Driving Customer Loyalty Behavior Through Employee Ambassadorship vs. Employee Engagement


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The Conference Board has defined engagement as “a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work.” That definition works for us. Engagement was never set up, by any objective third party’s evaluation, specifically to optimize customer experience and customer value, while customer experience and value optimization, through employees, is precisely the premise for ambassadorship. Our framework positions employee engagement as being embedded within ambassadorship (and HR managers and execs have found that explanation acceptable); however, engagement is principally about employee happiness, alignment and productivity, with incidental impact on customer-related processes and customer behavior, while ambassadorship is principally about customer processes and behavior, with incidental impact on employee alignment and productivity.

The Service-Profit Chain, a foundation of employee engagement, only tenuously links to customer behavior. Heskett, Jones, Sasser, Loveman, and Schlesinger built the Service-Profit Chain on the premise that employee satisfaction equals/drives customer satisfaction. In fact, satisfaction correlates poorly to behavior – for employees and customers; and Jones and Sasser, along with Fred Reichheld, had a follow-on Harvard Business Review article demonstrating that satisfied customers can defect/churn at almost the same rate as satisfied customers. So, there are deficiencies in the Service-Profit Chain as a full-on, free-standing model for leveraging customer behavior; and there is continuing debate about its value, beyond that of a core engagment premise, in creating customer centricity. We don’t, as a result, argue that the engaged employees, defacto, deliver significantly better customer loyalty; however, it is recognized that engagement will have some degree of influence over downstream customer behavior.

Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC, specializes in customer and employee experience research/strategy consulting, and brand, customer, and employee commitment and advocacy behavior research, consulting, and training. He has authored seven stakeholder-centric strategy books and 400+ articles, white papers and blogs. In 2018, he was named to CustomerThink's Hall of Fame.


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