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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing joy in the workspace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm, and with me is my friend and co-host, Susan White, a national HR consultant. Our topic today is employee retention, but specifically that employees, are customers, too. Susan, I don’t know about you, but I’ve worked for two different – well, I’ve worked for more than two different companies, but two different companies specifically that I worked for in my career that really had opposite approaches to this issue. That one, it was, it was specifically a company value that employees came first, and I worked for them first, and then I went to work for an organization where, although it wasn’t written out in our company values, clearly the customer came first, and they were both great organizations, both strong companies, strong leadership, but it was just so apparent to me in the difference of style of, of the two organizations that I found it difficult, I found it difficult to, to reconcile and I think even the one company, they were so proud of being a customer-first organization that I almost, you know, I was, I was proud of the, of the service and the relationships they had with their clients, but I could never get past the fact that the employee didn’t come first. What about you? Did you have that experience?
I would say that I don’t feel like I’ve ever been, worked anywhere that the employee came first, and I can remember, gosh, for probably 15 years of my career, the organization that I was working for talked about the three-legged stool, and it was the fact that if any stool, to be effective, has three legs, and it’s our shareholders, it’s our customers, and our it’s our employees. We have to make sure that we’re giving, investing as much in all three, giving as much attention, or else you have this wobbly stool. It’s not gonna be comfortable or not going to work. Now, we talked about it for 15 years, they talked about it, but I never felt it or believed it. It was the shareholder, and then the customer, and then the employee. That’s the way I always felt. Now, I I totally believe that if you’re going to be serving your shareholders the way you should, if you’re publicly traded, that you’ve got to have your eye on the customer, but you gotta have your eye on the employee, and I love that, I love the reality, if anyone ever has the reality of that three-legged stool, because if you don’t treat your employees right, your customers are never going to be treated right. They’re just never, especially in an organization that you’ve got any type of a retail arm where customers are touched by your employees on everyday basis, if we aren’t treating those employees right, your customer care is not going to be what it could be, and then your shareholders are not going to be served.
Yeah. And that was, that was the the message of the, my first 15 years of my working career was, take care of your people, and they’ll take care of your customers, and we didn’t have outside shareholders at that time, but I think that the same theory would apply. They’ll take care, by taking care of your customers, they take care of your shareholders, but it is an interesting approach to to see.
So we have an expert joining us to tell us more about her thoughts around that today.
Oh, that’s good.
Our expert today is Ali Cudby. Ali wrote the book on retention – literally wrote the book on retention, as she is the best selling author of “Keep Your Customers.” Ali helps companies create processes that add revenue by improving employee and customer loyalty. She also teaches entrepreneurship at Purdue University. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Ali worked at the New York Times, Golf Digest Magazine, and Animal Planet TV network. What an interesting career.
Oh my gosh, she focused on business, on sports, and animals.
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Welcome, Ali. We’re so glad you’re here.
Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here.
So your book is called “Keep Your Customers,” but you also focus on employee retention. How are they related?
They are definitely related. So in the book “Keep Your Customers,” I had the fantastic opportunity to interview Chris Baggott, who is the CEO of a company called ClusterTruck in Indianapolis, and ClusterTruck is a really interesting company. It’s basically a restaurant where all they do is deliver food, and one of the things that they did was focus everybody in the company on this one mantra, and the mantra was, “Don’t ship maybes,” and basically, by having everyone from the people in the kitchen, who said, “If a meal comes through and it’s not great, throw it out and start it again, don’t ship maybes,” to people who were hiring, and maybe had a candidate sitting across from them who wasn’t fabulous, even though you might really need to fill the slot, “don’t ship maybes,” don’t hire a candidate unless they’re great. And by making a customer-oriented move toward employees, you really apply the same kind of theory to employee retention as customer retention, and as we all know, when people feel seen, heard, and valued, they are much more inclined to be loyal. And so in that way, whether you’re, you know, you really do look at employee as customers. And so there’s two lessons to learn from all of this. One is, treat employees like customers and get better retention on the other side, and the other is, when you get everybody in your organization aiming toward one singular outcome, it’s best for the employees, because they feel engaged in a, they feel like they’re really a part of the process. They feel like they’re engaged in the outcomes, and they feel like customers, so they feel seen, heard, and valued.
I love it. What a great story.
The impacts go in lots of different directions, and I’m sure a lot of your listeners are familiar with some of the more common HR-oriented ones. You have to spend a lot more time looking at resumes. You have to spend a lot more time interviewing. You’re pulling employees off of their regular jobs to also participate in the interviewing, because obviously, all interviewing doesn’t go through HR, and so you’re spending a lot of time sort of in the machine of interviewing, and that means that those people aren’t able to focus on growth, but also, because you’re constantly bringing in new people to the organization, it means that you don’t necessarily get there in the steep part of the learning curve, too, and so they don’t get to focus on growth as much. You’re always reinforcing the basics, and so you don’t get to sort of get to the advanced levels. And if you’re losing people out of your company, it also means you’re losing institutional knowledge. So the impacts are that the costs are in the interviewing, but then also the customer. So there’s really a direct revenue impact if customers are not being able to click with employees, or they’re always getting a new rep, or they’re getting a new rep who didn’t know the information that the old rep, or, and it doesn’t even have to be a rep. It’s really any employee. It’s any person that a customer is engaging with. So there are lots of direct and indirect costs to not having great employee retention.
Yeah, yeah. Do you have a specific example you can share with us of employee experience having a negative impact on revenue?
Sure. So I had a client who was a retail company, and one of the natures of the beast with retail is they have a lot of employees, there’s a lot of turnover, but there’s also not a nine to five workday environment. And for this retailer, having the employees be real knowledgeable about the product that was coming into the organization and coming out to the store floor was incredibly important, and they just never got into a good groove with that piece of taking care of their own employees. So employees would come to work, they wouldn’t be empowered with the information that they needed in order to be great facilitators for customers, so customers would come in, they’d ask for product information, and the employees wouldn’t have it. And that had, you know, very clearly a direct impact on revenue, and it had a direct impact on customer enjoyment and employee experience, because they felt dumb all the time. They were frustrated, they felt like they weren’t being set up for success. And you see that in lots of different companies. It doesn’t have to be retail environment. I see it in tech companies all the time. There’s a product update, and the people who are on the product side never quite tell everybody else in the company what’s new, right? And the same thing happens.
Yeah. Great example.
Beyond revenue, Ali, what are the benefits of better employee retention?
Well, some of them I’ve alluded to already, I mean, what you get is, you get a, well, when you have revenue coming in the door, it frees you up for being able to focus on some of those strategic and growth-oriented processes. And if the goal is to be able to make people feel seen, heard, and valued, if you don’t have to stress out about making your numbers, you can relax into those processes. You can think about it from the employee standpoint, you can think about it from the customer standpoint, and then once you’re able to relax into creating these processes where people feel seen, heard, and valued, then everybody feels more invested in their experience with the company, and then that leads to more revenue, and you really get a virtuous cycle. If only the people who are listening could see my hand gestures of the cycle that I’m making in the air. But it really does, you know, the more people feel seen heard, and valued, the more it impacts revenue, the more people feel seen, heard, and valued. And so it goes.
Yeah, yeah. Love it. What can companies do to improve employee loyalty?
The great thing for companies on the employee loyalty front is that there really is a model, and that is the customer loyalty model, and that is a well-documented model. And I will say that, you know, I lay it out pretty clearly in the book, “Keep Your Customers,” and so, you know, by focusing and using some of those tools that people focus on and use on the customer side, they can, you know, apply them really successfully. And, and some of them are in place on some level with employees, but, you know, so there’s an onboarding process, there’s, you know, that, that companies have, and so then the question is, is the onboarding process doing the nuts and bolts of the work, or is it actually building the relationship with employees? So, you know, some companies do it better than others, and, you know, how you welcome, onboard, and create an ongoing journey for employees, and really celebrate their achievements, that is another way that companies can improve the employee retention process and use that model of customer retention as a guide.
Yeah, I like it.
What, what big name companies would our listeners recognize that you think have really figured this out, that at least right now, doing a really good job of building employee loyalty?
Well, I think Zappos is a great example. That’s a company that has not only invested on the employee side, but empowered its employees to invest in the customer side. So it’s a great example of that virtuous cycle that I was talking about, because they give employees such a clear bullseye to aim for and really give them rein to be creative and have fun with customers. Customers love the experience of calling into customer service from Zappos, you get great stories that come out of it, they end up on social media. And again, that’s another company where the virtuous cycle is in place.
I just have to mention that the last time I called Zappos, I had to wait, and I’m thinking to myself, “This is not Delivering Happiness,” but immediately as it was telling me at this recording, it says, “But would you like to hear a joke while you wait?”, and they tell you a joke while you’re waiting. I know, I thought it was great. It was a good joke.
Even better, but, and those are, those are the really, those are the small things that can make a big difference. When you have that one little shift from, “Oh my gosh, I’m waiting,” to “Hey, they’re thinking about me, even though I’m on hold,” it changes your mindset about the whole experience, and all of a sudden, when you get on that phone, you’re in a different place, and it really sets the stage for different conversation.
Yeah, great example. And Ali, you personally have worked for some big name companies. Susan and I shared earlier in the podcast some stories of companies that we worked with that were really good at putting the customer first and were really good at putting the employee first. in your own, in your own work history, do you have one that you thought was really good at this?
So I had one where I got to see a real remarkable transformation, and is that a major publishing company in the New York City area, and we did not do a great job with customer retention, and part of the reason was that we weren’t doing a great job with employee retention, and I was actually brought in to fix the problem. And the thing that was really fascinating about it was I got to do this huge listening tour with some of the best companies around the country in call center and customer service management, and as much as those amazing, high falutin, fancy, top of the line best practices were incredible, what really came home with me was when you make people feel like they’re connected to a sense of mission and are given the tools to succeed, they can be simple, they don’t have to be fancy. It’s the consistency and that combination of getting people emotionally engaged in the process and feeling supported that really wins the day.
Yeah, nice. Nice. What else do we need to know?
So there are some great tools that are available on my website, Your Iconic Brand, and, that talk about both the employee and the customer site. So if people go to youriconicbrand.com, they can check those out. And ultimately, there are sort of two things, you know, it’s, and I said it a little bit before, but I think it’s worth saying again, there’s the heart of employee retention, which is, you know, what are you doing to give people something that they can aim for and have that emotional connection to, and then there’s the smart, how are you giving people a consistent way to be successful and feel like they are being supported in their process forward? And those don’t have to be big, complicated steps. They can be simple. They just have to be consistent.
Yeah, I like it.
Ali, how can our listeners reach you if they were interested in learning more or perhaps engaging you?
Thank you. So anyone can always find me at my website, youriconicbrand.com, and I’m definitely active on LinkedIn. They can find me on Facebook under Your Iconic Brand or Ali Cudby and on Twitter @alicudby.
And what about your book, “Keep Your Customers”?
So the book is available now, which is really exciting. It’s something that you work on for a long time and it’s just launching as of now, so I’m thrilled.
I know, yay, indeed. And so people can find “Keep Your Customers” in all of their favorite book locales.
Yeah. Nice. Very good. Well, thank you so much for joining us today and talking about the importance of serving your employees to serve your customers.
Thank you. It’s been really fun. I enjoy it.
JoDee, our listener question today is, “What is the best way to find what your current title role is equivalent to when searching for a position outside of your current organization?”
Yeah, that’s a tough one, you know, my, my mind always jumps first, which may or may not be important to our listener, to compensation and market data and finding true job titles and descriptions, and the key on that one is to always, to some extent, ignore the title a bit and look at the job description. Right? What, what are the key functions of the role? Now, if you’re looking for a position outside of your organization, sometimes you don’t always have that full job description or, or have access to that. So it’s a little bit more difficult to, to find that but, but the key, I think, is to still, as much as possible, focus on what are the job functions, maybe how many people are reporting to the position, or, even if it’s not in the initial job ad, those would be some questions that I would ask for first in an interview is, what’s the reporting relationship? Who reports to this role and who does this role report to? Certainly, you know, even from an HR perspective, we see people who are HR Directors of companies with 50 people and HR Directors with companies who have 10,000 people. Obviously, the functions are, could be vastly different, but yet the same title, so it’s a, it’s a tricky one to, to find real comfort in that. What about you? Do you have some thoughts on that?
You know, the only other thought I had is if you’re lucky enough to know somebody in your network that happens to work in a company, and if you feel comfortable enough to sit down with them and say, “Hey, I would love to share what I do where I’m at, would you be open to help me understand your organization, because I’m, it’s a place I want to work someday, and I’d love to know if I should be looking at manager jobs or director jobs or VP jobs, I just want to make sure that I can kind of narrow what it is I would normally, if I wanted to go laterally or even up, what it would be.” Not all of us are lucky enough to have somebody or network at that particular company, I would look, first I’d go out to LinkedIn to see if I had any first or second connections, certainly if I had a second connection and I felt very comfortable about who we knew in common, I might reach out and say, “Hey, do you think I could, would you introduce me to so-and-so, I’d love to just see if they’d meet me for coffee.” People by and large are, are kind, and people by and large are willing to do it, so I think it’s worth the effort.
Yeah, great advice.
In our in the news section today, from a 2019 SHRM article in All Things Work, the average commute to work and home again now stands at more than 52 minutes.
And 23% of US employees have quit their jobs over a stressful commute. Some businesses are helping pave the way to a smoother commute for their employees by embracing such options as telework, work flex, and enhanced transportation benefits. If you or your employees are experiencing long commutes, consider how you might ask for and/or offer some of these alternatives. My commute is about 60 seconds Susan, so I, I can’t imagine driving 52 minutes but great, great advice, I think, to not be afraid to ask or to offer.
I agree. I, when I worked downtown, I’m in Indianapolis, and I would have about a 25 minute commute. I can’t tell you how many wonderful books I listened to on audio on the way to work, on the way home, but would be time to go home and I just couldn’t wait to get in my car, because I was going to get a good 25 minutes of whatever story I was involved in. But honestly, I think 52 minutes would probably have crushed me. So given that that’s the average, I feel for anybody who’s doing that.
All right, well, thanks for listening today and make it a JoyPowered® day.
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