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Research clearly shows that in businesses like ours, one of the first steps to delivering enhanced customer experience is to engage employees and energise them by recognising and sharing examples of great service delivery and positive customer feedback, writes ABM Aviation’s David Wheeler.

A 2017 report from CX experts the Medallia Institute highlighted the importance of involving team members.

The report states that “employees are highly accurate in their assessments of customer satisfaction and the quality of their company’s service delivery.

“If you give them more opportunities to share their insights and suggestions, you’ll be far better equipped to understand and respond to your customers.”
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The teams on the ‘front line’ with direct customer experience can provide great insight and feedback on how they feel their own performance could be improved.

Research also clearly supports the argument that the morale and engagement of employees directly impact customer satisfaction. And customer satisfaction directly impacts how well companies perform – a point which management consultancy Bain & Co has been making for many years.

Maurice Fitzgerald, former vice president of customer experience for HP and HPE’s $4bn software division, says “in high-touch businesses” – ones where direct employee-customer contact is high – “variations in employee satisfaction explain 16.8% of the variations in customer satisfaction.
Among well-represented industries, the nine hotel chains top the list at 61.8%, followed by 17 supermarket chains at 49.1%.”

ABM Aviation UK is very definitely a “high touch” business; we provide front-line airport services such as Welcome Team Ambassadors, Passengers with Reduced Mobility Services (PRM) and travel retail and experiential staffing through our Blackjack Promotions division.

Our experience is that engaged and motivated employees contribute in a big way to customer experience.

Customer services companies – a category I would include ABM in – need to be talking to their staff and their customers, to find out what both groups think are important and what both groups think the company is doing well and needs improvement

It’s also incredibly important to thank team members and reward them for doing an outstanding job, because if they feel part of the family, this will be reflected in their daily interactions.

According to a study conducted by Robert Half, the third most important contributing factor to the happiness of UK employees is ‘feeling appreciated’.
The majority (79%) of the 24,000 working professionals from eight countries surveyed said it was an equal balance between employer and employee as to who is primarily responsible for employee happiness.

However, when it comes to showing team members they are appreciated, we think it is key that senior figures in our organisation are able to demonstrate their recognition of outstanding work done throughout our divisions and seniority levels.

At ABM Aviation UK, we have a variety of ways to thank our team members. For example, since 2012, we have the 110% Club programme that recognises employees who have really gone ‘above and beyond’ in delivering services.

Those who score most highly in our quarterly celebration are rewarded with trips to interesting and glamourous locations.
Last month we hosted our most recent 110% Club Legendary Service awards, where 15 individuals were recognised for their contributions.

The awards are an opportunity to put the spotlight on the varied departments in our organisation – and the people powering them. As we’re on the subject of Employee Appreciation, here are a couple of examples from our team used at the recent awards which I’d like to share…

Aishah Davies, joined ABM Aviation UK as part of our supported Internship programme in June 2019, as a passenger service agent in Heathrow Terminal 2. She has always shown an enthusiasm for her role and as she says herself: “I now get to live and breathe my passion of helping people every day”.

Aishah was also highlighted recently at a Heathrow Employment & Skills Academy event where her good work and dedication was discussed in front of Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye and Lord David Blunkett, as well as many other representatives from companies working within Heathrow.
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Her journey was used to demonstrate how well Heathrow and ABM work together to inspire and help young adults into full-time employment through the Internship Programme.

As well as encouraging younger team members in their early career successes, it is as important to recognise the continued service of longer-serving staff.

Happiness and interest at work decline with age, while stress increases as more responsibility is given, and as the Robert Half report states, “manager’s moods are contagious”. As Google research concluded this week, “managers not only matter, but they can significantly influence the performance of their teams”.

Wayne Saunders has worked with us since 2018. He currently holds the position of Heathrow Terminal 2 PRM manager and has been a huge asset across a number of contracts and, indeed, different terminals at different airports since joining us.
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In December 2019, Saunders did a fantastic job as stand in general manager of PRM services in Heathrow T2 when Robert Rabbetts was on leave.

We were delighted to consolidate the numerous compliments and acknowledgments we received from the wider team by awarding him at the 110% club Legendary Service ceremony.

The workforce of every organisation and industry will face unique blockers to employee happiness, some personal, some systemic; as employers it is important to recognise the factors we can control.

One commonality is this: teams who know their work will be seen and appreciated are far more likely to engage with their work and contribute to your organisational aims.

• David Wheeler is ABM Aviation UK’s head of learning and development.

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