When Glassdoor recently published its 2022 list of the best places to work, it was striking how many of the best large US employers are also leaders in customer satisfaction.
Four grocers, for example, made it onto the Glassdoor top 100 based on their current and former employee ratings. Trader Joe’s is at No. 32, H-E-B at 33, Wegmans at 80, and Costco at 93. All four have also built exceptionally strong relationships with customers. According to benchmarking data from NPS Prism®, they are also at the top of their industry ranked by Net Promoter Score℠ (NPS), which measures how likely a customer is to recommend a company to a friend or relative. Among grocery stores, H-E-B has the highest customer NPS. Costco is No. 2, Wegmans is No. 3, and Trader Joe’s is No. 5. (Costco also has the best NPS among warehouse clubs.)
Improving employee satisfaction can improve the customer experience
A similar pattern showed up in other customer-facing industries. For example, Delta Airlines, rated the 18th best place to work by Glassdoor, has an NPS that ranks almost at the top of the US airline industry. Southwest, another top Glassdoor performer at No. 30, has held the No. 1 or No. 2 spot in airline customer NPS for years (along with JetBlue.)
How happy employees make customers happy
While it seems obvious that the human touch can significantly improve a customer’s opinion, it’s interesting to see the impact quantified (see Figure 1). NPS Prism’s survey of more than 50,000 grocery customers on more than two dozen individual customer journeys reveals that interacting with knowledgeable staff can improve by 87 points the NPS score of a customer looking for an item, elevating it from a negative to a positive NPS. A similar jump happens when a customer finds friendly staff at checkout.
How happy customers make employees happy
If it seems intuitive that happy employees make for happy customers, it may not be as obvious that the reverse is also true. But the data clearly supports the conclusion that happy customers make employees happy too. Eleven of the one hundred companies on the Glassdoor list are also tracked by NPS Prism, and of those, all but one have strong customer NPS scores. Happy employees and loyal customers are mutually reinforcing. You really can’t have one without the other.
Glassdoor lists employees that have “a sense of purpose and understand the impact they make” as one of the traits shared by great places to work, a finding that matches our own experience working in this field. While researching the book Winning on Purpose—recently published by Harvard Business Review Press and coauthored by Darci Darnell, Fred Reichheld, and Maureen Burns—we found that improving customers’ lives was a consistent indicator of employee job satisfaction.
Good employees don’t want just a job; they want the opportunity to embrace a meaningful purpose, and improving customers’ lives is one of the best. Great leaders build communities where employees can do that. They provide the right culture, tools, and training, and construct systems that ensure employees hear the standing ovations they earn from their customers. They understand that only customers can truly make their employees happy.
2021 was anything but a normal year, of course, as companies operated through Covid-19 and the Great Resignation. For customer-facing businesses, finding employees is tough and making customers happy is not easy either.
Those that have managed to enter 2022 as leaders in employee and customer happiness are in an exceptionally strong position. Bain & Company research shows NPS stars also disproportionately reward investors, posting returns nearly three times those of the overall market. Happy customers and happy employees reinforce one another, creating a virtual circle that benefits everyone.