Perception, trust key to customer brand – and, therefore, employer brand

To attract the best and brightest talent, it’s about aligning your brands

Imagine you have just had a really poor customer experience with a company. Would you want to work for it? And if a company went above and beyond to delight you as a customer, would you be more inclined to take a call from one of their recruiters? 

How people perceive an organization as consumers, the trust they build in that organization to serve them well and behave respectfully, affects how they perceive them as a potential place to work. And we all know no business strategy can be successful without the right people to execute it. 

So if a company wants to attract and retain the best talent, there needs to be a deliberate effort to align its customer and employer brand.   

Why is this alignment increasingly important?
• The lines between internal and external continue to blur. The walls of the organization are no longer thick; through social media, they’re more like thin blinds that are open most of the time. It takes a long time for a company to build a good reputation and, nowadays, just the click of a mouse to destroy it.

• The credibility of a brand is no longer based just on how a company delivers the customer promise; it’s about how it interacts with each of its audiences — starting with employees. 

• Trust is the new currency — we live in a hyper-connected world where transparency is expected. Ninety-six per cent of job seekers say it’s important to work for a company that embraces transparency, according to Glassdoor.  

Five steps to success
So, how do we go about it? There are five steps:

1. Always start with your organizational culture. It’s your DNA. A strong culture is the starting point to both customer and employee value propositions. Any value proposition, whether for customers or employees, must meet three criteria:

• Be compelling, so relevant and attractive to your target segment.  

• Differentiate: Establish what sets you apart from competitors.

• Be authentic: Reflect what your organization is genuinely about.

It is relatively easy to design a value proposition to be compelling and differentiating. It is a lot harder to make it authentic unless it is rooted in the core values and culture of the organization. 

2. Articulate your customer value proposition to clearly define and communicate to customers and prospects the value of doing business with you. Then ensure that everything is lined up to make the desired outcome inevitable, meaning happy customers. 
This includes internal processes but also, and very importantly, step three below, which is sometimes omitted. 

3. Ensure employees know how to deliver the customer value proposition, so the customer experience matches or exceeds customer expectations. Fewer than 50 per cent of employees believe in their company’s brand idea, according to 2013 research by branding consultancy Lippincott, and even fewer are actually equipped to deliver on it. 

Employees need to know how the customer promise translates into their day-to-day job, what behaviours they need to live by to exceed expectations consistently, in every interaction — particularly unsupervised interactions. 

They need to be empowered to solve problems for customers, so not only understand and believe in the customer promise, but be equipped with the tools and resources they need to deliver it. And, above all, they need to be passionate about customer experience. 

Reactionary service is no longer competitive and passionate people are more likely to anticipate customer needs, and go above and beyond to meet them.

For the whole organization to rally behind outstanding customer experience, it is vital to translate the customer promise into something that applies to all employees in the organization, not just customer-facing employees. 

By covering points two and three, an employer engage customers in defining and delivering a compelling, differentiating and authentic customer promise.

4. However, the next logical question is: What about employees? The same level of discipline needs to be applied to define and execute the employee experience as with the customer experience. An organization can’t be held accountable for delivering an outstanding employee experience if this has not been defined in the first place. 

Step four, a well-defined employee value proposition, becomes a calibration tool and helps protect the culture of the organization. It needs to be realistic but with a hint of aspiration to drive positive change and ongoing improvement. 

Employee experience underpins the ability to deliver a legendary customer experience. Happy employees lead unerringly to happy customers.

5. Finally, focus on the employee experience and communication to reinforce the foregoing. The employee experience must live up to the employee value proposition. Many organizations focus on candidates through recruitment marketing but overlook existing employees. 

However, without ongoing work to put the employee experience and communications front and centre of every organizational decision, any external effort can leave the internal workforce feeling disconnected or unvalued.

Identify and actively address any gaps between your current reality and the employee promise.  It is the best way to engage existing employees which, in turn, will help amplify and add credibility to your external message. Employee advocacy is a priority for the organization. It wants employees to feel inspired and to share their positive experiences internally and externally. 

In the information and conceptual age, understanding the why and how behind customer and employee value propositions and having a shared vision of your organizational purpose is a critical first step to engage and energize employees.

Mar Guerrero Busquets is the associate vice-president of employee experience, employment brand and performance culture at TD Canada Trust in Toronto.

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