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Inspiring Loyalty

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Having developed training solutions based around Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, FranklinCovey specializes in improving business performance through changes in human behavior and other world-class business improvement content in the areas of leadership, execution and trust. Recently, FranklinCovey took all of the leadership and customer satisfaction knowledge that it has gained over the past 20 years and launched its Leading Customer Loyalty program, a one-day training session for frontline leaders that focuses on FrankinCovey’s three principles for earning loyalty in any relationship: empathy, responsibility and generosity. 

Sandy Rogers, global customer loyalty practice leader, who has been working with FranklinCovey since 2006, explained to FenderBender the importance of gaining employee loyalty and touched on how the program works.

What are some of the main takeaways from the Leading Customer Loyalty program? 
At FranklinCovey, we’ve discovered that over 70 percent of customer satisfaction is determined by the behavior of frontline managers. If frontline employees are not providing a stellar experience for the customers, chances are that customer will not remain loyal. Changing this type of behavior can be difficult because frontline managers are often promoted to leadership positions because they are really good at repairing cars, not necessarily because they know how to lead. These employees haven’t learned how to model, teach, and enforce loyalty among the staff. The training is focused on giving frontline leaders the methods they need to do this.

What’s the first step in creating loyal customers? 
Before you can have a loyal customer, you need to have loyal employees. The customer experience will never exceed the employee experience. If an employee is miserable, he or she will not provide a good experience for the customer. If he or she is bubbly and happy, that will play out wonderfully with the customer. Employee loyalty is a prerequisite for customer loyalty. 

How do you gain employee loyalty?  
It’s pretty simple: Treat employees the way you would like to be treated. Treat them with empathy, responsibility and generosity. Those are the three key principles we teach in the Customer Loyalty program. In addition to those principles, there are two loyalty practices. For empathy, we teach how to make a human connection. You can’t show empathy if you’re not making a human connection. For responsibility, we teach going behind what the employee or customer is saying to find out what they really need. It’s not always necessarily the first thing that comes out of their mouth. 

Some specific tips for gaining employee loyalty are offering praise, being flexible with schedules to allow them to do the things that are important to them, and remembering their birthdays or important life events

How do you earn trust and show employees you’re open to suggestions? 
One of the most powerful ways to do this is by asking your team for suggestions on how to make more customers happy. Then, write down all of the ideas, vote on the best ones and implement them. This process honors and respects the insight that employees have from serving customers and gives employees ownership for improving the customer experience. Everyone wants to feel like a valued member of a winning team pursuing an important missions. Asking for and acting on feedback goes a long way.

Why is gaining employee loyalty so important? 
According to a 2012 MetLife study of employee benefits, one in three employees hopes to be working for a different employer within the year. Creating loyal employees can save companies money in turnover. Also, the employees that already have one foot out the door are not going to be the employees that are creating a great customer experience.

How can a leader measure whether or not they are inspiring loyalty? 
At FranklinCovey, we suggest administering a very short, anonymous employee survey. The survey ranks answers from 0 (not at all) to 10 (very likely). The questions we suggest asking are:

  • How likely are you to recommend your location as a place to work?
  • How likely are you to recommend your leader as someone you would want to work for?
  • What’s the most important thing your location should do to satisfy the customer? (write-in response)

Leaders that rank low on this survey are not doing a good job. For shops that only have a few employees, an anonymous survey won’t work. In those situations, I suggest having sit-down discussions with each of the employees. In order to get honest responses, it’s important to be open to criticism and not go on the defense. Leaders should ask their employees what they can do to help them out in their roles. Leaders need to show that they are trying to make things better for their employees. A frontline manager must be committed to understanding an employee’s needs in a way that makes the employee feel like their leader is invested in their development. Once issues have been brought up, leaders need to show that they are working on making those issues better. That will inspire loyalty. 

What does effective frontline leadership look like? 
An effective leader believes in the principles of empathy, responsibility and generosity. They know how to listen to people, they can take responsibility, they follow-up with people and they want to strengthen relationships. They go the extra mile. Leaders that inspire loyalty will recognize when people do things right rather than point out things that they’ve missed. If a frontline leader is not empathetic, they will not inspire loyalty. I do believe that people can be taught empathy. FranklinCovey produces videos and demonstrates what empathy is. We can provide exercises to build that empathy.

How does all of this transfer over to building a loyal customer? 
There are a number of different methods that organizations use to build loyalty. Consumers are aware of these different techniques but it all comes down to the customer experience. You can have the best loyalty program in the world, but if your customers are not having a good experience, that’s not going to matter. Our mission is to give businesses the skills they need to provide a better experience more consistently. We want to move employees from good to great and building loyalty within a company is key in doing that.

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