How employee engagement boosts customer service

High employee engagement is key to better customer service—here’s why.

By David Galic, Contributing Writer

Published June 7, 2016
Last updated January 4, 2022

It’s no secret that the success of any business heavily relies on customer relationships. The more repeat customers you gain and the longer they remain customers, the more profitable this customer loyalty becomes.

There are plenty of factors that contribute to long-lasting customer relationships. But arguably, the interactions between your buyers and your frontline employees play the most crucial role. These team members act as touchpoints throughout the customer journey.

That’s why employee engagement is so important.

What is employee engagement?

Engaged workers are highly self-motivated and take pride in their work because they’re mentally and emotionally invested in it. They will often go above and beyond what is expected of them on the job. This level of engagement translates to thoughtful, helpful customer service and, of course, satisfied customers.

A common misconception is that employee engagement and employee satisfaction are the same things. While an engaged workforce is usually a satisfied one, happy workers aren’t always engaged workers. A Dale Carnegie study found that the top three factors that impact employee engagement rates are:

  1. Pride in the organization
  2. Trust in senior leadership
  3. Relationship with immediate manager

Clearly, keeping employees engaged requires more than unlimited PTO, annual bonuses, and snacks at the office. But any efforts to boost engagement will pay off.

Why is employee engagement important for customer service?

A good employee experience is the backbone of good customer experiences. Companies that outperform their competitors in customer experience typically have more engaged workers. In fact, research shows that businesses excelling in CX have 1.5 times more engaged employees than businesses with a record of poor CX.

Research shows that businesses excelling in CX have 1.5 times more engaged employees than businesses with a record of poor CX.

Customer service improves when frontline employees show up every day with positive energy, passion, and purpose. They believe in their company’s mission and enjoy what they do, so they’re committed to providing standout service and finding solutions for customers.

More meaningful interactions

employee engagement customer service interactions

Positive outcomes happen when your employees do more than the bare minimum. Engaged workers harbor a sincere love for their job and a sense of ownership that informs everything they do, culminating in a desire to deliver excellent experiences.

While it might sound cliché, work isn’t just about a paycheck to highly engaged employees. The purpose they find in their role sparks an inner motivation to ensure that every customer interaction ends with some sort of accomplishment—whether that means something was learned, a problem was solved, or time and money were saved.

Better collaboration

employee engagement customer service collaboration

Customers want answers from support reps as quickly as possible. Fast service is easier to provide if all team members can contribute to finding a solution. A company’s customer service shines when multiple departments are able to seamlessly collaborate when necessary. Use a software solution like Zendesk to set your agents up for success and keep teams in sync.

Engaged employees buy into their company’s mission, so they understand that every team plays a part in the success of the company. With this mindset, they’re eager to work cross-functionally when they can’t solve a customer problem on their own.

Alignment with values

employee engagement customer service values

When employees sincerely believe in a company’s purpose, customers are more inclined to do the same. Engaged employees are strongly aligned with your company’s vision, which makes them better brand ambassadors. Their honest enthusiasm translates to contagious energy that increases the chances of your customers feeling the same way about your brand as they do.

How to improve employee engagement: 5 best practices

Unfortunately, many companies aren’t doing enough to empower and engage their staff. According to a recent Gallup study, only 36 percent of U.S. employees are engaged in their work and workplace.

Help team members feel more invested in their roles by implementing an employee engagement program. While there’s no set way to boost motivation, these best practices are a good place to start.

1. Nail the onboarding process

According to a BambooHR survey, organizations with effective onboarding had 33 percent more employees who felt engaged than those who consider themselves disengaged employees. Additionally, staff who experienced successful onboarding were 18 times more likely to feel a high sense of commitment to their organization.

Organizations with effective onboarding had 33% more employees who felt engaged than those who consider themselves disengaged employees.

High-quality onboarding gives new hires the knowledge they need to become invested in your company. They learn about your core values and their primary responsibilities, so they know what success means for the business and how they can contribute to it.

Feeling unsure about the best way to onboard employees? Learn how to craft an onboarding program to support and integrate new hires during their first year of employment.

2. Listen to your workforce

Employees tend to feel engaged when they believe they’re truly making a difference. That’s why employers who actively listen to the ideas and concerns of their workforce stand to benefit greatly from it.

According to a Sideways 6 survey, 82 percent of employees have ideas for improving the business, yet one-third of them feel that their ideas are chronically ignored. On the other hand, employees who feel their voice is heard in the workplace are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work and go the extra mile.

Employees who feel their voice is heard in the workplace are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work.

Regular employee surveys and one-on-one meetings with management can go a long way toward making workers feel comfortable with providing honest, meaningful feedback.

3. Offer professional development opportunities

It’s hard for employees to feel invested in their work if they don’t believe they’re performing at their highest potential. Increase their confidence with employee development programs so they feel prepared and excited to come to work.

Improved workforce engagement is just one of the many benefits of continuous employee learning. Training and coaching also give your company a more skilled workforce, so you’ll likely see better growth and be able to promote from within when looking for new leaders.

4. Recognize and reward achievements

According to Gallup, “Recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.”

If you’re giving public praise, you don’t want to make it seem like you’re playing favorites with certain team members. Explain why the recognition is deserved and describe how the employee contributed to a concrete organizational goal. This transparency will help everyone see the positive impact of that team member’s work and will hopefully motivate them, too.

Keep in mind that some employees may feel shy and reluctant to receive public praise. For these team members, you can always share positive feedback in a private one-on-one setting.

5. Give employees flexibility

Empowering team members to do their jobs well is key to driving engagement. But sometimes, employees need to know that they can take a break to feel more invested in their work.

According to a Quantum Workplace study, employees with the right amount of balance between their work and personal lives are over 20 percent more engaged. Conversely, employees who believe a proper balance doesn’t exist are 2.5 times more likely to be hostile and disengaged.

Employees with the right amount of balance between their work and personal lives are over 20% more engaged.

Businesses often fear that flexibility leads to a decrease in productivity and efficiency, but in reality, the complete opposite is true. A healthy work-life balance reduces employee stress and illness by giving employees more time to focus on their well-being, effectively decreasing absenteeism and increasing productivity. And by supporting your agents, you’re supporting your customers, too.

In a Flex+Strategy Group study, 60 percent of employees with flexible work options reported feeling more productive and engaged, and 45 percent said that flexibility increases their ability to communicate, create, and innovate with coworkers.

Some of the important considerations for creating a flexible work environment include:

  • Embracing a performance-driven company culture. Focus on outcomes and achievements instead of the number of hours spent working.
  • Setting clear expectations. Make sure your employees know what success looks like. If deadlines, goals, and check-in dates exist, communicate them to your team.
  • Stressing accountability. Acceptance of personal responsibility breeds self-motivation.

Employee engagement and customer experience go hand in hand

When your employees are engaged, they understand the role they play in organizational success and will work passionately toward maintaining that success. For your frontline team members, that means going above and beyond to provide customers with the help they need.

Strengthen employee engagement by showing your staff how they’re contributing to the company and by providing a flexible, healthy work environment. These actions will help make team members’ jobs more enjoyable and meaningful, so they’re eager to bring their best selves to every customer interaction.

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