These days business leaders spend a ton of time figuring out how to win more customers. They focus on enhancing the customer experience, making product improvements, and delivering remarkable content that helps improve customer success.

But one important area that many companies often overlook that has a dramatic impact on their ability to earn loyal customers is their internal team. The employees and people who help you achieve your vision are the ones who execute on all the individual elements that determine whether or not your customers give you their attention, their money, or their endorsement.

And because far too many businesses neglect the employee experience they deliver, everyone suffers. A 2015 Gallup study showed that 68 percent of workers in the U.S. are disengaged. We've all been on the other side of what it's like to interact with a person who is disinterested in their job. As a customer, at times you can feel like a nuisance, and it doesn't give you any kind of warm and fuzzies to make you want to come back to get more of that kind of treatment.

Disengaged employees deliver less than stellar customer experiences and hinder your business growth. Here's how to build a company culture that prioritizes delivering a stellar employee experience, as a strategic growth driver.

Why smart leaders build a culture of feedback.

There's no way to continuously improve without a strong feedback loop. 

MyCustomer and Confirmit conducted a survey of 291 companies and published their findings in their 2018 Voice of the Employee Report. Their research showed that nearly two-thirds of companies with voice of employee programs were able to improve employee engagement, and nearly half saw improvements in customer service and satisfaction ratings. 

EJ Sieracki is the Senior Director, Voice of the Employee at Confirmit. He told me that the companies that see the most marked improvements in customer experience are the ones that make getting feedback from their teams a core part of their company culture.

Thus, companies should move away from going with the annual "employee feedback" survey, in favor of having constant dialogue with your team on all aspects of their experience, that impact their ability to perform at their best.

That means checking with your team on the regular about things that are directly related to how they perform their jobs such as degree of empowerment, performance standards, training, and organizational processes.

But it also means getting a pulse of how your team feels about factors not related to the work itself but has an impact on the way your employees show up. Topics to cover include dress code, their commute, vacation time, employee benefits offered, or even the political and charitable contributions your company makes.

Sieracki explained that uncovering how your team feels on such a broad range of topics should be welcomed, rather than something to be nervous about. Getting feedback isn't about opening up the floodgates for people to complain, it's about finding ways for everyone to improve together. He said,

"You want to create that expectation that feedback of any kind is good, and it's going to be used to make everybody better. If I have to improve myself as a manager, if my individual employees need to get training or coaching on something, that that's the expectation of what's going to happen with the information, not that somebody is going to get punished or in trouble for it."

It is important to note that your team can only benefit from a culture of feedback if you actually do something with what you receive. If your people see that they are taking the time to be thoughtful about sharing their ideas on how to improve, but no action is ever taken, then it will discourage them from speaking up candidly in the future.

When it comes to figuring out how to grow your business, turn your search inward. Investments made to build a culture that performs at a high-level will deliver a return of lower turnover, higher-quality talent, a more engaged workforce, increased customer retention and satisfaction.

Start by creating a culture that not only welcomes feedback but seeks it out continuously. Then actively works to implement it. Your team and your customers will have a greater sense of belonging with you as a result.

Published on: May 30, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.