Now that organizations of all sizes and types are leveraging social media to build brand awareness, nurture prospects, promote thought leadership and credibility, it’s harder to build authentic relationships that differentiate your brand.
At the same time, the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that trust in businesses is continuing to decline. This lack of confidence is causing consumers to rely more heavily on input from their trusted networks of friends, family, and peers. In this year’s survey trust in companies headquartered in the U.S. dropped five points from 55 to 50 percent since 2017, after having fallen from 61 percent in 2014.
Employees can play a valuable role in bridging the trust gap by becoming ambassadors for the company and cultivating relationships with customers, industry experts, alumni, and potential candidates. Employees are brand advocates when they endorse the brand, share content and information about the company and available job postings, recommend the company, share positive experiences, and engage in conversations on issues relevant to the business. And, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, “an average employee advocate is two times more trusted than a company CEO.”
Engage leadership from the start
Strong leadership is critical to organizational success; in addition to your CEO, your leadership team must be aligned on the importance of the brand. Any misalignment at the executive level is readily apparent to employees. When the executive team is actively engaged in the brand, they can better understand how brand can be a filter for business decisions, behaviors, and communications. However, managers are key influencers also— employees will not change behaviors unless their managers do as well, so it’s critical that managers understand their role.
Develop an integrated communications strategy
Clear, consistent communication is imperative to a successful outcome of any project. But too many organizations move right into tactical activation without creating a comprehensive communication strategy that keeps employees informed, excited, and shows how it is relevant to them.
Decide early on what needs to be communicated, and to whom, understanding that top-down communication alone rarely suffices anymore. Develop a plan that ensures ongoing dialogue, utilizing a range of communication vehicles. Create opportunities for feedback, seeking to continually answer the questions, “What’s in it for me?” and “Why should I care?”
Clarify how to think like a customer
Providing engaging training and tools is key to building employee buy-in and sustainability. Tools like quick reference guides, tips to share in team gatherings, contests to gamify progress, and motivational pop-up signs to keep CX themes top of mind around the office.
But even with best intentions and a CX vision, your brand could take a hit if employees don’t know how to apply customer-centric thinking to their work. They may have difficulty shifting from a product, function, or policy focused way of communicating. If your efforts aren’t resonating with customer needs and concerns, it could result in lost time, money, and business.
It’s critical to help employees think like a customer. Give them meaningful learning opportunities to practice new ways to identify with the customer’s perspective, so they can apply an empathy mindset to all they do. Any negative customer experience could be the next viral story on the web or social media. In response to a heap of negative press, United Airlines recently announced they’re sending 30,000 employees to “compassion training.”
Make it ownable and relevant to their job
Buy-in and change start when your employees see how they benefit when they contribute to delivering delightful brand experiences. Hands-on training to learn customer-focused approaches helps to build confidence and skills that make their work less complicated, more enjoyable—and drives positive outcomes. Reinforce what effective communications look like with best practice guides for common scenarios employees handle every day, to help them improve both written and verbal communication skills.
Brands that put effort into increasing employee satisfaction and loyalty not only have a happier, more productive workforce but also deliver a better customer experience and see stronger financial results. Time and again, in our brand strategy consulting projects, we have seen how vital meaningful engagement is to an organization’s success—and that it is key to sustaining it.