In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Lisa Earle McLeod and Elizabeth Lotardo raise an interesting question: How do non-customer-facing staff retain their connection to customers?
Before employees started working from home, back office staff could occasionally see and overhear customers. They regularly had informal discussions with staff who dealt directly with customers. But now there is little opportunity for those conversations to occur.
As a result, internal, non-customer-serving staff may become insular, forgetting about the customers and focusing instead on their own agendas and needs. This can be dangerous, as Sears, Blockbuster, and Monster.com learned to their misfortune.
“When leaders are intentional about bringing customers to life for internal teams it creates an emotional (and practical) connection. It infuses the why of the business into the organizational groundwater. This has been proven to result in greater engagement, which creates bolder innovation, resulting in faster, more lasting growth.”
Bringing Customers to Life
McLeod and Lotardo suggest three ways that leaders can bring customers to life for teams who don’t interact with them.
- Talk about the positive impact on specific customers.
Leaders should have regular conversations with customers to find out about what they bought and how it impacted their life or business. Then they can share who the individual customers are, what they do, their daily challenges and dreams with all non-customer-facing employees. This will bring the purpose and value of the organization to the forefront in a memorable and repeatable way.
- Ask “How will this impact our customers?” during decision-making discussions.
This question should always be asked when making any decisions. Even if the issue or policy doesn’t appear at first to directly involve customers, the fallout from the decision may have an unexpected negative impact. Asking this question will ensure that internal staff consider the whole picture and the potential consequences of their decisions.
- Include non-customer-facing teammates in customer meetings.
There is a powerful way to bring customers to life for teams who don’t typically interact with them. Have their leaders sit in on scheduled meetings with individual customers. The ability to hear and then relate those customers’ business goals and needs to the back office employees can increase staff empathy for customers as well as impact future policy-making.
It is crucial that leaders help all employees understand who their customers are and how best to meet their needs. These three steps can keep back office staff in touch with the organization’s customers.
Question: How does your organization keep back office staff in touch with your customers?
Deborah Laurel, The Peer Learning Institute