary, the day they need to replace a part on the product they bought from you.
  6. Be interested and get to know your customers.  The goal is to have a dialogue that can lead to a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship.
  7. Make the most of your advocates.  Do you know who your raving fans are?  Have you asked them for referrals?  Testimonials?
  8. Try to create "surprise and delight."  If you do, they'll tell their friends via social media which is invaluable to your marketing.
  9. Measure, measure, measure.  Identify key metrics based on your firm's goals and objectives.
  10. Stay relevant and show value quickly.  Reward people for signing up for your newsletter.  Give them a gift for doing business with you.  When Amazon just sold books, they always sent a bookmark with the order.
  11. Keep your employees involved.  Happy employees = happy customers.

What are your essentials for customer retention?

Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: customers for life, customer satisfaction, customer retention, genuine interest, empowered employees, customer bonding programs

Are You Providing an Outstanding Customer Experience?

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Aug, 09, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

provide an outstanding customer experience


Over the course of my career, I've worked with more than 80 clients and companies in 18 different vertical industries.

My goal in working with each was to identify their strategic positioning -- the long-term positive differentiation of their product service or brand.

I also attempted to identify the vision, mission and values of the firm; however, many clients did not share my believe of the importance of these three core fundamentals of the brand and would forego any discussion of these items.

Vision, mission, values and strategic positioning are still important underpinnings of the marketing of any product or service.  They must be inculcated into your brand, lived by leadership and understood and reinforced by every member of the team, especially, at every consumer touch point.

This is even more important today, because the customer experience is more important.

Your customer-facing employees need to understand, and enthusiastically reinforce, your vision, mission, values and strategic positioning in order to deliver a consistent and outstanding customer experience that will keep customers coming back, buying more and telling their friends about you.

That is how mom and pop retailers survive versus Wal-Mart, it's why Southwest is more profitable than any other airline, it's why Apple keeps selling products and services at premium prices.

Nordstrom's just armed their sales staff with 6,000 mobile point-of-sale devices so customers can buy what they want without standing at the register waiting for the sales person to ring them up.

If you provide a superior customer service, people won't be price shopping you.  They'll be coming to you because they know you provide the best value (a.k.a., customer experience) for the money.

Additionally, if you provide your customers with an outstanding customer experience, they're likely to go home and tell their friends about it and shre it on their social network.

What are you and your company doing to provide an outstanding customer experience?

Do you know how your customers would define an outstanding customer experience?

I can assure you there are as many different answers as you have customers.  Just ask them.

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Tags: outstanding customer experience, connecting emotionally with customers, satisfied customers, raving fans, empowered employees

Customer-Facing Employees are Your Brand

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Aug, 07, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

customer-facing employees are your brand


I'm not a frequent flyer.  I might take six to eight flights a year.  

When I have a choice, I fly American because I've had consistently good experiences with them over the past 30 years and my dad used to fly 100,000 miles a year with them.

I've been surprised to see them ranked so low in customer satisfaction ratings.  However, as I said, I'm not a frequent flyer let alone a "road warrior."

I returned from my annual trip to the Final Four and was on AA flight 820 from MIA to RDU (I had to fly from NOLA to MIA to get to RDU).

A lady in front of me was experiencing some discomfort, feeling faint or low blood pressure, nothing major I later found out.

The care, concern and compassion by one flight attendant, Angell Marie Keenan, blew me away and made American Airlines tops in providing outstanding customer service in my book.

One person showing true caring and compassion to one customer.  That's ultimately what customer service, and an outstanding customer experience, is about.

I'm sure American Airlines, and all other airlines, provide significant training for their flight attendants, just like doctors go to med school,  However, the attitude of the person when they're interacting with the customer, or the prospect, is everything.

If you are investing in, and empowering your employees, please share this story with them.

Ritz Carlton is famous for providing over-the-top customer service.  Yesterday, American Airlines provided that level of service in one customer's eyes due to the actions of a single flight attendant.

It was a very powerful scene and reinforces the importance of customer-facing employees showing care and compassion for the customer -- a classic "moment of truth."

What are you doing to instill this in your employees?

By the way, I did write a letter to the president of American Airlines telling him about Ms. Keenan's actions and urging him to recognize her for the service she provided and the positive impression she made.

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Tags: customer satisfaction, connecting emotionally with customers, genuine interest, empowered employees

Say "Thank You" to Customer Complaints

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Jul, 25, 2013 @ 06:07 AM

Getting your customers to complain is invaluable


The Corporate Executive Board Financial Services Practice Operations Council released a study which found that 90% of financial services customers do not complain when they have an unsatisfactory experience.

Perhaps this is why four banks and two insurance companies account for six of the top 10 providers of poor customer service (

Operations executives at financial services firms are focused on addressing customer complaints and service problems. 

However, by only focusing on those customers that do complain, operations executives are only addressing the 10% of the problem they know about. Ninety percent of problems are not being addressed.

This situation is not unique to financial services. It's a problem in every industry. This just happens to be the industry study I came across most recently.

The topic goes back to the message on the home page of my website and the title of this post -- "Getting Your Customers to Complain is Invaluable."

As Zig Ziglar said, "Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it.  The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business."

In the Corporate Executive Board study, 80% of customers who don't complain defect.

When I worked on a cellular client's customer satisfaction measurement and improvement business, we had significant data that showed that customers who complained were less likely to churn, move to another carrier, than those who never complained.

That's why getting your customers to complain is invaluable. If they don't say anything, you'll never know what needs improving.

What are you doing to get your customers to complain?

Have you empowered your employees to get customers to complain?  Do they know this is a good thing and not a bad thing?

By the way, when your customers do complain make sure the first two words out of your, or your employees', mouth are "thank you!"

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Tags: improve loyalty and retention, getting your customers to complain is invaluable, customer satisfaction measurement and improvement, empowered employees