Engaged Employees = Retained Customers

I am a Southwest Airlines devotee and, since they are one of the most profitable airlines in the industry, it seems I am not alone.  Southwest customers are such fans that, after 9/11 many of them sent money to the airlines to help them out during the crisis. I’m sorry I didn’t think of it at the time.

If you’ve flown with Southwest then you know their employees, while being serious about safety and quality of service, are also fun and engaged. These are top priorities of the company beginning with the CEO.

In their book The Service Profit Chain, Harvard professors Heskett, Sasser and Schlesinger reveal that the core driver of long-term profitability is customer retention. You’ve likely seen data over the years that consistently points to the fact that it costs significantly less time, effort and money to retain a customer than to get a new one.  The professors’ research identified service and quality as the two factors necessary for customer retention. They also tell us that the most important factor driving service and quality is employee satisfaction, or what we more commonly refer to as employee engagement.

Southwest Airlines is successful largely because every employee knows that the company cares about them just as much as the company cares about their customers.

If customers stay because of service and quality, which is fueled by employee engagement, then figuring out how to engage employees should be a the top of every CEO’s list.

Employee Engagement should also be at the top of every leader’s list.  Whether you are a supervisor, team lead, department head or part of the C-Suite, the lack of employee engagement in your organization is killing your profitability and/or productivity.  

Employee Engagement is solved through action, not surveys and classes. There are three important legs of the Employee Engagement stool:

  • Socratic Delegation that allows the person who will actually do the work to determine his/her approach.
  • Socratic Feedback that develops employees by allowing them to self-critique first before receiving feedback, and
  • Laughter in the Workplace – humor that is kind, and fun.

As a leader, it is important that you get good at all of these.  If you aspire to be a leader, then start learning how to get good at them; they will guarantee that you are seen as leadership material.

Employee Engagement = Customer Retention

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