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Strengthening the link from manager to employee to customer

Strengthening the link from manager to employee to customer

I was struck by this comment on my last IdeaXchange post (“Is your store a good neighbor?”):

The friendly atmosphere starts with the managers and filters down to the employees. An employee will treat customers only as well as they are treated.

It reminded me that there is a direct chain of effect from manager to employee to customer that often needs to be strengthened.

This of course starts at the very top. If the C-suite isn't friendly and engaging, then there is little chance their employees will be. But it also reflects the immediate manager or supervisor. Indeed, recent studies have shown that much of the variation in employee engagement across a business is related to the immediate line manager.

And how employees are treated certainly impacts customers. I've often found customers assess whether a store offers good or bad service according to whether they feel the employees enjoy working there.

However this chain of effect can go beyond perceptions of service, to impact customer loyalty. Studies have shown that the more managers identify with the brand, then the more employees live and breathe the brand, which in turn results in higher customer loyalty: just think of Apple stores and Trader Joe's.

To help strengthen this chain of effect, I always look for three things:

First, is every supervisor in the business viewed as a leader rather than a manager, and trained in motivating and engaging people as well as in technical skills?

Second, is it clear what the brand stands for beyond making money, and is it effectively communicated across the company? If employees aren't sure, then customers are unlikely to be.

Third, is looking after employees as well as customers central to the values of the business?

Of course, all of this can just seem good common sense. Yet survey after survey shows employee engagement in the U.S. at all time lows.

How does your supermarket approach this chain of effect?

Simon Uwins is a former CMO of fresh&easy and Tesco UK, and author of Creating Loyal Brands (2014). Find him online at

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