Engagement Marketing

Employee Engagement: Walking the Walk

In this week’s internal marketing workshop in New Orleans, I had a wonderful group of attendees interested in learning how to better engage employees. They came from a variety of organizations at different stages of internal marketing – ranging from those already doing it (and doing it well) to those just getting into it.

What was disconcerting was hearing about situations where management freely “talks the talk” but doesn’t “walk the walk” … i.e., they green light the launch of new employee incentives and recognition programs but don’t follow through consistently to support them.

Cycle of Cynicism

All this does is create a cycle of cynicism where employees don’t buy into company programs because management has no credibility. Then when faced with motivational programs that don’t work, the clueless in charge approve the creation of yet more initiatives that, without appropriate support & follow-through, are doomed to fail. Frustrated by the waste of resources put into these “flavor-of-the-month” programs, employee cynicism only deepens.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to dealing with this situation. Ideally, someone in the organization needs to convince management of its credibility gap. (“Look, the emperors have no clothes! Or are we into an extreme version of business-casual?”)

Sometimes management just doesn’t get it. So people continue to ride wave after wave of short-lived employee motivation programs.

Crossing the Chasm

If this describes your organization, you need to assess your tolerance threshold:

  • Maybe you can find some amusement in seeing what management is going to come out with next.
  • Maybe you can hang in there despite management.
  • Or maybe it’s time to find a place where management’s credibility gap isn’t an issue.

So have fun with it, hang in there, or best of luck!

Training & Development

Lighten Up!

I’m bummed again … my schedule won’t allow me to attend this really neat conference. You really gotta check this out – The Humor Project Annual Conference, April 8-10th in Saratoga Springs. I was able to get there a few years ago & still highly recommend it. The Humor Project is focused on the positive power of humor … and their conferences (and workshops) are uplifting as well as enlightening. I hope you get the chance to go. (If you do, please post your comments & let me know what you think of it.)

Marketing Training & Development

Reading for Fun & Profit (Share the Wealth)

Looking for a good marketing/business read? Check out Jack Covert’s latest book reviews in the March 1st issue of … there’s bound to be at least one book that will appeal to folks interested in business reading.

No doubt about it, it’s a challenge to make the effort in this age of information overload. But the return is well worth it when you find a book that stimulates your thinking & adds to your wealth of knowledge. Some of the best business people I know (including my husband Michael) make time to read these books.

Fortunately, networking can help reduce the time involved in choosing what to read – getting and giving recommendations on what business books are worth reading.

What was neat for me in checking out book reviews was discovering that I know the reviewer. While we’ve never met in person, Jack Covert & I served together as “screeners” for the American Marketing Association Foundation’s Berry-Book Prize (named for my mentor, Dr. Len Berry, Professor at Texas A&M).

And here’s your chance to do some book networking. The Foundation is currently seeking nominations for the Berry-AMA Book Prize to recognize current books that have had a significant impact on marketing. Check it out to nominate your favorite … and while you’re there, check out the past winners for additional reading ideas.

Customer service Engagement Marketing

It’s the Experience, Stupid!

I used these very words (in the title) in response to a recent post by a colleague Dana (Feb. 21, 2005) ranting about the lack of customer service. Customers have lots of choices these days, sometimes too much. It’s one of the reasons the “customer experience” has become a critical differentiator – treat customers right if you want to keep them coming back.

Too bad more companies don’t get it. I’m seeing this more & more as a business traveler. Wading through airport security … being herded on planes like cattle … and without the amenities we used to get (a small package of pretzels just isn’t enough on a cross country flight). Fellow passengers share the same frustrations, complaining about a particular airline or the industry in general.

On my last trip I heard a traveler comment about some surly airline staff. A few passengers tried to empathize with the staff given the instability of the industry and the fact that their jobs are in jeopardy. (In my experience, it’s only a handful of staff who have poor attitudes. But if they continue to to alienate passengers, their companies may not last much longer.)

My concern is for those airline staff trying to stay positive while taking care of customers. It truly is a delicate balance: as a result of cost-cutting reductions in staff & operations (needed to remain viable), airline staff have less resources at their disposal. (The good news was the last leg of my flight arrived on time; the bad news was we had to wait for baggage handling staff to unload the carry-on luggage.)

Remember, we’re also talking about employees who have taken pay-cuts, given back benefits, or haven’t had salary increases in a while. So yes, we passengers may need to be more understanding & perhaps lower our expectations a bit. At the same time, airline management needs to know it’s not a good experience – for either passengers or employees.

There’s no magic bullet for this. I just hope airline executives & managers are doing their best to be supportive of their employees — recognizing those who continue to take care of customers (despite the situation), while providing remedial attention to those don’t.

(Hint to those employees with a negative attitude: customers aren’t the only ones who have the option to leave!)

Customer service Engagement Marketing

Pop Quiz: Customers 101

Over the years I’ve developed internal marketing as an approach that recognizes the value of employees in serving customers. (Remember my mantra: take care of the employees & they’ll care of the customers.) 

You can use marketing to communicate with, educate, and motivate employees as effectively as you use it to communicate with, educate, and motivate customers. Especially when it’s based on respect — giving employees the tools they need to serve customers and each other (i.e., employees as “internal” customers).

I’m talking about the basics here … letting staff know as much as possible about your customers.  Basic stuff like:

  • who your customers are (e.g., general customer profiles & product usage)
  • what’s important to them in dealing with you
  • how they feel about your organization (from customer satisfaction surveys, complaint tracking)
  • what competitive options they have, etc.

Does any of this info get shared with employees, or is it kept for senior management’s eyes only? Excluding proprietary & confidential data, the more employees know about their customers, the better they can serve them.

Try giving your staff a quiz sometime about your customers (you can use some of the questions listed above). And if the very thought of doing this scares you, it means you have your homework cut out for you. Communicate with & educate your employees about your customers. The results will benefit everyone involved.

Engagement Marketing Training & Development

Special Spring Workshop

I’ll be doing a tutorial session on internal marketing next month at the American Marketing Association (AMA) Spring 2005 Marketing Workshop in New Orleans.  My presentation, Marketing from the Inside Out: Engaging Employees for Strategic Advantage, is scheduled for Monday, March 7th, 2005.

Besides my session, there are a number of other topics that cover strategic marketing, branding, customer loyalty & commitment, relationship marketing, and sales effectiveness.  The wonderful thing about this workshop is that you customize it to meet your needs — by attending only the sessions most relevant to you.

Hope to see you there!  (And if you can’t make it next month, AMA will be doing the workshop again in the fall … we’ll be in Orlando in mid-October.  Check AMA‘s website for more details.)

Engagement Marketing

Art Imitating Life

Check out AirTran Airways ad: “Fired” created by Cramer-Krasselt advertising about an employee who gets a phone call from his boss telling him he’s fired. The boss is living it up at a conference when he makes the call. Then you see the fired-employee getting on an AirTran flight to the conference. Just as the boss is making his speech about how important employees are and how profits are up (yadda … yadda … ), the employee rushes across the stage to tackle the guy. (Right on!)

Unfortunately, too many organizations claim employees as their number one asset, but it’s only lip service.

According to Dilbert creator Scott Adams in The Dilbert Principle, guess what line holds the #1 spot on the list of “Great Lies of Management?” It’s none other than “Our employees are our most valuable asset.”

Human capital … don’t you just love that term? Living, breathing “assets” or pure overhead? … What’s more important than what an organization calls its people is how it treats them. The truly smart, successful organizations are those who value both their customers AND their employees, and they demonstrate their commitment to both groups in their culture and operations. It’s what internal marketing is all about.


Engagement Marketing Musings

Warm & Fuzzy Marketing? Get Real!

Since this is my first post on the new Quality Service Marketing blog, I wanted to tell you about my concept of internal marketing.  It can best be summed up by this quote from hotelier J. W. Marriott: “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your customers.”

It’s a philosophy and corporate culture espoused by Marriott and many others (whom I’ll be citing over time in this blog). And it’s based on the premise that the way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel.

What’s amazing to me is the reaction I get from some executives when I talk about internal marketing. You can see their eyes glaze over as they say to themselves, “Here it comes, the old ‘warm & fuzzy’ stuff.”

On the contrary, it’s not ‘warm & fuzzy’ but crystal clear in that customer relations mirrors employee relations. Here’s the bottom line: if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers!

Unfortunately, too many organizations claim employees as their number one asset, but don’t walk the talk. In this day and age where employees are expected to create a positive experience for customers and deliver on the brand promise, managers can no longer afford to pay lip service to employees. Employees can tell the difference and so can customers!

I’ll have more to share in future posts …