Are You Giving Your Employees a Great Experience

flip.jpgI like to talk about the value in delivering great customer experiences, but for retail businesses, which rely on store employees to deliver that great experience, it’s just as important to deliver great employee experiences.

I was standing in line at Lowes yesterday when I heard one employee tell another about his five-year award. From the way he described it, it was clear that Lowes, like most companies, recognize service milestones with some sort of meaningless trinket. This exchange reminded me of my own experience after 20 years with Circuit City in which I received an email instructing me to a website where I could choose from five items (ladies watch, mans watch, golf bag, desk clock, luggage), all of which really conveyed how much the company appreciated my service (sarcasm intended).

A number of studies estimate the cost of recruiting, hiring and training an $8/hour to be between around $5,000. At around 70%, retail has one of the highest industry turnover rates and many companies experience rates significantly higher. To put this in perspective, a big box or specialty retailer with 50,000 employees averaging $8/hour will spend $175 Million each year replacing employees. This cost does not include mistakes made due to lack of experience or the cost of lost productivity.

Why does retail have such a high turnover rate? The chief reasons include the obvious ones (pay and benefits), but also include things lack of job security, inflexible work scheduling, fairness, poor communication and lack of recognition. Much of this boils down to failure of store management to develop good relationships with their employees.

Companies invest every day in customer retention. What would happen if the big box or specialty retailer spent some of that $175 Million a year on employee retention? What if store managers could spend less time recruiting new employees and more time developing better relationships with the ones they have? What if, instead of an e-mail telling your employee to select a 20 year award, you and high level managers or executives wrote personal notes to thank the employee for their service. Would consistently great employee experiences lead to great customer experiences? I think so. What things are important to providing a great employee experience? I like these:

  • Providing good work environment with clear values and goals
  • Ensuring equitable pay and fair treatment
  • Demanding results while caring about people
  • Giving frequent, direct and honest feedback about performance and opportunities
  • Discussing and mapping employees’ careers 18-24 months in the future

What are some other ways to create great employee experiences?

10 comments so far

  1. Tuesday Tidbits « Customers Rock! on

    […] Meacham writes about improving the customer experience by improving the employee experience.  This is critical, as employees are the face of the company to the customer.  I like this part […]

  2. Doug Fleener on

    Hello Doug, this is another Doug. I couldn’t agree with you more that the customer experience starts with employee experience. If the company isn’t engaging and appreciating the employee, why would an employee engage and appreciate the customer?

    One of the best lines I ever read about the employee experience is, “If you want your employees to give service with a smile, you have to first give them something to smile about.” For the life of me I can’t remember where I read that so I’ll claim it myself. ☺ If only more retailers would live that……

    Doug – A fellow Outerbanks vacationer and retailer.

  3. Doug Meacham on

    Becky, Thanks for the “link love”.
    Doug, Thanks for the comment. I’ve subscribed to your blog (great stuff on a topic that I really like). I love the quote.

  4. Connie Smith on

    In a retail environment store employees are not the only ones that deliver customer experiences. Contact center employees have an even tougher job as they do not have that face to face opportunity and rely on a telephone or email conversation to convey to the customer that they value their business.

    Whether you are a store or contact center employee, here are some other ways to create great customer experiences:
    – Recognize and thank employees for a job well done
    – Talk to them about how their position makes a direct impact on the company and the customer
    – Communicate with them frequently and honestly
    – Ask for their opinion on how to improve customer service… after all, they are the direct link to the customer
    – Provide them with the tools and training they need to be successful

  5. jeff jenkins on

    I’m sorry about you getting an email for your 20th year. But at least now you understand clearly your valued role in the organization. The truth, as you finally discovered, is that you are just another expense to management. They don’t hold parties for a stapler or copy machine that somehow lasted for 20 years, why should they hold a party for you?

    Jeff Jenkins
    Computer Problems Gone, Inc.

  6. AppeksSypever on

    very interesting point of view, has never been conceived of this
    wastepaper basket

  7. Mark on

    As a college graduate and former employee of Home Depot I could not agree more with this article. A good part of the reason I do not work there anymore was because of the ineffectiveness of managers to deal with customers and their lack of communication with employees. The scheduling included working almost every single weekend, plenty of evenings but of course they would throw that random 7am shift in as well. Scheduling was made by a matrix and there was plenty of occasions where the department was dead with 5 people standing around and very busy with 1 or less people working at the time. On top of that long time reliable employees were fired on from time to time for butting heads with management on these kinds of things, while many other employees just avoided customers all together and really were there more for show. It wasn’t all bad and I would still shop at Home Depot because they do have great prices and services, but I definately would not recommend it to start a career if you have any degree higher than a GED.

  8. Leslie on

    As important as recognizing my talent is giving me the tools to work with to do my job. A former employer took months to get me computer access to all the pieces and parts I needed to do my job well. I left before being assigned a permanent desk; I scrambled for a year. If my supervisor does his/her job, I’m more likely to be happy doing mine.

  9. theexexec on

    Employee experience remains one of the most important aspects of running a successful company. Too often, companies go through the motion without making a real commitment. Employees today can easily see through this facade. Unfortunately in these hard economic times many companies are taking away things that have always made them stars from an employee experience point of view. I believe that will come back to haunt them in the end.

    Great post about a very important topic!

  10. Day 11 « DIBI on

    […] Meacham, D. 2007, ‘Are You Giving Your Employees A Great Experience’, NextUp blog, weblog, viewed at 3 July 2011, <https://nextup.wordpress.com/2007/09/10/are-you-giving-your-employees-a-great-experience/&gt; […]


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