Have you ever received an authentically enthusiastic response when you approached a service desk to ask a mundane question? If so, then you may have experienced what I call the “happiness effect.” Sure, you came in looking for a toilet plunger (yuck!), but you walked out with many other products that you forgot you needed — and you were happy that it turned out that way.
Happy employees enhance the customer experience. You may be the only employee of your small business, or you might have a team that regularly interacts with customers. Either way, happiness is one of your biggest weapons for retaining and attracting customers.
Employee and Customer Satisfaction Seem to Go Hand-in-Hand
Obviously, customers do not consider employee morale only when they prefer to do business with a particular company. Happy employees who deliver great service while selling substandard products are not likely to cause customers to keep coming back. Particularly when the a business has strong interactions with customers, however, studies indicate a significant connection between employee and customer satisfaction.
Among other things, those studies examined customer satisfaction over time periods when companies were working to improve employee morale. Based on 100-point scales, for each point of improved worker contentment, customers showed a 3 point increase in satisfaction.
Naturally, this effect is more pronounced in industries that work most closely with customers. While a business that sells directly to customers in a store or works with consulting clients on projects will most directly see the most obvious customer’s happiness effect, no type of business is immune from the relationship between employee and customer satisfaction.
Employee Satisfaction is Not All About the Money
In a nearly-full job market, small businesses naturally face challenges when competing with larger companies for top talent. You may not be able to pay the highest wages, but smaller companies can offer a number of personalized advantages that require the flexibility that’s not always available to workers in corporate conglomerates.
Here are just some of the ways that you can keep your employees satisfied without breaking the paycheck bank:
- Make it fun: When you provide your employees with a fun place to work, you make it easier for them to wake up every morning. Additionally, customers who notice their great attitudes are happier to spend their money with you. There are many ways to make your workplace fun without turning it into a giant game board. Just provide a congenial environment that focuses on more than the serious side of business.
- Offer flexible compensation: Take advantage of the smaller size of your company by developing a creative compensation package beyond the paycheck. You might permit a variable work schedule, allow telecommuting, offer discounts on your products or those of nearby businesses, or anything else. If you can swing it, a profit sharing plan turns your team members into owners with an even greater interest in customers.
- Encourage collaboration: A collaborative work environment encourages creative thought as employees work on projects and solve problems together. It also creates a social atmosphere where team members get to know each other better. The happiness of a close-knit work environment naturally helps them to extend their satisfaction outwards to customers.
- Create a pleasant and efficient workplace: Employee satisfaction occurs more naturally when the work space helps them do their jobs. Whether they need quiet areas to concentrate, or more places to brainstorm without disturbing others, pay attention to the effects of their work environment. Customers will notice employee confidence, accuracy, and efficiency. When they visit your business, they will be impressed.
- Don’t forget about your company culture: If you haven’t taken the time to develop a well-defined company culture, then you’re missing out on a vital tool that helps employees and customers alike. Of course, most company cultures explain the importance of directly recognizing and conveying support and respect to customers. However, they also do the same for employees. Valued employees convey the right attitudes to customers, making everyone happy.
Happy Employees Can Undo Many Ills
Just last week, I had to make a call for support. The process was very unpleasant, with a phone system that made it near impossible to reach a real person. It took ten minutes to get through to that person, and I was very angry by the time the happiest person in the world answered. We’ll call her Christina.
Christina’s happiness and enthusiasm were genuine. I felt like she lived for the sole purpose of making my problem go away, which she did almost immediately. My anger melted away, and, even as I made a point of strongly suggesting fixes to the phone system, I complimented her profusely. Had I received a follow-up survey, I would have given her rave reviews.
Of course, I’m not recommending that you install barriers in your customer support system. If it is currently difficult for customers to reach you, then fix that immediately. But, while implementation is underway, make sure that a person like Christina is handling customer calls. Their attitudes will improve instantly and immeasurably. This kind of contact can help prevent the loss of customers. It may even lead to new customer referrals.
Happiness is Contagious
One study conducted back in 2008 found quite a few contagion-related effects of happiness, including these:
- When a person is happy, there is a 25 percent higher chance that a friend living close by will also become happy.
- Happiness is definitely contagious during daily interactions.
- Thanks to the power of social networks, a person who becomes “infected” with happiness spreads it up to three degrees, reaching friends of friends.
Still, who really needs a study? Your own experiences already tell you that happy employees have better attitudes toward their work environment, whether they arrive happy or catch the feeling from their co-workers. Plus, your customers will catch the wave, too … which can make your bottom line very happy.