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Business Journal
How the Best Companies Engage Their Customers
Business Journal

How the Best Companies Engage Their Customers

World-class organizations create workplace cultures rooted in employee engagement, among other things, which helps deliver a great customer experience

by Ed O’Boyle and John H. Fleming

In the next 30 years, roughly $140 trillion in new customer spending will be up for grabs.

Smart leaders know that finding and retaining customers is the key to real sustainable growth. Without customers, there would be no jobs, no companies, no stock market, no GDP. The CEOs of America's companies know that jobs follow customers, not the other way around.

But gaining and keeping customers has proven much more difficult since the financial collapse of 2008 and the ensuing recession. Customers have changed. They are more cautious about spending their money and more demanding about what they expect in return. The companies that serve them must change too if they want to survive.

For companies that can adapt to this new competitive environment, the rewards will be immense. The world's GDP is $60 trillion and is estimated to grow to about $200 trillion in the next 30 years. So roughly $140 trillion in new customer spending will be up for grabs. The companies that best position themselves and prepare their employees to compete will be eligible for the spoils.

The winners will be enterprises that create an aligned, integrated experience for their customers on a foundation of exceptional service. These are the companies that measure everything and make intelligent, data-backed decisions. These organizations select great managers and construct high-performing teams by hiring for talent, developing employees' strengths, and positioning them to perform with excellence. And they build a workplace culture rooted in employee engagement and well-being -- all for the purpose of delivering a world-class customer experience.

Winning customers for life

Employees at these companies know why they come to work each day. Their employers instill in them a vital sense of mission and empower them to go the extra mile for customers. These workers do more than just make sales. They strive to build and maintain customer relationships. These companies have a strong brand promise, and they make sure employees know how to deliver on it. Their customers, in turn, sense something different about them. Customers value the exceptional service they consistently receive. It keeps them coming back, and it inspires them to share these positive experiences with friends and family.

While other businesses rely on price cuts and short-term promotions, the best set out to win customers for life. They create emotional connections with their customers and continually measure customer engagement. By taking the pulse of their customers regularly, these companies easily spot positive trends to build on and head off negative issues before they implode. Armed with meaningful data and analysis, they continuously evolve to stay a step ahead of their customers' needs -- and the competition.

The best companies understand that engaging customers does not happen instantly or easily. It requires an intense, intentional focus on optimizing every customer interaction, knowing that each encounter has the potential to strengthen or undermine the relationship. They know that the benefits of this approach are too powerful to ignore. Customer engagement offers a proven path to real sustainable growth, no matter what industry or market an organization operates in.

Even amid the uncertainties of the current economic landscape, companies can make progress in engaging and growing their customer base. In fact, Gallup found that a greater percentage of customers in its global client database were fully engaged in 2013 than at any point in the last five years.

Gallup helps companies make the most of the moments between customers and employees. Those that do will build a base of engaged customers who spend more, visit more often, resist competitive overtures, promote the company's brand to others, and forgive errors and mistakes. These are the companies that will survive, thrive, and lead the country forward. These are the businesses to bet on in the new economy.


Ed O'Boyle is Global Practice Leader for Gallup's workplace and marketplace consulting.
John H. Fleming, Ph.D., is Chief Scientist -- Marketplace Consulting and HumanSigma at Gallup. He is coauthor of Human Sigma: Managing the Employee-Customer Encounter.

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