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News Analysis: Convergence of Customer, Employee Engagement Could Transform Loyalty and Employee Recognition

RRN’s sister media company, ESM (at EnterpriseEngagement.org), has reported on the increasing focus on the merger between customer and employee engagement practices. This trend portends significant opportunities for traditional loyalty, incentive, and recognition suppliers who can provide informed process design to all key audiences. 
As ISO standards, investor pressures and academic recognition propel the emergence of an enterprise approach to engagement, a significant opportunity has emerged for suppliers of traditional incentive, recognition and loyalty programs that can provide a strategic approach to process design and implementation that connects the dots between customer and employee engagement. ESM has recently reported on companies that are putting senior-level executives in charge of connecting the customer and employee experience (see ESM: “Shefit Exec Joins March to Merger of Employee and Customer Engagement”). There is an opportunity for solution-providers who can support these needs, and so far the early advantage may go to some of the leading firms traditionally known in the trade as “incentive companies.” 

Loyalty Expert: Employee Engagement is the ‘Jesus Nut’ for Successful Loyalty Programs

Clearly, the lightbulbs are going on. In a recent edition of TheWiseMarketer.com, a leading loyalty media platform, Chief Executive Officer Bill Hanifin writes: “In the execution of customer loyalty programs, I’m believing that employee training, engagement and incentives constitute the collective ‘Jesus Nut’ for successful program operations. Treated with care and improved through reengineering, we fly smoothly and without incident. Treat with neglect, and anything can happen.” Note: Jesus Nut is a military term for linchpin, as it refers to a part that holds the rotor to many helicopters.
After relating a personal example of how a store employee had affected his interaction with a loyalty program, Hanifin was compelled to write: “The effort needed to improve store operations related to customer loyalty is substantial. It requires investment in the form of script creation, employee training and maybe some crafty approaches to providing employee incentives to encourage participation and support. Be assured the objective can be achieved and the investment will be worthwhile, paying dividends in program results. I’ve seen firsthand success in this area from brands that recognize potential gaps in execution and prioritize the commitment to solve operational problems. To sum it up, I’m convinced that solving operational issues to deliver better program execution is a matter of willpower and commitment to succeed, nothing less.” 

The Opportunity for Solution-Providers

In the same way organizations must invent a new position that connects employees and customers to address the issue identified by Hanifin, not to mention the issue as it pertains to all stakeholders as outlined in Enterprise Engagement, ISO Annex SL and ISO 10018 Quality People Management principles, many organizations equally need a new type of solution-provider to help make the connection. What type of company will fill this void? Few if any of the major advertising and marketing agencies have yet embraced the need to create a 360-degree brand. A number of branding agencies and consulting firms have made this connection. But who can offer a fully integrated solution that includes strategies and a process that integrates technology, leadership coaching, assessment, communications, learning, innovation, community and diversity, innovation, rewards and recognition and analytics tools necessary for a large organization to deploy an enterprise engagement strategy in an auditable manner? Most solution-providers specialize in one part of the issue, such as assessment or leadership training. 
Ironically, the solution-providers best equipped to connect science to practical solutions with measurable results might be organizations have used incentives for decades to help with tactical engagement efforts to motivate sales and non-sales employees, channel partners, and others in business. 
Based on the history of quality management, the reason why both customer and employee engagement remain low is that organizations have not connected the dots between the findings of their engagement surveys and formal, measurable solutions. The inevitable impact of this new focus on connecting the dots between customer, organizational and employee engagement will be a demand for solution-providers with the expertise to support it. 
Look how these traditional “incentive” companies position themselves today as organizations that connect the dots between customer, distribution partner and employee engagement. (Note, some but not all of these companies are members and/or sponsors of the Enterprise Engagement Alliance.) 
BI Worldwide at Biworldwide.com: "We partner with you, using the principles of behavioral economics, to develop measurable sales, customer, employee and event solutions that keep your company energized, inspired and moving forward."
EGR International at EGRInternational.com: “EGR International, Inc. is a full-service Engagement Agency focused on brand management, marketing, internal motivation and performance improvement campaigns, channel and customer engagement strategies.”
ITA Group at ITAgroup.com: “The Next Generation of Loyalty Has Arrived: We create powerful results by transforming global employees, channel partners and customers into all-out advocates of your business. How? By inspiring authentic, lasting emotional connections.”
Maritz at Maritz.com: “Increased sales, higher productivity, improved customer satisfaction,
deeper employee engagement. When you put people at the center of your business, everyone wins.”
Sodexo Engage at Sodexoengagement.com:  “Employee and Consumer Engagement…Bringing Business and People Together: Whether you’re trying to engage with your staff, your customers, or the communities you work in, we’re the glue that sticks business and people together.”

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In Print: Enterprise Engagement: The Roadmap 4th Edition, How to Achieve Organizational Results Through People and Quality for ISO 10018 Certification. 
The first and most comprehensive book on Enterprise Engagement and the new ISO 9001 and ISO 10018 quality people management standards. 
Online: The Enterprise Engagement Academy at EEA.tmlu.org, providing the only formal training on Enterprise Engagement and the new ISO 9001 and ISO 10018 quality people management standards. Provides preparation for professionals to support organizations seeking ISO 10018 employer or solution provider certification, as well as elective courses on Trade Show Engagement, Rewards and Recognition, Government, and other topics. 
Enterprise Engagement Benchmark Tools: The Enterprise Engagement Alliance offers three tools to help organizations profit from Engagement. Click here to access the tools.
EE Benchmark Indicator. Confidentially benchmark your organization’s Enterprise Engagement practices against organizations and best practices. 
Compare Your Company’s Level of Engagement. Quickly compare your organization’s level of engagement to those of others based on the same criteria as the EEA’s Engaged Company Stock Index.
Gauge Your Personal Level of Engagement. This survey, donated by Horsepower, enables individuals to gauge their own personal levels of engagement.
For more information, contact Bruce Bolger at Bolger@TheEEA.org, 914-591-7600, ext. 230.
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