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Could Employees Be Your Most Important Customer Segment?

We hear a lot about treating employees as you would your best customers. There is a wealth of research pointing out the benefits of a happy and engaged workforce in creating a great client experience and leading to improved business results.  At least back as far as the Service Profit Chain, we have talked about the importance of engaged employees.

I want to focus on employees as customers of the company’s products or services.   Not only do we overlook the employee customer experience, we actively ignore it.  Employees are typically excluded from most customer experience surveys.  But they are an important customer segment that we should actively develop and engage.

Low Hanging Fruit

Even if products or services are discounted to employees, they are rarely sold to them at cost.  Assuming there is any profit to be made, employees are probably the easiest segment to target.  They are literally available every day.  You know what they make and where they live.  They can also be a great test laboratory. While it can be difficult to learn why customers don’t choose you, employees are readily accessible so you can learn from mistakes before going to the wider market. Imagine if I told you that any other segment was easily accessible and amenable to buying your product and the response was to simply ignore them.

Brand Ambassadors

Unless you haven’t read anything in the business press in the last 20 years, by now you know how important employee engagement is to a brand’s success.  Fully engaged employees can become ambassadors for the brand. There are many factors that affect employee engagement.  One overlooked factor is the experience they have as customers of the brand.  It’s hard to convey excitement to external customers when employees have had a bad customer experience.  Conversely, when excited as a customer, that passion shows to clients, friends, and family.   Nothing sells a brand like employees who are excited about that brand.  And nothing damages a brand like employees who are lukewarm (or worse) about the brand they represent.  Instead of treating employee customers as a second rate segment, ensure they have a stellar customer experience that they can convey to prospects, clients, friends, and family.

Customers with a Stake in the Business

Unlike any other customer segments, employee customers are the only ones with a stake in the financial success of your company.  At the most basic level are salaries and pay raises.  Many companies up the financial stake with stock options, stock purchase, bonuses, or profit sharing.  Employee customers have a vested interest in the success of your company that other customer groups do not. Leverage that interest and reach out to employee customers more often than other groups. Press them for more details about what went wrong and how to improve because making your brand succeed makes them succeed as well. However, the concern usually raised is employee customers will be biased.  While you have to make some reasonable concessions, the employee customer segment has surprisingly similar experiences and reactions.

When I worked at a well-known national bank, we found the ratings from employee customers nearly matched those of external customers.   The point isn’t whether the experiences or ratings are exactly the same.  The idea is to leverage the employee customers’ stake in the company’s success to get insights that can be leveraged across the marketplace.

Guess I’m Out if My Business is B2B

Don’t be so sure.  Can your business use the products or services you sell?  Do you use your own products and services? Do you use them the way you tell your clients to?  If the answers to these questions are yes, then employees’ experience as corporate clients can be just as valuable.  There is probably no better testimonial than using your own products and services successfully.  And just as with consumer employee customers, employees can provide insights about the successes and frustrations corporate clients are feeling.

Make the Most of Your Employee Customer Segment

Don’t just treat the employee customer segment like any other segment.  Treat them as the most important customer segment because in many ways they are.  Track them as you would any of your other customer segments.  Be sure to include them in voice of the customer feedback.  Make sure delivering a great client experience to your employees is a priority.  Employee customers:

  • Contribute directly to the bottom line
  • Provide insights that other customer segments are not as invested in providing
  • Are brand ambassadors that create excitement about the company and grow business

Employee customers are a key engine of growth on multiple levels.  It’s a smart company that makes the most of that potential.