Guest Column - November/December 2009

Engaging Your Customers

Back Up the Big Bus, Buster

By Dennis Borst

ow that it is the "chic" thing to do, you have decided to employ the tactics that will allow you to "Engage your Customers." After all, how tough can it be to do what everyone else is doing?

But remember—anything that appears easy to do, seldom is easy to do. That is why I recommend you back up that big company bus you are driving, Buster!

The first thing you need to decide is whether you are going into this with a commitment to stay the course. You also need to think through not only your "strategic" ideology, but also your tactical methodology.

Engagement of customers goes far beyond a few traffic builders, a smattering of coupons, and, oh yeah, a Loyalty Program. Do not get caught up in the misbelief that you are a marketing genius because of your tenure of service or because you just earned an MBA.

You need to take a long and comprehensive look at what companies successful at engaging customers have learned. Why hit a brick wall in the big company bus if you have the collected experience of others to help you avoid the collision? When in fact you do take that look, you will find one consistent fact, and that is this:

You must engage your employees first before you can ever hope for a successful engagement of your customers.

In fact, if you look at what the Gurus of Engagement all are saying, it's all about engaging your people first. From there, engagement of your customers will follow.

Here is a little test for you to give your employees that will gauge a starting point.

Be sure to quiz employees across all divisions, all job types and all job levels.

Ask them to describe what they do. If it sounds like a "job," you have a lot of work to do concerning getting them engaged. If it sounds like they are describing a career, you still have work to do, but a lot less.

Why should you take so much time to redefine your engagement strategy? Why should you begin by engaging employees? Here are a few big reasons to consider:

  • Your employees are the first, ongoing and lasting impression your customers have about your company.
  • Admit it or not, your employees are the overwhelming reason your customers come back again and again.
  • This one is much tougher for some of you "bus drivers" to accept, but you'd better: Accept the fact that your most important product is your employees, not your widgets and services.
  • Here is another consideration you must accept: In 2009, people evaluate companies by the strength of their bench and not only by the person at the top who drives the bus.