A Q&A with Gregg Lederman
We asked Gregg Lederman, CEO of Brand Integrity Inc. and author of Engaged! Outbehave Your Competition to Create Customers for Life, to weigh in on why what happens on the inside of a company, with employees, is so crucial to what happens outside of it, with customers. Lederman helps senior management teams to grow their business by getting employees to really believe in and live the brand. He will be presenting the keynote address “Engaged! Creating lifelong customers” at IABC’s 2014 World Conference in Toronto, 8–11 June.
Jessica Burnette-Lemon: A lot of research that says we are in the midst of an engagement crisis; a Gartner study claims that in the U.S. alone, nearly 70 percent of employees are actively disengaged from their jobs. Why is that such a problem for companies? What is the financial cost of this level of disengagement?
Gregg Lederman: If an employee is disengaged, it means there is a high likelihood that they are not motivated or committed to consistently act in the best interest of the organization. When a high percentage of employees are either not engaged or worse, are actively disengaged, the results are easy to see and feel, and difficult to refute.
Week after week, I hear from company leaders about how the lack of engagement in their workforce leads to poor morale, lost productivity, high turnover, absenteeism, and other costly, employee-driven expenses that could be avoided by a happier, more motivated and committed workforce.
On the other hand, an engaged workforce has exactly the opposite effect on all of the metrics I just mentioned. In addition, they tend to help facilitate a more consistent customer experience, which leads to less price-sensitive customers who buy more, and more often. The more engaged your workforce is, the better. Lack of engagement is very, very expensive.
JBL: What are some examples of companies who have set up what you call a “Living the Brand” system? How did they define values, remind employees and customers about those values, and quantify that experience?
GL: Every company, regardless of industry, geographic location, or economic environment, can create a more engaged workforce focused on delivering consistently great customer experiences that lead to increased sales and profits. They can do this when they embrace the concept of a “Living the Brand” System. Companies that implement this system do three strategies very well:
- They clearly define who they are as a company. They define the behaviors that bring their branded experience to life.
- They become masterful at reminding their employees about the delivery of the experience—clearly setting expectations, communicating them, and holding everyone accountable.
- They quantify the experience and link it to critical financial results.
Think about the companies you love to do business with—the ones whose employees obviously show that they know what the branded experience is. They perform the experience consistently for you, the consumer.
JBL: How do you recommend that companies go about identifying their distinct values? Is this is a process that should involve employees? If so, how?
GL: I am sure there are several different effective paths to getting there. Here is the one that our clients are having tremendous success with. They start by following what we’ve identified as the five dimensions of brand integrity, which consist of five value-based areas that are natural for building behaviors around. They are: Culture and Team; Operational Strength; Leading by Example; Products, Knowledge, and Expertise; and of course, Customer Service.
Then for each of the five dimensions, our clients work with our team to create 20 companywide basic behaviors that everyone in the organization could and should do on a regular basis. To get the behavioral direction, we use a model where top leaders provide their perspective on what an employee does “on their best day” to live the brand and demonstrate the company values. This is done even if their values are just on poster board material with little to no definition. We can still get the desired attitude and behavioral direction needed to draft a rock-solid, experiential behavior model.
From there they begin to measure the consistency of those behaviors by asking all employees and managers to rate the behaviors consistently on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is “always” and 1 is “never.” The rating is based on the viewpoint of “how consistently are others in your work area demonstrating our company values.”
JBL: In your book, Engaged!, you argue that gathering meaningful feedback from employees and customers is an essential part of engagement. Why is it so important, and what advice would you give our audience of communication professionals on how to do this well?
GL: When it comes to gathering input from employees, our clients measure three things:
- How consistently are we performing the behaviors behind our values?
- How aligned are we on what good customer service looks like, and how well do we know our goals and objectives?
- How engaged is our workforce in each team, department, division, location, and across our entire company?
On the customer side, we recommend less surveying and more follow-up. Unlike the typical research-driven method, where companies talk about the importance of following up with customers, our method is 100% focused on making the follow-up happen. We do this by helping our clients to keep the survey completion time to three minutes or less and help them track the follow-up outcomes that result from speaking to customers about their experience. It is amazing how much referral activity, up-selling and cross-selling situations, and additional sales can result from a thoughtful and strategic follow-up conversation with a customer.
Learn more from Gregg about a “Living the Brand” System in this CW Radio interview.