Adam M. Grant has spent the past decade trying to figure out what motivates employees. Grant, an associate professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, became interested in the subject when he was a sales manager trying to motivate his team. He found that when salespeople heard directly from customers how much the company’s products helped them, they were more motivated and they sold more.
Since joining academia, Grant has continued to study how and why connecting employees with customers motivates employees to work more productively.
One of his most impressive experiments was with a scholarship company that used telemarketers to raise funds. The telemarketers had low morale and a turnover rate of 400 percent. Then Grant had a scholarship recipient tell them how the scholarship that their work funded had changed his life. A month later, those same telemarketers were spending an average of 142 percent more time making calls, and raising an average of 171 percent more money.
Writing in Harvard Business Review, Grant says the primary reasons customer contact motivates employees are:
- It shows them the impact their work has on others.
- It makes them feel appreciated.
- It increases their sense of empathy.
Can this work for you? Here are some ideas for how you can connect your employees to customers they may not otherwise meet:
Send employees to events
Trade shows, conferences and other industry events are great venues where your employees can meet clients or prospects and gain a new perspective. Sure, your salespeople always attend these events—but try sending along employees from a different department to help man the booth or gather customer data.
Hold customer events
Holiday parties, company anniversaries and other special days are natural occasions to bring together employees and customers who might not otherwise meet. One B2B company I know invited clients to attend their holiday party and share stories of how the company had helped their businesses grow. The clients loved sharing their stories, and the employees loved getting recognized for their role in the success.
Hold focus groups
Focus groups with customers are a great way to find out they really want. Yes, you may hear some negative feedback, but it will be outweighed by the positive benefits of listening to customers’ needs. And remembering those real end users while working on your product or service will keep employees focused.
Ask satisfied customers to write, e-mail you or post on your Facebook page about their experiences. Have employees follow up to talk to them by phone and gather more information. These testimonials are not only fodder for ads—but also effective motivators for your staff.
For me, public speaking is a great way to reconnect with the people I’m trying to serve. This may not work for everyone, but holding seminars, giving speeches or working with local community groups is a way for your team to get out among the end users and get a sense of how they appreciate your company.
Get more tips on motivating employees.
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