Want to improve customer satisfaction? Start with your frontline

Ruben Wieman

Ruben Wieman

It’s become something of a cliché that “the customer is always right” and you can tell that it’s a cliché because it really doesn’t tell you much – not about most businesses, anyway.According to a recent customer satisfaction survey by Microsoft, 61% of customers around the world have stopped doing business with a company due to a poor customer service experience. Among the Millennial age group, one in two consumers has complained about a brand on social media.

What is customer satisfaction?

Perhaps the reason why many businesses are not delivering adequate levels of customer satisfaction is that they are not entirely sure what it is. A good customer satisfaction definition is that it is a measure of how the products and services delivered by a company meet or surpass customer expectations.

Evidently, many organizations are failing to meet this definition, which is likely to damage their revenue streams – if not now, then certainly in the near future. Poor customer service costs businesses $75 billion every year and reputation damage can make these losses difficult to recover.

Why satisfied frontline workers equals satisfied customers

Fortunately, there are ways for businesses to deliver higher levels of customer satisfaction – and often they start with the employees that are in direct contact with those customers – their frontline workers. If a business has engaged, well-trained, and happy frontline workers, then customer satisfaction will follow, as well as better returns on investment. 

How to measure employee satisfaction

Improving employee engagement


If businesses want to know how to improve customer satisfaction, they should first look at the employees that represent the face of their brand. Frontline workers make up around 80% of the global workforce but remain neglected by many organizations. While office-based staff are showered with new digital tools and learning opportunities, deskless workers are left unsupported.

Given the ubiquity of mobile devices, there remains no reason why frontline workers have to go without the digital tools they need. Employee Experience Platforms can be used to significantly boost the engagement levels of frontline workers. These digital solutions give employees an opportunity to connect with their managers, contribute to team surveys, and provide feedback – they give frontline workers a voice.

From recruitment to onboarding and throughout the employee journey, a digital employee experience platform can enhance engagement noticeably. Digital tools can break down workplace silos, make it easier to offer praise to frontline workers, and demonstrate that these employees are valued just as highly as office-based staff. Crucially, by improving engagement levels of frontline workers, customers benefit too

Engaged employees want to succeed personally – and they want to see their employer succeed too. And this means delivering high levels of customer satisfaction. Research has shown that organizations boasting more than 50% employee engagement retain over 80% of their customers. Customer satisfaction does not take place in a vacuum – it can only be achieved with an engaged workforce. 

Boosting communication between colleagues


Having happy customers also depends on having well-informed and knowledgeable frontline workers. But making sure that these employees have access to all the information that they need is not always easy. They do not have a desk that they sit at each day, and many may not even have a company email address.

Still, the fact that frontline workers may be more mobile than desk-based ones does not mean that they should go without communication tools. Digital employee experience platforms usually contain a centralized communication platform that can be accessed via a smartphone to ensure that workers are kept up to date with everything going on at a company.

Good internal communication can play a key role in making sure that employees are able to personalize the services they offer to customers. In the hotel, QSR, or retail sectors, employee comms can give frontline workers access to new menu changes in real-time, recent product launches, and useful metrics that will ensure a high level of customer satisfaction is delivered.

Research suggests that 33% of customers have abandoned a business relationship because personalization was lacking. Just because workers do not have a desk, doesn’t mean that they should be denied access to the tools they need to deliver an individualized customer experience. As many as 71% of employees want their employers to offer similar technology to what they are used to in their personal lives. With mobile-first workplace tools, such as an app for internal communication, this is now possible. 

What’s more, communication for many frontline workers remains fragmented. A lot of organizations use a combination of WhatsApp, Facebook Groups, physical bulletin boards and other channels. It’s confusing, overwhelming, and inefficient. Above all, it disrupts the work-life balance of employees. Unifying the internal communications is therefore a necessity.

Training up your frontline workers

No business can afford to stand still. Across all sectors, new technologies and shifting consumer trends mean that employees must continually learn new skills and undergo personal development to ensure customer needs are met. For industries that rely heavily on frontline workers, delivering employee training can present challenges – different shift patterns and the absence of a centralized office means that group learning experiences aren’t always appropriate.

eLearning experiences, however, can be administered effectively to frontline workers, including personal onboarding packages, development goals, and easily analyzed metrics covering employee performance. Unfortunately, 60% of frontline employers do not see upskilling as a “high priority” but all this demonstrates is that businesses are failing to engage their staff and demonstrate the importance of training and onboarding programs.  

Customer satisfaction clearly depends on having frontline workers that are well trained. According to the Association for Talent Development , organizations that invest in employee development see a higher income per employee by a factor of 218%. The return on investment is clear – when employees are given the right tools to learn and grow, they can deliver higher standards of customer service. Worker satisfaction is mirrored by customer satisfaction. 

A recent survey found 91% of businesses that include frontline employees in their digital initiatives witnessed increased performance and productivity – and, crucially, 87% noticed higher levels of customer satisfaction. If businesses want to ensure that when they say, “the customer is always right,” they really mean it, they need to equip their frontline workers appropriately.

Ruben Wieman

Ruben Wieman

Ruben Wieman is the founder of Oneteam. He mainly writes about the future of deskless employee experience and key frontline HR trends. Fun fact about Ruben: He started his professional career as a deskless employee at supermarkets and a pizza delivery guy. The frustrations he encountered lead him to build an employee experience app focused on making the deskless workforce successful and engaged.

Share this content


Stay ahead

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated on blog posts around the topic of employee experience.