Looking Under The Hood Of Customer And Employee Engagement

A Skeptical Look Under The Hood Of Customer Engagement?

Why is Customer Engagement so fashionable?  Is that because Tops, Middles, and Marketers have found Jesus and come to love the Customer? I say “No!”

It occurs to me that Customer Engagement has become fashionable because marketers have found it increasingly difficult to get the customer’s attention long enough to exercise their dark arts of activating-influencing-manipulating human beings to want what the marketers are paid to sell.

Put differently, the purpose of the bag of tricks that falls under fine sounding rhetoric of Customer Engagement is to get customers to march in tune with the marketer’s agenda: tell us about yourself so we can sell your data and send you marketing messages; buy from us and buy more from us; and sell us, and for us, by recommending us to your social network.

I say Customer Engagement is a Taker’s way of taking whilst masking-disguising the taking that is going on. Is it then a real surprise that whilst there is so much talk of Customer Engagement, there is so little in the way of success?  Which might explain why the masters of the dark arts (those who advise-assist marketers) are busy inventing new tools-tricks for taking. And why marketers continue to fall for the latest tool-trick?

You may not be as skeptical as me; being skeptical as opposed to trusting-gullible is the norm, that is our default wiring.  So I invite your to play a mind game. Imagine that every company that is busy with Customer Engagement scraps their existing engagement tools-tricks. Instead, customers vote and choose their champion: the customer champion. This customer champion is invited to any-every discussion in the business which makes decisions that impact customers. And no decision can be made without the agreement of the customer champion.  In giving his/her consent the customer champion solicits the views of the people he represents: the customers.  Is this not real engagement with customers?  Then ask yourself if any business/organisation is doing this today. How many names have you come up with? Who even gets close to something like this?

What Is The Alternative To Customer Engagement?

If you showed up and travelled through life as a Giver how would you approach the Customer challenge?  I say that you would not be asking yourself  the following question: “How do I get the customers to engage with me and my agenda?”

It occurs to me that as a Giver you would be grappling with the following kinds of questions:

  1. How do I create superior value for my customers?
  2. How do I make their lives simpler-easier?
  3. How do I enrich the lives of our customers?
  4. What will it take for our organisation to leave customers feeling happy doing business with us and grateful that we exist?”

A Skeptical Look Under The Hood Of Employee Engagement?

Why is it the Employee Engagement is so fashionable? Is it because Tops, Middles and HR folks have found Jesus, recognised the universal brotherhood of man, and come to see the folks that work in the business as fellow human beings – of equal worth and value? I say “No!”

It occurs to me that Employee Engagement has become fashionable because the business place is so competitive. As such there is tremendous pressure on organisations to increase productivity and cut costs.  And for some organisations, there is the added pressure of generating knowledge and converting this knowledge into new products, new services, and better (cheaper) ways of doing things.

Imagine one of the Tops getting up and saying: “We are keen, even desperate, to get as much knowledge-innovation-work out of our human resources as possible whilst paying the absolute minimum that we can get away with paying.”  How much better, upstanding, uplifting, it sounds for a Top to talk about Employee Engagement.

I get that you may think that what I speak here is far-fetched. Let’s put that to the test. Imagine every company that is touting Employee Engagement goes to their employees and asks them to vote for and nominate an employees champion. And once this champion is appointed, s/he has to be presented in any-all discussion that affect the lives of the employees. And that no decisions that affect employees can be made unless the employees champion gives his/her agreement.  Now tell me how many companies that you know which practice anything like this.

I say Employee Engagement is just another term devised by Takers to disguise their taking. And I am clear that most employee are wise to this. Why might just explain why there is so little ‘engagement’ and genuine collaboration in the very companies that are touting Employee Engagement and devising-implementing the latest bag of tricks dreamed up by those passing themselves of as masters of manipulating people (psychologists, social scientists, academics, consultants, change agents..).

What Is The Alternative To Employee Engagement?

I say that if you genuinely care about your fellow human beings you would never refer to them as human resources. Just get present to this term: where is the dignity in the term human resource?  When you get home do you refer to husband/wife/partner and children as human resources?  Do you view-call your friends and members of your social network human resources?

So how would you treat your employees if you showed up and travelled in this world as a Giver?  Allow me to ask the same question differently. What are the kinds of questions you would be asking yourself if you genuinely cared by the wellbeing of your employees and the business?  I say that you would be grappling with the following kinds of questions:

  1. What kind of workplace is most likely to show up as a great place to work for the people who work (or we want to work) in our organisation?

  2. How do we involve our employees in the key business decisions especially those that affect them and their interactions-relationships with our-their customers?

  3. How do we shape what we do and the way that we do it such that this resonates deeply with that which provides genuine meaning, uplifts our employees, and calls forth the very best they have to offer?  What is it that we are doing-causing in the world that is speaks to and is worthy of the very best that lies at the deep core of our employees?

  4. How do we make sure that we share, equitably, the fruits of the creativity-knowledge-innovation-work that flows from our employees?

I welcome your thoughts on the matters I have touched upon here.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

6 thoughts on “Looking Under The Hood Of Customer And Employee Engagement”

  1. Maz, truly tough stuff but you are hitting all the nails all the way in. But there is a deeper issue behind all that.

    The main issue is that from the executive down the most common human fault is hypocrisy. To say one thing and do another. To do one thing and say it is another. To do nothing and say that all is being done. The problem is that they serve the shareholder who has no interest in either customers or employees. It is about sharehodler value, which means really to drive up shareprice as no one is interested in dividends of a customer service oriented and thus successful, profitable business. CSR Corporate Social Responsibility programs are located in marketing of all places. The key interest is to put of a front for as little money as possible.

    A business announces that it will lay off thousands and the share price goes up … because management is addressing the problem that it would otherwise not meet shareholder and analysts expectations. How ridiculous is that and how zynical is it deep down.

    I think it will eventually change, but that is still a long way off because governments are just as hypocritical by balming the banks for the financial crisis when they need the banks and the financial games to finance their budget deficits.

    To see and not to be able to make a change is frustrating but ok. To not see because of how it all is hidden is just ok. (its ok to be stupid). But to see and not care or quietly pocketing the social benefits of givernment schemes and pretending it is all for good is as hypocritical as the perpetrators in finance and politics.


  2. Great post Maz,

    If you want to see how a “Giver” philosophy is being actively and exclusively promoted to the banks by Personetics (Humanising Digital Banking), please let me know a time and number that I could reach you on.

    Best regards

    Russell Prince-Wright
    Personetics Technologies
    Communications House
    26 York Street, London
    W1U 6PZ
    +44 7808 289001
    Follow us: LinkedIn | Twitter | Perspectives Blog
    Recent News:
    Bank Technology News Names Personetics to its 2014 List of Top 10 FinTech Companies to Watch


    1. Hello Russell,
      I thank you for the generosity of your listening.

      Yes, I am up for learning that which you are up for sharing with me. I will ring you on your mobile.

      At your service and with my gratitude


  3. Maz, after reading this I tried an experiment. I pointed out to my wife that she was a human resource and should get out of bed and go and make me a cup of tea.

    I think it is fair to say you found the term disrespectful. But it was only a sample of one. Maybe others should try to confirm your hypothesis.


  4. Maz,
    I’ve always found the combination of the words human and resources or human and capital uncomfortable bed-fellows. To treat humans as ‘resources’ or as ‘capital’ as you and James point out is disrespectful and dehumanizes the experience. G Adventures, a company I spoke to a wee while ago, agrees and they have eliminated their HR dept as they believe it was only there to control and manage the bottom performing 10% of people as the company grew. They also believe, given how normal HR depts work, it also stifles performance.



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