Happy Employees Build Loyal — and Vocal — Customers

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Happy Employees Build Loyal — and Vocal — Customers

By Jordan K. Speer - 03/31/2016
Listening to Drew Koven’s closing keynote presentation at Apparel West in March put me in mind of Albert Hirschman’s treatise, “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty,” whose basic concept is that members of an organization — whether a business, nation, or any group — have essentially two possible responses when they perceive that the organization is demonstrating a decrease in quality or benefit to the member: they can exit (leave the relationship), or they can voice (attempt to improve the relationship by communicating their dissatisfaction and trying to effect change). The amount of loyalty that one feels toward the organization will play a large role in which of these two paths is pursued.

In business, this concept presents in different ways. Dissatisfied employees can choose to quit their jobs or to express their concerns in an effort to improve their situation. Similarly, unhappy customers can choose to shop elsewhere, or they can ask to speak with the manager, make recommendations or voice comments or complaints via social media, and so forth.
The ideal business has both happy and loyal employees, and happy and loyal customers. In the real world, this scenario does not play out all that often. In his presentation, Koven, who is CEO and director of The Beach People, noted that a recent Gallup survey of people in 142 countries showed only 13 percent of them engaged at work, and that a Harris Poll revealed that only one third of Americans are very happy in general.

“Imagine,” said Koven,  “how the workplace would be different if a lot more people loved their work.”

At Beach People — maker of luxe beach essentials, including its “roundies,” which are round beach towels with beautiful and intricate designs — the company has truly put the concept of  “people before profits”  into play — and it works, says Koven. How do you do this? For one, you develop a set of core values that match the core values of your people and your brand, you identify what’s important professionally and personally, and you identify what your higher purpose is.

Wow. That’s quite a task. But when you align your personal core values to your professional core values, when you feel that you are building something meaningful and not just moving through your days on autopilot, you and your company have a chance to thrive vs. simply to survive, says Koven.

Other companies that are succeeding at this mission include firms such as lululemon, Google and Starbucks, says Koven, who have established positions in their respective industries as brand leaders. How to do this? He gives six tips: 1) clarify culture, values, vision, goals and  direction daily; 2) strategize, synchronize and streamline collective actions; 3) engage, empower and enable everyone to do their best; 4) optimize the environment constantly; 5) be positive, agile and think long term and 6) be accessible to each other.

Simple, but not easy. Still, those companies that can make this type of thinking foundational to their businesses have the opportunity to build brands that speak to both employees and consumers. And that right there is the key to long-term success. Because when your employees are driven by the same goals and interests as your consumers, they are more likely to connect to each other. That, in turn drives loyalty, to each other, and to your brand. That connection also builds the kind of safe environment in which both customers and employees feel comfortable and even motivated to voice concerns or complaints that they may have — rather than simply exiting the business.
And what great luck that would be. Because as we all know, if there’s one thing companies are eager to capture and understand these days, it’s the voice of the consumer.


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