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OH BEEEHAAAVE! Winning the Talent War and Keeping Customers Extremely Happy

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Austin Powers didn't just make us laugh, he had a good point for America's employers. We need to behave much more to increase employee and customer loyalty. We have to out-behave the competition!

Two data points have been buzzing around my brain lately on this topic. They are the metrics of customer service and employee satisfaction. I don't think you can focus on customer service without an equal focus on the satisfaction levels of your team members. The nexus is straightforward: treat your employees like valued customers and your company and clients will WIN.

1] Repeat Business: David Geevaratne, president of DC-based tech company New Signature, shared with me last week a Xerox study on what drives -- or drives away -- repeat business. The study found that only a small percentage of customers will return to a business if they are simply 'satisfied,' but customers are six times more likely to return if they are 'highly' or 'extremely' satisfied. "Customer satisfaction simply isn't enough these days," says Geevarate. "What differentiates New Signature is that our team is inspired to deliver a highly engaging and exciting experience in every interaction with our customers and with each other."

Bottom line, you shouldn't aspire to have customers just 'like' your business, as that does not drive repeat purchasing. You should want your customers to 'LOVE' your business, because then they will return. Harvard Business Review has reported that companies can increase profits by almost 100 percent if just 5 percent more of their customers were retained. Lesson learned: Keep 'em happy!

The same goes for your employees. Don't assume happiness when it comes to your team.

2] The War to Keep Great Talent: At our startup Barrel of Jobs, people refer their networks to jobs and we financially incentivize the referral chain. Often they are referring friends who currently have jobs but are looking for a change. Out of 120 million employed Americans, 16 percent are actively looking for jobs, 74 percent are passive candidates - meaning they are not looking but may be willing to make a move for the right opportunity -- and 10 percent are not looking period. Those "passive candidates" are the highly desirable ones you want to hire, but also the ones that you don't want to lose, especially to a competitor. We all know that the job market is challenging and 12.5 million Americans are unemployed. People might not be jumping ship but they are keeping an eye open to opportunity. You don't want to lose your 'A' and 'B+' players.

As I've noted previously, the hiring process is like dating. Once an employee is hired, we need to think of retention process more as a 'good' marriage or partnership. When you want to hire someone you paint them a beautiful picture and you can't help but show excitement about finding the perfect candidate. Meanwhile, the person on the other side of the hiring table is envisioning candle light coffee breaks, walks on the beach -- I mean walks down the corridors, deep learning discussions and planning with their cadre of new colleagues. It's one thing to bring a key hire in the door. To keep him or her as a 'highly' or 'extremely' satisfied member of your team (celebrating many wonderful anniversaries together), you need to think about anticipating and exceeding your employees needs and expectations.

I am a big fan of Dov Seidman of LRN. Both Seidman and Thomas Friedman in his book That Used to Be Us talk about "out-behaving the competition." In the 21st century people don't want to feel like horses-on-a-carriage with blinders on walking through endless streets of rules and protocols. That is the lowest culture according to Seidman; it is a 'blind obedience' model that is ineffective at best. To out-behave your competition, Seidman suggests you build a self-governing culture where your team feels purpose, autonomy, trust and a willingness to take calculated risks. I equate this as a more entrepreneurial culture where people can take challenges and rise to the occasion. In his studies this self-governing culture is unfortunately rare, with only 3 percent of employees globally studied by LRN observing high levels of self-governing behavior within their organizations. Interestingly, over 10 percent of C- Suite leaders believe their organization has a self-governing culture.

A friend recently said to me "People don't quit jobs, they quit managers." People who love their companies and feel purpose will use their social networks time and talent to bring new relationships, clients, and potential quality hires into the fold, ten-fold. Employees who don't just 'like' but 'LOVE' working for (and with) you.

Now any great partnership is a two-way street or as Rob Base would say 'it takes two to make it outta sight!' Just like in a marriage, you can't expect your partner to make you happy all the time, nor should you expect the same of your employer. You need to bring your best to the table, seize opportunities and recharge your batteries when needed to stay on your professional game.

Next time you think of offering customer service training to your employees -- think of them as your VIP customers too. See within each team member an ember of entrepreneurial spirit and inspiration that is yearning to be ignited and channeled productively to truly benefit your company.