Vail Valley Partnership CEO: A strong work culture can lead to strong customer loyalty (column) | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Partnership CEO: A strong work culture can lead to strong customer loyalty (column)

Chris Romer
Vail Valley Partnership

In a recent report, "Salesforce State of the Connected Customers," 80 percent of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services, and 57 percent have stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience.

Yet existing organizations struggle to keep pace with customer expectations as a result of disruptive technologies that allow companies to provide smarter, faster and always-on experiences.

How can our business community cope with this ever-changing model?

I suggest the answer to this is to take action and focus on how you can be helpful. This scales from an individual level to an organizational level. Consider as an employee, manager or business owner — how are you taking action? How are you being helpful to your team or customers? Similarly, consider your organization — how are you taking action and being customer focused to provide a better experience?

Today's world requires people/brands/organizations/destinations to be focused not on customer satisfaction — that's so 2014 — but rather on customer loyalty (now we're talking). How exactly can you do this?

Consider focusing internally on your workplace culture. Today's hyper-competitive world with under 2 percent unemployment, with 62 percent of businesses indicating that finding employees ranges from "fair" to "terrible" and with nearly a third reporting they have open positions, it is incumbent to do everything within reason to retain your workforce. Culture plays a key role in employee retention.

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Studies show that people decide to leave jobs overwhelmingly based on the treatment of the people they work with, and especially that of their bosses. As one piece of research out of Accenture pointed out, of the four top reasons people gave for leaving a firm, all four had to do with management and personnel environment.

It's often said that "people don't quit their jobs, they quit their bosses." As a boss, it is your responsibility to build a culture that people are attracted to. The earlier data points tell a story if you adjust customer for employees, and substitute products for work: "80 percent of employees say the experience a company provides is as important as the work we do."

Maybe it is time to consider that we — as managers, leaders, bosses — need to "buy" employees much like consumers buy brands.

I'm not advocating that we literally buy employees. Are you really attracting the best and brightest if your approach is to buy employees? Probably not.

Rather, I'm suggesting that organizational leaders need to view their work culture much the same as they view their consumer brand. Leadership is not neutral, and a positive work culture often results in increased employee retention, productivity and satisfaction.

Our business community might be moving in this direction. In our recent workforce study, 63 percent of businesses reported they are increasing investment in employee training. Most businesses in Eagle County pay more than other areas of the state; and benefits across the board (retirement, health, dental and vision insurance, flex time, recreation benefit, even housing subsidies) are increasing from past years.

Of course, benefits alone do not result in a good workplace culture. But they do show a commitment from employers and a recognition that a focus on taking care of employees is the first step in taking care of our customers.

How to best keep up with changing customer needs and expectations? Invest in your team and create a workplace culture that people want to be a part of. You just might create loyal customers as a side effect.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.