Reaching and inspiring the frontline to revitalise the customer experience




Huw Morgan

The recent case of the Walmart employee whose video went viral after she filmed herself quitting her job over the store’s PA system provides a snapshot of how disengaged and disconnected many frontline employees are feeling today.

According to research, only 13% of frontline staff feel engaged at work, which helps explain the high level of annual staff turnover in many industry sectors; notably grocery (40 to 50%), retail (81%) and fast food (100 to 150%).

Meanwhile, the 90% annual turnover of truck drivers at large haulage firms has had a major impact on the UK’s supply chain this year, impacting everything from supermarket shelves and building products to the recent fuel shortage.

An unhappy frontline is a big problem. After all, they make up 80% of the global workforce and, even with the rise of digitalisation, have the single biggest influence on the customer experience.

According to Forbes magazine, customer expectations have soared during the pandemic along with a need for companies to make experiences more human and relatable.

These interactions are delivered by frontline staff who are often seen by customers as the face and voice of the brand. The way those interactions are handled by frontline employees; whether in-store, on the phone, via social media or when delivering a service, has a major bearing on the brand’s reputation, so there’s a lot resting on their shoulders. 

As a better employee experience drives a better customer experience, supporting, reaching and engaging frontline staff should be a priority. 

Of course, frontline engagement can only be achieved if the ‘basics’ are already firmly in place; like fair wages, manageable working hours and a responsible approach to worker safety and wellbeing. With these essential foundations solid, the focus can move to helping frontline employees better understand and believe in the part they play in helping the company succeed. 

There are two purpose-related elements that guide our thinking and planning when working on frontline engagement programmes: communicating with purpose; and creating content that’s fit for purpose. 

Only 13% of frontline staff feel engaged at work 

Communicating with purpose

Frontline engagement research has found that only 22% of frontline employees feel their job is important to the company’s mission. 

A company’s mission is a purpose-driven statement that conveys what the company does and will do for the customer that sets the brand apart from the competition. Frontline employees then need to have a clear understanding of how their role and individual interactions with customers align with that mission.

For example, Amazon’s mission statement is: “We aim to be Earth’s most customer-centric company and it empowers frontline employees to deliver on that ambition with six customer service principles or ‘tenets’ that are communicated internally.

  • Relentlessly advocate for customers.
  • Trust our customers and rely on colleagues to use good judgement.
  • Anticipate customer needs and treat their time as sacred.
  • Deliver personalised, peculiar experiences that customers love.
  • Make it simple to detect and escalate problems.
  • Eliminate customer effort (by following the above steps).

What I love about Amazon’s ‘tenets’ is they provide frontline employees with clear purpose-driven guidance while also providing room for staff to put a little of their own personality into the customer experience.

Communications that are fit for purpose

One of the challenges of communicating to the frontline is they can be a hard-to-reach audience; largely because so few sit at desks and many work irregular hours.

We apply seven principles when working on frontline engagement campaigns to ensure the content we develop is relevant, compelling and fit-for purpose.

  1. Enable and empower line managers to keep teams connected. 
  2. Keep comms short and to the point.
  3. Explain how it will help them and the job that they do. 
  4. Place purpose at the heart of frontline recognition. 
  5. Think mobile first when developing content. 
  6. Remember that pictures often speak louder than words. 
  7. Create a hub where people can connect and learn. 

Each programme starts with an insight phase which allows us to amplify certain principles depending on our understanding of the frontline audience and their working and communications habits, but the most important lesson for any frontline engagement campaign is to build it around purpose.

If you’re responsible for communicating to frontline colleagues, take a minute to ask how they put your company’s purpose into practice each day and then consider what you can do to make them feel more connected, motivated and successful.

Want to discuss how we can help with your internal communications & employee engagement? Get in touch or read more about our services here.

Huw Morgan
Huw Morgan

Director, Internal Communications

Huw's passion is for targeted campaigns that bring brand strategy and purpose to life from the inside out. Huw has a wealth of client-side experience leading colleague engagement for major brands, including Telefonica Digital, Virgin Media and O2.

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Huw Morgan

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