Running a successful business is no easy task. If it were, small business owners wouldn’t average 50 hour weeks. On top of that, there are all kinds of new challenges facing business owners.
Many small business owners took their businesses online for the first time this last year. That likely means many of them are still playing catch-up on issues like IT infrastructures and managed IT services. That’s to say nothing of dealing with remote work.
In the middle of all of that, it’s easy for business owners to forget that happy customers drive successful businesses. It’s also easy for business owners to forget that the secret to happy customers is your employees.
One of the most reliable paths to profitability is through customer retention. It’s far less expensive to keep customers than acquire them. Plus, repeat customers make you more money in the long run.
Average customer acquisition cost varies wildly across industries, so let’s say your average customer acquisition cost is $10. Let’s say that the average spend per visit or per month if you run some kind of subscription service is $20.
If you acquire a new customer and they only buy from you once, your gross profit is $10. Once you deduct all the ancillary costs, you can count yourself lucky if you see any profit at all.
Now let’s say that a customer makes 6 visits to your store or sticks with your service for six months. Your gross profit on that customer is now $110, but your acquisition cost is still the same.
So, what’s the big driver for retention? Customer satisfaction.
What’s the big driver for customer satisfaction? The customer service they get from your employees.
What drives good customer service? Employee engagement.
Although it’s used that way sometimes, employee engagement isn’t a synonym for employee happiness. Employee engagement is more about your employees’ level of commitment and their drive to do their jobs well.
Employees with good engagement typically show up on time, rarely miss work, and will put in extra hours when it’s necessary. They generally express enthusiasm for both their position and the goals of the business.
Here is a scary statistic for business owners. The percentage of employees who feel engaged hovers in the low 30s. That means 60 percent to 70 percent of your employees are not engaged or, worse still, are actively disengaged.
You should worry about that disengaged group, which hovers around 15 percent of all employees. They will often discourage people from buying from you or working for you. It’s not a passive kind of problem.
Customer Relations Impact
The employee engagement impact on customer relations isn’t difficult to spot. TV service and internet service providers routinely come in at the bottom or near the bottom of customer service quality polls.
These are tech-heavy businesses and guess which industry has the highest turnover. Yep, it’s the tech sector. High turnover is one of the not very telltale signs of poor employee engagement.
Employees with poor engagement might not actively sabotage you, but odds are good that they’re also not going out of their way to shine for customers. They put in just enough effort not to get fired, generally while looking for another job.
Improving Employee Engagement
No company will ever achieve perfect employee engagement. You will always get at least a few bad-fit hires who throw off the curve. There are things you can do that will, with luck, boost the engagement percentage rate in your business higher than the low 30s.
Hire with Care
The unemployment rate isn’t quite down to pre-pandemic levels, yet, but it’s not far off. That can make employers antsy to fill positions with anyone who applies. As tempting as that may sound, it’s a bad business strategy for good employee engagement.
Hiring the right person with an eye toward culture fit will ultimately get you someone with better engagement.
Create Clear Advancement Options
Employee engagement plummets when people don’t see a clear path to advancement. If someone thinks they’ve gone as far as they can, they look for other jobs. Outline the advancement path and expectations early on for employees.
Create Learning Opportunities
Many employees will embrace learning opportunities that make them better at their jobs or prepare them for advancement. Create learning opportunities either through in-house mentorship or formal education options. Even partially subsidizing education options can boost an employee’s goodwill and engagement.
Improving Customer Satisfaction
While engaged employees go a long way toward boosting that customer satisfaction that creates happy customers, it’s not a cure-all. Your employees can only do so much to remedy problems that are built-in to the business.
You need an ear to the ground in terms of understanding customer complaints. One of the best ways you can get that ear to the ground perspective is through call center reporting.
This kind of reporting helps quantify and qualify the things that your customers don’t like about your service. For example, let’s say that you only take online payments from Visa or Mastercard credit cards. If you get two or three complaints about it, it’s probably not an issue.
If you get two or three complaints a day about it, it’s probably costing you a meaningful amount of money in lost business. For every person complaining, it’s possible there are five or ten people who just picked a different business who took their preferred payment method. Knowing the type and rate of customer complaints lets you make informed choices about changes in how your business works.
Creating Happy Customers
Creating happy customers is a lot less happenstance and a lot more conscious planning. A huge part of customer happiness stems from their interactions with your employees. Employees with good engagement with their jobs typically provide much better customer service.
Take steps that will help boost your employee engagement and you’ll see more happy customers. You should also keep an ear to the ground for persistent customer complaints. Call center reporting can help you there.
Looking for more tips or ideas for your business? Check out the posts in our Business section.