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Think about the last time you had an amazing customer service experience.

Got it?

I’m going to guess that you identified that experience with the company and not the individual who delivered it.

Often your mobile employees are the face of your organization. This is a large group of potentially powerful brand advocates – why not brand from the inside out?

Millions is routinely spent on promoting the company brand to customers when one surly shop assistant could ruin that customer experience. Ensuring these employees feel connected, engaged, and kept up to date with the company strategy and mission will all work together to improve the customer experience. If they aren’t kept in the loop of the company’s vision how can they deliver the customer experience promised by the brand?

I don’t know about you but I’ve had many conversations with employees of large and small retail outlets where they didn’t know about products being advertised by the company or important corporate announcements and news. This immediately gave me the impression that the company isn’t communicating with their frontline employees.

Tribe, an internal comms agency based in Atlanta, GA, conducts regular research into current and emerging communication trends for the non-desk employee (NDE).  They published a report of their findings, including very informative case studies, which you can find here.

As explained in the report, due to the challenges of reaching and engaging this group of employees, some companies rely on the cascade ‘channel’. However this approach has been proven to be unreliable. Shift workers, absent employees, and the eternal issue of ‘Chinese Whispers’ contribute to the challenge.

Furthermore the Edelman Trust Barometer 2013 found that scepticism and dispersion requires repetition. 64% of employees need to hear a message 3-5 times in order to believe it. How many cascades are repeated more than twice? Supporting a verbal cascade with a poster doesn’t resolve this problem either.

According to a previous national study conducted by Tribe, the absence of direct communication by the company’s leaders to NDEs was interpreted as a lack of respect and that the C-suite didn’t value them or their contributions to the company.

Just last week the Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, sent a memo to all in-store partners (employees), asking them to be especially sensitive to customers needs due to the stock market turmoil. No matter what you think of the message, you’ve got to admit it’s a great method of partner engagement: A memo directly from the CEO especially for the store partners. I’m not sure what channel mix was used but the memo was available externally, and received quite a bit of press, not long after being published internally.

It’s clear from all of the research available that this group of employees continues to challenge the internal communication professional. So far no company seems to have found the magic solution. The most successful companies rely on a diverse channel mix, utilising tried and tested means with newer emerging, often technology-based solutions. Scaling this approach and more importantly analysing the effectiveness of it can present a daunting set of new challenges…that’s a whole other topic for the next blog post.

What channel(s) do you use to reach and engage your NDEs? How many of the channels allow two-way communication? Do you collect analytics on the reach and effectiveness of them?

Ciara O'Keeffe
Digital Communications Leader, Speaker, Author and Judge with global experience in enterprise social, specialising in mobile, with a degree in European Business Management with Languages.
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