My name is Doug Fowler and I am the new Chief Operating Officer at The Daniel Group.  I am honored to join a company with such an uncommonly high level of commitment to serving both its clients and employees.  I hope that my passion for serving customers and teammates and my experience in a variety of management roles in B2B services will help me make a positive contribution to The Daniel Group’s continued growth and success.

From time to time, I’ll be joining Lynn and Max in contributing posts to our weekly blog.  To that end, this week I’ll share the first in a three-part series of entries about the link between satisfied customers and engaged employees:

Part I: A Smile or a Sigh?  Employee Engagement from a Customer’s Perspective

While traveling on a recent family vacation, I had an excellent customer service experience at a car rental agency, which began with a smile from the company representative. It reminded me of a somewhat less enjoyable experience I’d had almost ten years ago at an airline ticket desk, which began with a sigh.

As a customer, have you ever encountered a company representative who communicated clearly positive or negative body language before you’d ever exchanged your first word?  And if you have, did you get the feeling that the quality of your customer experience might be largely determined before it ever really began?

A smile. Before I’d even come to a stop in the return lane of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, I was met with a smile from the employee responsible for handling my return. He directed me into the designated parking spot, asked me for my keys and asked how my trip had gone. While we spoke, he reviewed my receipt, noticed I’d been overcharged, apologized for the mistake, and corrected my bill. Wow! I met my wife and sons inside the rental car facility and let my wife know that the representative had caught an error and our total bill was over $75 lower than we’d anticipated. My wife smiled and said “I love Enterprise.”

A sigh. The ticket desk agent of a major airline handed boarding passes to the traveler in front of me, sighed, shook his head slightly, then motioned to me to approach the desk. He informed me my Charlotte to London flight would not be direct, but instead would connect via Philadelphia. I was disappointed, since I had paid for and expected a direct flight, and I asked for some form of compensation for the inconvenience. My request was denied. At the end of our exchange, I pledged that if a competing airline were to offer this route in future, I’d do my best to fly with the competitor, to which the agent replied, “OK. Whatever.” I sighed and headed for the security line.

What made these two customer experiences memorable was the level of emotional satisfaction and dissatisfaction I took from each one. Clearly, I had good reason to be more rationally satisfied with my rental car experience than the airline, but it was mostly the human element of each encounter which strengthened my loyalty to Enterprise and weakened it with the airline.

(For more on the importance of emotional satisfaction, see Lynn’s previous posts on the topic).

And if I had to guess, the emotional satisfaction I took away from these situations could have been better predicted by the employee’s initial body language as an indicator of attitude and engagement level, than by the rational, logistical details involved in each case.

Next week we’ll put this guess to the test and take a look a recent study which suggests a stronger relationship exists between your employees’ level of engagement and customer satisfaction than taking Advil and feeling less pain… service organizations, take note!

Doug

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