For years I’ve been saying profit is the applause you get by taking care of your customers and creating a motivating environment for your people. The greatest leaders know this and work hard to build and maintain cultures that inspire employees — so employees in turn can inspire devoted customers.
That sounds good in theory, and it works in the real world. Consider the case of Joshie the Giraffe, told in May by Chris Hurn in the Huffington Post. After returning from a vacation at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, Fla., Hurn’s son discovered he’d left behind Joshie, his beloved stuffed giraffe. Doing his best to console his distraught son, Hurn assured him Joshie was fine and had merely extended his vacation at the Ritz.
Luckily, Hurn received a call that night from the Ritz-Carlton letting him know Joshie had been found and was safe in the hands of the hotel’s loss prevention team. Hurn confessed that he’d fabricated a story about Joshie’s extended vacation, and asked if the staff would be willing to take a photo of Joshie lounging by the pool.
Two days later Joshie arrived home in a package that not only included Ritz-Carlton goodies like a Frisbee and football, but a binder documenting Joshie’s holiday: photos of Joshie in sunglasses lounging by the pool, relaxing with cucumber slices over his eyes as he enjoyed a massage at the spa, driving a golf cart to the beach, cavorting with other stuffed animals and manning the security monitors in the control room. Joshie had even been issued a Ritz-Carlton badge and had been made an honorary loss prevention team member.
“It goes without saying that the Ritz-Carlton can count on my family to be repeat customers,” Hurn said.
Keeping in mind that it costs six to seven times more to gain a new customer than to retain an existing one, Hurn’s loyalty alone justified the expenses related to Joshie’s extended vacation.
Joshie’s story didn’t happen by accident. It was the outcome of a leadership decision to empower employees to use their creativity and up to $2,000 to solve customer problems. It’s a story that perfectly exemplifies how the right kind of leadership can inspire employee passion, which in turn drives customer loyalty and devotion.
When managers focus their attention only on fiscal measurements like profit, they have their eye on the scoreboard and not on the ball. A year-long study conducted by The Ken Blanchard Cos. in 2006 determined there is a strong link between employee passion and customer devotion, and that employee passion is the key to driving an organization’s long-term health and profitability. It’s synergistic: When employees are passionate, they create customers like Hurn, who are excited about and devoted to the company — which in turn has a positive effect on the work environment and further increases employees’ passion.
The Blanchard study uncovered 12 factors that drive employee passion, among them collaboration, meaningful work, autonomy, feedback, task variety and discretionary effort. These factors come alive in the Joshie story. How much fun do you think it was for the Ritz-Carlton loss prevention team members to arrange and document Joshie’s vacation?
Our research showed that 50 percent of organizations focus on dashboards and metrics when they should focus on creating and improving employee passion. If your organization is over-focused on metrics, consider a campaign to foster passion in your people. Give them a sense of meaning beyond simply making a salary. Give them the autonomy and flexibility to bring their brains and creativity to work. Create opportunities for growth, collaboration and feedback, and keep the lines of communication open, so that you’re giving people a sense of connectedness.
Not only was Joshie’s story written up in the Huffington Post, it went viral, making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere. When you factor in the savings from hundreds of thousands of dollars of free advertising and the boost to employee morale from all that positive publicity, you begin to appreciate the power of employee passion.
Ken Blanchard is a best-selling author, speaker and chief spiritual officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.