Employee engagement, customer service, and your bottom line

Creating great customer experiences requires having an engaged and energized workforce, one that can translate individual experiences into satisfying end-to-end customer journeys and can continue to improve the journeys to maintain a competitive edge.

McKinsey & Company

Your customers would like a word.

Now more than ever before, customers expect to be able to communicate with your business. Gone are the days of “please address your question to PO Box…”. Now, any company that doesn’t offer 24-hour call centres, live chat, tweets, and even Whatsapp messages, is seen as being behind the curve.

So in this era of always on, always available, and always happy to help, why are some companies still underestimating the importance of their frontline employees? They are the face of your business – they spend more time talking to your customers than anyone else. Their engagement simply couldn’t be more important to your bottom line.


Defining ‘customer service’

While corporate leaders… spend hours around conference tables working on brand image and write “omnichannel first” and “guest experience always” on whiteboards, the reality remains that the interaction between customers, guests, and frontline workers often forms an indelible image of the brand. High stakes, right?


The responsibility of providing great customer service doesn’t just fall on traditional ‘customer service’ teams. It’s part of the job for all frontline personnel, from cashiers to cardiologists. The NHS is, in fact, a prime example of an organisation that has an incredible number of frontline staff, all aiming to provide excellent customer service. Nurses, doctors, hospital shop workers, receptionists… every interaction someone has with these workers will affect their opinion of the organisation as a whole.

The importance of engaged employees

Glassdoor, the company review website, recently took a hard look at their data; they wanted to find out whether companies can achieve high customer satisfaction ratings by investing in employees. The results were conclusive. They found a strong statistical link between employee wellbeing (as reported on their website) and customer satisfaction scores.

By ensuring that customer service personnel were themselves happy and engaged at work, companies were protecting their reputation, their customers’ happiness and, ultimately, their bottom line.

The team you build is the company you build.

Keith Rabois

It’s a similar story at Disney, whose theme parks boast a frankly incredible 70% return rate for first-time customers. That figure isn’t an accident. From the very first moment, Disney established itself as a company that looks after its staff. Walt himself was heavily invested in the success of his teams:

If you were a young animator at Disney in 1931 and you didn’t own a car, there was a good chance that several nights a week Walt himself would chauffeur you and a group of your colleagues to Los Angeles for company-paid classes at the Chouinard Art Institute.

Walt Disney

Fast forward 90 years and stories of Disney’s customer service remain legendary. Lost dolls are returned in the most magical manner, employees are instructed to ‘create happiness’ no matter what, and park princesses go out of their way to make sure everyone feels included.

How to engage your workforce

According to Gallup, 85% of employees are not engaged, or are actively disengaged, at work. They estimate this lack of engagement is responsible for $7 trillion of lost revenue worldwide.

So, for the companies looking to improve their customer service by first engaging their employees, what can be done?

1. Take them on the journey

Any success your business achieves isn’t the result of one person. Chances are those frontline workers, the ones who interact with your customers day in, day out, are a big part of any wins you achieve. So share the success. It’ll make your employees feel recognised and appreciated, and is an unbeatable sign of trust.

But more than that, be open about your failures too. When you take your employees on the journey with you – low points included – they’ll be all the more engaged as a result. By collaborating to such an extent, your staff will find new significance in their jobs.

2. Empower your people

Micromanagement can be the death of success. By allowing your employees to work independently, they’ll be able to discover their true potential in a way they never could with someone hovering over their shoulder, dictating their every move.

It takes an assured, calm leader to let go. But the benefits for doing so can be enormous.

3. Know your purpose

And make sure your employees know it, too. McKinsey research shows that 72% of workers think a company’s purpose should come before its profits. So make sure your employees know why they’re coming into work every day, and what all of their hard work is achieving on a grander scale.

As Dr. Paul Brewerton puts it, “Make sure that your organisation’s vision and purpose is clear and meaningful, so that it represents something your people can buy into and hold onto.”

4. Encourage teamwork

One of the best ways to make your employees feel like part of a team is (and no points for guessing this one…) to make sure teamwork is at the heart of everything your company does.

The ADP Research Institute surveyed over 19,000 workers and found that teamwork was a significant factor in employee engagement. Those who felt like part of a team were more than twice as likely to regard themselves as ‘fully engaged’ at work.

For ‘frontline’ staff that have been forced to work from home during the pandemic, a focus on teamwork is more important than ever. A NordVPN study found that remote workers are putting in more hours than ever; despite that, cross-functional teamwork in many organisations has decreased, reducing employee engagement and performance.

5. Recognise and retain – or prepare yourself for high employee turnover

With the help of WOW! we scored 78% on employee engagement – higher than the majority of companies benchmarked by The Institute of Customer Service.

Kerry Duke

Customer Operations & Resolution Manager, Morrison Water Services

According to Hubspot’s research,  Employees who receive little or no feedback from their managers tend to disengage from their work more readily. 69% of employees would work harder if their efforts were better recognised.

That doesn’t mean an annual day of recognition, or praising staff once a big project has finished. It means consistently and regularly recognising and thanking people for a job well done; making them feel respected and appreciated.

Employee retention is fast becoming a key competitive differentiator. An organisation’s ability to hold on to its talent — especially in tight hiring markets like customer service — has profound ramifications for its ability to operate at a high level, without the disruption that employee turnover brings.

Jo Causon

CEO, The Institute of Customer Service

Disengaged employees are costing UK Businesses £15bn a year. Companies that implement regular employee feedback can reduce their absenteeism by as much as 81%.

Workplace recognition programmes like The WOW! Awards can be the difference between an engaged, productive workforce, and a disconnected group of people browsing job listings in their lunch hour.

The WOW! Awards difference

When Yorkshire Water wanted to move away from numbers-based results to one that highlighted the human element of their customer service, they turned to The WOW! Awards.

Over the last 18 months they’ve seen a marked increase in compliments, both internally and externally, and were particularly proud when stories of colleagues going the extra mile to help vulnerable customers started to come through.

This is what keeps me motivated at work, seeing that even during a global pandemic our colleagues are delivering amazing customer experience and our customers are taking the time to pay us a compliment.

Jessica Collinge

Head of Customer Service Experience Strategy, Yorkshire Water

The University of Gloucestershire knows that being a respected university is about more than just teaching excellence. Which is why they teamed up with The WOW! Awards to shine a light on exceptional performance across the institution.

Over 1400 nominations have been made since the programme launched, with positive stories coming out of every department.

In excess of 500 nominations have been received over the past two academic years to highlight the great work of individuals.

​​The University has found that being part of The WOW! Awards is proving to be motivational for our employees and supports our delivery of customer service to a consistently high standard.

Stewart Dove

Director of Student Support at University of Gloucestershire

Hampshire Hospitals Trust employs over 6000 people, serving more than half a million people with the care and compassion we’ve come to expect from the NHS. Its leaders wanted a platform to capture the good-news stories happening across its hospitals every single day.

Since the programme launched in 2009, they’ve received over 30,000 nominations showcasing inspiring acts of care, kindness, and compassion. The WOW! Awards has helped the Trust to uncover human stories that might otherwise have been forgotten, and made employees across the organisation feel more recognised, and valued, than ever before.

We can never thank the Shawford Ward team enough for making such a difficult situation memorable for all the right reasons. However, if they were given an award as a result of this nomination, it might go a little way towards showing our appreciation.

Hampshire Hospitals Visitor

WOW! Awards nomination

Want to improve your employee engagement?

Get in touch with The WOW! Awards today