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  • Writer's pictureSusan & Renée

Customers and Employees: Creating the Magic

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

For the last couple of weeks we have been talking about a powerful tool for employee motivation and the elements that make it work .

The tool: Connecting your employees to the customer experience.

Creating opportunities for employees to step into the world of the client has proven to be more inspirational than other motivational resources. According to Adam Grant, organizational psychologist, connecting the end user and the employee brings “the leader’s vision to life and strengthens employees’ beliefs that their contributions matter.”

But how can you create these highly effective opportunities?

Grant suggests a number of ways to help bring client stories to life for employees. He recognizes that while in person connection is the most powerful experience it may not always be possible. The following suggestions can help business leaders leverage the power of client narratives:

Identify past, present, and future customers

To connect with the broadest possible range of end users, ask leaders, managers, and employees to identify various groups of customers who have benefited from the work of your employees. You may be surprised at what you find. Researcher Michael Tushman writes about a company that sold baby food. They, of course, assumed that their customers were infants by way of their parents. But when they took a fact finding trip to a grocery store they found a surprise. The elderly were buying their products because they were nutritious and easy to eat. This identified a whole new customer base that they could use to elicit customer feedback.

Find feedback from past end users

Many times organizations collect useful information that ends up siloed rather than shared. This feedback can provide powerful examples of a company’s impact. For example, Bob Austin joined Volvo as a customer service representative and heard many stories about Volvo’s lifesaving engineering. When Austin became the head of public relations, he created a club for Volvo drivers who believed that one of the automaker’s cars had made the difference between life and death. Sharing this with employees made them aware that they were not just producing cars, they were saving lives.

Seek out new stories

Go into the field and look for new stories and share them throughout the organization. At Medtronic, a medical device company, engineers, salespeople or technicians attend more than two-thirds of procedures that use the company’s medical devices. They see directly how their work saves lives which provides inspiration for their work moving forward.

Turn employees into end users

If it isn’t feasible to have employees come in direct contact with customers, then have your employees spend some time in your customer’s shoes. At outdoor gear company Cabela’s, retail employees borrow fishing and camping equipment and share their reviews. This helps all workers be more effective advocates for the company’s products.

The Gold Standard: Set up events where end users can share their experiences

A face-to-face interaction with end users has the strongest emotional impact on employees leading to measurable, positive changes in employee performance. These sessions are most inspiring when they include customers whom employees don’t normally see. For example, Deere & Company invites farmers who are buying tractors to visit the factories with their families. Assembly line employees meet the farmers, give them a gold key, and watch them start their tractors for the first time. This lets the employees see and feel how their hard work benefits others.

Helping your employees vividly understand the impact of their work infuses a stronger sense of purpose to their day to day work which translates into increased motivation and job satisfaction. Spend some time thinking about how you can incorporate these strategies into your business.

Image credit: Aditya Saxena

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