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Why Employees Are Your Most Important Customers: Three Ways You Can Help Them Help You

by Phil Hamburg, Executive Managing Director, Root Inc.

40% of employees confess they don’t completely understand their company’s vision.

Phil Hamburg poses the perennial questions:

How are we supposed to engage them in delivering on a vision and customer experience they don’t understand or have never seen?
How can they possibly create authentic customer experiences if we don’t arm them to do so?

The truth is that your employees are the audience for your strategy. They are the people, if treated right and armed correctly, who will authentically translate your message, your vision, and your brand to the paying customers you’re after.

Here are three ways you can help them help you:

  • Get on board with the fact that employees are your most important customers

This can be done in many ways, but the most important thing to keep in mind is knowing your audience. Visual tools like videos and maps, as well as interactive formats like town hall meetings, games and online micro-trainings, may work well with the people you’re trying to engage.

Managers play a key role in making this happen, as they are the link between leadership and the front line.

image94They can be most effective at bringing your vision and strategy to life in a fun, emotive way that will help your people come to their own conclusions about why it makes sense. This is the key to enabling employees to live your brand in every interaction with customers.

  • Begin with the WHY

Before asking your employees to take on something new or deliver a certain kind of customer experience, you must explain WHY it is so important. Show them why it will help themselves, the customer, and the company, and why they are so instrumental in driving the business outcome you want to achieve. So, start with the WHY, and then follow with the WHAT and the HOW.

  • Make sure your training doesn’t end up in the garbage

According to the American Society for Training and Development research, some 90% of new skills are lost within a year, and more than a quarter (26%) of employees have no training available to them, and of those that do, 62% say it’s only somewhat relevant or not applicable to their job at all.

Phil Hamburg  contests that one of the biggest mistakes companies make when developing training to build employee knowledge and skills is not identifying what they actually need to be trained on, how they best receive information, or how the program impacts the customers those employees serve… Connecting training with the company strategy and designing it with the end-user and desired outcomes in mind is the most effective way to empower people to execute your brand promise at the front line. Investing time, effort, and money into this process will yield a much more effective training development effort, more engaged employees, and much better customer interactions.

“Ultimately, many leaders’ biggest shortcoming is viewing the world from their perspective and their perspective, only.”

If you start by thinking about how your people might think, feel, react, respond, or behave, you will find yourself way ahead of the winning customers for life game. The customer experience will never exceed the employee experience; employees are truly your most important customers.

Employees as Customers: Discovering What’s Relevant

image125Jim Haudan, contests that just as customer markets are segmented, employee generations must be segmented if we are to truly understand their needs, wants, and motivations.  This thinking is needed more than ever in organizations trying to tap into the discretionary talent of their people.


Relevance is at the heart of seeing employees as customers to maximize their engagement and ensure that strategy is translated into a meaningful language.

The first step in establishing relevance is communicating in a way people can understand. “People who work at a company should want to do a good job because they’re getting paid” is flawed thinking. Think of a leader as a translator of the strategic stories of the business.

No employees can execute a strategy that they don’t understand and that has no connection to them.


Root’s solutions enable organizations to deploy strategies successfully, create broad transformation or culture change, execute large-scale skill building, develop more effective leaders and managers, and find the bright spots in your business. Root does this by bridging the communication, process, skill, or functional gaps keeping your business from achieving expected results. Just ask the 800+ organizations worldwide they’ve helped accelerate strategic outcomes.

About Karly A.

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