Category Archives: Employee engagement

One Brand: Part 1. Extending Your Brand Through Internal Communications

Does internal communications matter to consumer branding?

You bet it does. Are you a retailer rolling out a brand positioning about knowledgeable salespeople helping customers navigate a myriad of product choices? Better make sure your knowledgeable salespeople stay that way.



Branding for financial services? A Forrest research report reveals that mergers and acquisitions have hurt customer relationships and advises a refocused attention on customer service. You better bring some TLC to your call centers.

What about an admired airline promising an incredible experience and having it come crashing (sorry) down when the baggage is stolen, lost, or delayed through poor handling? 

While there are a variety of factors that influence public brand sentiment, your communicating to your consumer brand  to your employees is one that is easy to get right.  

1. Roll in your brand.
Let your employees in on the big reveal before you launch your new campaign. 

2. Show the relevance.  
Now that you have articulated your brand values internally:

  • Who needs to do what differently?
  • What do they need to change?  

3. Communicate your brand inward.

  • Look at your internal communications and the audiences you reach.
  • Where are the best places to infuse your positioning? 

Think about hosting a brand training event so sales people know what the customers will expect from them. Recognize and reward great customer service, and encourage testimonials from happy customers. Make sure your employees know how they are responsible for the success for your business and reap the rewards from a singular brand outside and in.

We welcome your input and are here for your help.

How Retailers Can Connect the Online and In-Store Customer Experience

The great overlap has started.

In the last few months, the worlds have physical shopping and online shopping have collided. Walmart, the country’s biggest retailer, has increased its massive e-commerce effort, using its thousands of US locations as distribution points for same-day delivery. At the same time, Amazon, the country’s biggest online retailer, now ships items to “lockers,” physical kiosks which can be accessed at any time. With Amazon Lockers,Brand Channel has declaredAmazon’s strategy to distribute its products through traditional retail outlets is already underway.”


These retail giants are reacting to customer behavior. They know that customers want an online experience that’s connected to the in-store experience. So how can this strategy be implemented by specialty retailers? Here are some easy steps to get the best of both worlds.

Bringing Online Information to the Store
Price is not the only factor driving customers to online shopping. “Customers demand quick and easy access to relevant product information,” says Mark Brixton in Australia’sPower Retail blog. With turnover in the retail industry higher than ever, and employers unable to fully train their staff, many customers find that sales associates can’t help them make informed decisions about products.

The solution? Make your associates (and managers!) as knowledgeable as possible – even it means “cheating.” At Best Buy, I once inquired about a camera, and the associate simply pulled out an iPad and looked at the Best Buy website with me, showing all the good reviews. It certainly was better than being told “I don’t know,” which makes me leave the store to find more information.

Another online feature that’s very effective is the recommendation engine: “People who bought X also bought Y.” Store associates can make those suggestions, of course, but there’s another option: reconfiguring your store so that items that are often bought together are actually displayed together.
 
Chico’s online recommendations

What about online customer recommendations? Brazilian clothier C&A has “special hooks on the racks in its bricks-and-mortar store” that display Facebook likes for each item of clothing in real time, “giving in-store shoppers a clear indication of each item’s online popularity
.That technology may be a ways off for most of us, but that doesn’t stop you from putting a sign on an item that says, “Our most popular item on Facebook,” or “Our most pinned product on Pinterest.”

Bringing the Personal Store Experience Online
Jiadev Shergill, founder of Bundle.com, told a recent Internet Week New York Panel, “Walking into a store and feeling the clothes, trying them on – this is a data point that you can’t get online.”

He recommends “product videos, multiple angles, more product measurement details, and real-world comparisons,” to simulate the in-store experience, making customers more comfortable with an item they can’t hold, use, or try on.

Many have us know at least one sales associate that has been helping us for years, who know lots of our personal details, and uses that information to help us shop. So why not ask for that information during online shopping? Asking for a birthday is expected, but you could also ask for more (optional) information, such as hobbies, favorite colors, or preferred brands. That allows you to offer exactly what the customer wants the next time they visit your online store.

This may seem obvious, but you should also make online returns as easy as in-store returns.
Zappos led the way by making returns both free and hassle-free. Now many websites offer that service.

Zappos provides a video explaining how to return items.

 

Linking the Two Experiences Together
One good strategy is to keep a customer database that can be accessed by both your online store and your physical store. So when an online customer finally walks into your store, all they have to do is give their name or email address and a sales associate can look at their purchase history, preferences, and recommendations.

To the customer, your online store isn’t some separate entity, so if they’ve bought from your website five times, why should they be treated like a stranger when they finally pay your physical store a visit?
Most importantly, this entire philosophy is dependent on employees to deliver your brand experience. Whether you’ve been in the same location for 50 years or are a new internet startup, your brand has value. And it’s your employees who have the greatest power to make or break it. They’re the ones who shift your message from a concept to an experience – positive or negative. So whichever strategy you implement, make sure your employees can define your brand. If they can’t define it, they can’t deliver it.

I hope these ideas have helped you look at online shopping and physical shopping as two sides of the same coin, with each complementing the other. And if you’d like to create an online store – or refresh an old one – my agency, Brandemix, is happy to help.

Employee Engagement: Important Yet Elusive

recent article in Fast Company has once again shown how important employee engagement is to any organization. The more engaged the employees, the lower the turnover, the lower the shrinkage, the higher the customer service, and the higher the profits.

And yet, despite the preponderance of engagement surveys, software, and programs, true employee engagement remains an elusive goal for many companies. While there are several key drivers of employee engagement (corporate image, leadership, job function, work/life balance, managers) that require significant operational changes to move the engagement needle, below I present some tips that can be easily implemented and drive engagement results.

Better Internal Communications 
Treat your employees like your best customers or shareholders. Customers get fancy newsletters, interactive websites, personalized emails. Investors get elaborate annual reports. What communications do your employees get? Often it’s a simple newsletter with employee anniversaries, “articles” that are little more than press releases, and the latest information about open enrollment. Worse, they live forever on dull, decade-old intranets that are bare-bones, black and white, and boring – the 3 B’s of awful web experience. How can employees get excited about their workplace when the workplace doesn’t seem excited about them?

Internally, your employees are your audience, and you should treat them the way you treat your most valued customers. That means creating internal communications that are interesting and entertaining.

Collaborative Corporate Social Responsibility
Some organizations have established CSR programs, allowing employees to select their own cause, which is a wonderful means to truly engage. Employees feel empowerment and camaraderie as they stay involved and seek volunteers for their own “social good.” They also feel a greater sense of purpose. Meanwhile, your organization gets great press and a big tax write-off. It’s a win/win/win/win!

 
Listening
Sure, this seems obvious, but one of the most frequent complaints I hear in
client focus groups, is “Management doesn’t listen to us.” Just as
social media allows a dialogue with your customers, you must find some
mechanism(s) to create a conversation with your employees. Instead of a
yearly survey, do it quarterly. Or monthly. Have an hour of “open door”
meetings every week, where any employee can approach any manager in any
area with any idea or concern. Use your intranet or enterprise software
to let your employee collaborate and ask each other questions. Today,
everything is crowd-sourced, from American Idol to Wikipedia to presidential debate questions. What can your employees teach you?


Little Things

There are many free or low-cost methods of employee engagement. Casual
Fridays are just the beginning. Be sure to acknowledge employees’ birthdays and work anniversaries, whether it’s an email, an announcement at a weekly meeting, or an actual gift (I’m a fan of Starbucks gift cards). Bringing in treats every week or month is always nice – try cupcakes, pizza, gourmet coffee, or flavored popcorn. If you can’t afford to send employees to conferences, encourage them to attend free local seminars or online webinars. Give them a small “education budget” to learn software, read books, or subscribe to industry publications.


As you can see, there are all kinds of small ways to engage employees. There are big ways too – gamification, employee referral programs (ask me about this one), social engagement strategies. How to know what’s right for you? When looking at your engagement strategy budget, remember that, according to a recent Gallup poll, employee engagement can mean a 22% increase in profitability.

Want to learn more about these or other HR initiatives, including training videos, benefit communications, or wellness programs? Email me with your questions and I’ll help you out.

Brandemix Bonus Reel: Gamification for Recruiting

Director of Interactive Branding Jason Ginsburg explains what gamification is and how HR professionals can use it for recruiting, onboarding, training, and employee referral programs.



Register for Jason’s FREE webinar, Socialize Your Talent Strategy, presented Monday, April 29, at HR.com.