For many, marketing is all about the customer: Customer experience is one of the largest points of focus in the new era of loyalty marketing, and continues to prove its value to a brand’s perception and, consequently, its bottom line. This customer experience, however, doesn’t come by sheer good fortune and well wishes. Especially as it relates to a loyalty program, building a strong customer experience is a huge undertaking, requiring company alignment, efficient customer processes, and, perhaps most importantly, a commitment to employee engagement.
Engaging employees is among the best ways to ensure positive customer experience. Because frontline team members comprise the customer’s sole in-person touch point with the brand, it’s essential that these employees are personable, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic about the company.
Marketing firm Graziano Associates recently explored this topic, citing Gallup research that shows only a third of employees consider themselves to be fully engaged at work.
“Employees are the backbone of a brand's values and help solidify the relationship consumers have with the brand,” said Brad Marg, COO of Clutch. “They share it, explain it, deliver it, defend it - they are its personification.  If they are not engaged, the likelihood of a successful customer interaction decreases. That can by in store, answering an email, fulfilling an order or processing an exchange.  Spending time ensuring that employees are trained, empowered and happy is imperative and its not a one time event - its a journey.  The brands who have done this well have prospered.”
According to Graziano, the employee engagement conundrum boils down to two primary factors: Clarity of communication and strong leadership.
A brand’s communication to its team members is a crucial piece of the engagement conversation. This line of messaging needs to familiarize employees with the brand’s direction, goals, and expectations. For example, the customer experience at Apple is very different from the one at Amazon. Despite both possessing top-notch CX, the employees at each have completely different branding identities they need to convey to customers. It’s not surprising then that both of these companies are among the best when it comes to communication and, in turn, employee engagement.
Sometimes, however, engagement goes beyond simply educating employees about the company’s brand identity and mission. In these cases, leadership needs to step up and determine the next step, whether it’s motivating a disengaged employee, training a manager who is unfamiliar with company policies, or by setting achievable goals for production.
“In pursuit of creating stronger appeal, many brands make the mistake of turning their program into a proliferation of ‘add on’ features, attributes, and benefits,” Chris McLaren, VP of Marketing for Aimia, told Loyalty360. “This approach tends to leave customers - and often employees - confused as to its value proposition. To this point, entrepreneur and communication expert Chery Conner cited a survey in her February 2014 Forbes column that nearly one-third (32%) of U.S. and Canadian consumers can’t identify which tier they belong to in their favorite loyalty rewards programs. Making your program personal and simple increases the chance of improving its signal strength in the marketplace and makes it more likely your employees will sell the program with the knowledge and passion to do so successfully.”
There’s no doubt that employees are the backbone of any successful loyalty initiative. Customer experience is a reflection of employee engagement, for better or worse, and one of the most overlooked means of improving CX is, simply, improving employee engagement.

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