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The Most Overlooked Competitive Advantage

By Bruce Bolger, Managing Director, Enterprise Engagement Alliance

I am always surprised by the extent to which organizations overlook the impact their employees have on their brand, productivity, quality and performance. While companies often publicly disclose their expenditures on advertising – the process of making promises – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a company disclose a budget for keeping promises – i.e., engaging employees to deliver on the direct or implied promises made in marketing or sales efforts.

The Human Factor

How many times have you experienced a situation in which the behavior of an employee or the policies of a company have stopped you from buying from them? How many times have you seen practices, attitudes or policies in your own organization that you know are hurting customer satisfaction, quality or performance?

The trouble is that in the past organizations had no way of measuring this connection. Companies like Gallup, Towers Perrin, Hay Group, the Conference Board, Aberdeen and others have published extensive research demonstrating the connection between employee engagement, customer satisfaction and performance, yet huge companies continue to overlook the Human Factor. We see it every day with executive or management appointments based on who someone knows rather than on true performance or capability; misleading advertising claims; marketing promotions with unfriendly fine print; policies that are inflexible or unfriendly to consumers; and on and on. The New York Times columnist who calls himself The Haggler has made a career out of exposing these broken promises.

This May Sound Familiar

I experienced the Human Factor first-hand when our family decided to try a new cable provider six months ago, only to go back to our original provider. I don’t wish to use our media to air personal grievances, and our experience might have simply reflected a rare bad experience, but the company to which we temporarily switched did a number of things wrong that may sound familiar:

In the meantime, the original company:

There's No Excuse

Now that we have the old service back, we see that it has some advantages – as well as some disadvantages – versus the other company that almost made it a wash from a technical standpoint. But from a human standpoint, there’s no comparison, and that’s what ultimately drove us back into the embrace of our original provider.

In the old days, companies couldn’t measure the Human Factor. Today there’s no excuse not to. We have members of the Enterprise Engagement Alliance who offer a wide variety of assessment and implementation tools to ensure that front-line managers are engaging people, and that people at all levels are committed to delivering on the brand promise. The problem is that there’s still a generation of executives leading our businesses who were never trained in the Human Factor – and in some cases were actually trained to ignore it as something that couldn’t be measured or controlled.

This is no longer true, and companies that continue to operate with the old mindset do so at their own peril.

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