Issue 17 | April/May 2016

My 13-year-old daughter, Grace, bought a camera at Costco last year. She had saved for many months, compared alternatives, and settled on an all-inclusive package that featured lenses, memory and a carrying case.

She began using the camera with much excitement, and some pictures were great—but others were blurry or faded. I assumed it was a matter of learning the equipment, but over time, her enthusiasm began to wane and the camera stayed on a shelf. One weekend, some out-of-town family stayed with us, including Kait, who is a professional photographer. "There's something wrong with the camera," she concluded. "Maybe the chipset or a lens fitting."

We took it back to Costco—long past the 90-day return threshold—and Grace explained to the person behind the service counter what happened. With a manager's okay, they agreed to an immediate replacement. Then the real magic happened. An employee in the camera area named Devon, who was just finishing her shift, stayed an extra 30+ minutes to help Grace unpack the new camera, ensure that it worked, and go over basic features. "You will LOVE this camera!" she said. "I have the same model."

The thing that struck me is that this was just a transaction in a "big box" store—nothing special on a P&L. Yet, it could have lifelong impact on a young person who was giving up on an interest.

I hope you enjoy this issue.

Warm Regards,

Brad Cleveland

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I believe there are three categories of statistics any leader needs to know about employee engagement:

First, employee engagement is strongly tied to customer experience. If you're into statistical correlations, you'll get a kick out of this: the ISS Group found that frontline service employee engagement correlates highly with customer experience, specifically at: r = .55. By way of comparison, this is higher than:

  • Increasing age and declining speed of information processing in adults (r = .52)
  • Weight and height of US adults (r = .44)
  • Past behavior as a predictor of future behavior (r = .39)
  • General validity of screening procedures for selecting job personnel (r = .27)

Second, there is a powerful connection between employee engagement and business results. Gallup concludes that companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share. And research conducted by Aon Hewitt tells the same story, finding that companies in the top quartile for engagement enjoy a 4% increase in sales growth compared with an average company, while those in the bottom quartile see sales decrease by 1%. Further, those in the top quartile see a 2% increase in operating margin, versus a 3% decrease for bottom-quartile companies.

Engagement Requires Aligned Values

Picture Courtesy, Grace Cleveland

Third, employee engagement is, unfortunately, not common. "The world has a crisis of engagement—one with serious and potentially long-lasting repercussions for the global economy," concludes Gallup, who puts the number of employees worldwide who are NOT engaged at a whopping 87% (the number is a still-high 70% in the United States). There's something lost in many of today's organizations and institutions—but I believe it can be regained, and I find examples in the most amazing places "(see Issue 6, Hands on Vision)."

Jack Welsh, the respected former CEO of GE (whose methods weren't always universally praised for their impact on employees), concluded: "There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization's overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it."

Of course, contrived efforts to achieve employee engagement can be dangerous, creating cynicism and turnover among your best employees. But suffice it to say, there's a lot of potential to drive positive customer experiences and business outcomes through authentic steps that engage employees. (For a quick assessment of improvement opportunities in your organization, see To-Do's section, below).

Our economy could use it. And you might even impact the life of a young customer.

Recent Issues

  • Compared with disengaged employees, highly engaged employees are more than 4X as likely to recommend the company's products and services and do something good for the company that is not expected of them, 2.5X as likely to stay at work late if something needs to be done after the normal workday ends, and 7X as likely to recommend that a friend or relative apply for a job at their company. (Temkin Group, 2016)
  • There is 55% difference in NPS scoring for highly engaged employees vs. actively disengaged employees. (Aon Hewitt, 2015)
  • Customer service employees are among the least engaged at work, falling behind human resources, sales, marketing, engineering, R&D, operations, finance and IT, in that order. (Quantum Workplace, 2015)
  • Nearly 50% of companies fail to measure employees' engagement with the customer or the brand. (Edelman, 2015)
  • Only 55% of companies have an explicit employee engagement strategy. Among those that do have a strategy, 86% of senior leaders are familiar with it, followed by 65% of people managers and only 38% of employees. (Edelman, 2015)

The National Business Research Institute (NRBI) identifies six traits engaged employees have in common, including:

  • They believe in their organization.
  • They have the desire to work to make things better.
  • They understand the business context and big picture.
  • They are respectful and helpful to colleagues.
  • They are willing to go the extra mile.
  • They stay up to date with developments in their industry.

Put a small team of employees together and take stock of each trait. What's going well? Where are the improvement opportunities? What steps can you take to (authentically, with buy-in) improve each?

  • Brad was recently interviewed by Jim Rembach on the Fast Leader show (Q: What's your number one tip for success?). A link to the recording can be here.
  • Brad was recently interviewed by Conston Taylor on Business Innovators Radio, with topics ranging from customer expectations to development priorities.
  • New ebook (free), ICMI's Guide to Contact Center Metrics, by Brad Cleveland and Justin Robbins
  • See the frequently updated statistics page at, with sections on customer expectations, contact centers, and social/mobile/tech.

*Brad delivers many private keynotes, workshops, and executive briefings to organizations and associations. For more information, contact

Brad has devoted his career to maximizing the value of customer-facing services. As a speaker, consultant, entrepreneur, executive, and president/CEO, he has seen change from many perspectives and has a deep understanding of the critical importance of customer service delivery to an organization's success. He has worked across 45 states and in 60 countries, and has been privileged to assist in the evolution of service delivery for clients such as American Express, Apple, Coca-Cola, USAA, and others, as well as for governments across the globe. Brad serves as a senior advisor to the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), and is an in-demand speaker and consultant.

To inquire about consulting or speaking, connect through any of the channels below.

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