This is part 2 of an interview with Sybil F. Stershic, an expert on internal marketing. (Click here for Part 1)
3. As marketers, how can we incorporate internal marketing tools into the way we do our jobs?
I advocate two types of internal marketing tools. The first type involves what I call the “Employee-Customer Link” – find ways to connect employees with customers. For example, I encourage sharing general customer information, along with the results of any customer satisfaction research and complaint tracking, with ALL employees. Employees need to know who your company’s customers are … why they do business with you … how they use your products & services … and what they think of you. Too often customer information and insight is kept within the marketing, research, and/or sales functions. But the more your employees know about your customers, the better they can serve them. Another way to forge the employee-customer link is to include employees in customer visits or customer events, where appropriate. Some companies even set up “adopt-a-customer”- programs where employees reach out to customers to better understand their needs. These programs enable employees to connect with customers as real people, not just faceless names and account numbers.
The second set of internal marketing tools relates to strengthening a company’s “Internal Service Culture” based on the reality that internal customer service drives external service. These tools are used to encourage and reinforce collaboration, support, and communication across the organization so that employees work effectively with each other to achieve marketing and organizational goals. For example, one company organized a job-shadowing initiative where employees took turns spending time with other employees in different departments outside their respective functions. This effort enabled employees to better understand how their work – individually and collectively – impacts customers and the bottom line; i.e., it reinforced the message “We’re all in this together.” Marketers can be role models for internal collaboration by being inclusive in the planning and implementation of brand and marketing strategy – communicating with, educating, and providing the training and reinforcement that all employees need to understand and effectively deliver the brand promise.
4. What are some of the inhibitors to internal marketing and how can they be overcome?
I’ll comment here on what I consider to be a major inhibitor: the lack of top management commitment and involvement. Consider the popularity of “Undercover Boss” – people are hungry for a real connection between top management and employees.
In such situations, I tell people they need not wait for management to get a clue. If you don’t have the authority to implement internal marketing at the macro level (i.e., across the organization), you can still have an impact at a micro level – you can apply internal marketing on a department, division, or business-unit level. I encourage people to involve other departments at the outset, but if you’re unable to enlist human resources, administration, operations, etc., in internal marketing, you can go it alone. Sometimes all it takes is for one department to start; then when others notice the difference (“Hey, the folks there actually seem to enjoy their work!”), internal marketing can spread throughout the organization.
5. What is the best place for companies to start an internal marketing program?
Start by talking with and listening to your employees. Ask them what gets in the way of their doing their jobs effectively; then brainstorm what can be done to overcome those barriers. You can also ask them to put themselves in the CEO’s shoes and identify one or two things they would do to improve the organization. Another great conversation starter is this question: Would you refer a friend to work here?
In addition, review the results of your current customer satisfaction measurement. What are your customers telling you in their responses to how well the company is taking care of them? If you don’t have such customer and employee research, then invest in it.
Internal marketing involves listening and responding to both employee and customer concerns. Keep in mind that the way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel – and if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers!
For more on internal marketing get hold of Sybil’s book , Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care and visit her blog: Quality Service Marketing Blog