Tom Feeney: Define, lead, put in gear — Three steps to engage employees in being customer-centric

Many companies today are striving to differentiate their business by creating a better customer experience. But great customer service doesn’t simply come with the wave of a magic wand.

It must be woven into the fabric of an organization — into its very DNA. A leader can have a fantastic vision and strategy, but it’s the customer-facing employees who deliver on the promise. That’s why the first step to building a customer-focused culture begins with your employees.

According to Gallup’s 2013 report, “The State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders,” only 30 percent of U.S. workers are engaged in their work, and 70 percent are not reaching their full potential. Research also clearly aligns engagement with productivity, quality, customer service and sales.

The following are three factors Safelite Group used to build a customer-driven culture. 

Clearly define your cultural expectations to employees

At Safelite, we believe that our people and their talent are what set our service apart from our competitors, so we aim to be a preferred place to work. We explain our commitment to our employees through our People Pledge, which reads as follows:

  • You’ll experience great leadership.
  • We focus on you first.
  • We hire top talent … that includes you.
  • You’ll work in a caring culture. 

Leadership must pave the way

To increase employee engagement and truly deliver on our People Pledge, it must begin from the top. If a company’s leaders do not live and breathe the company’s cultural values, they will not spread throughout the organization.

Consider this: Organizations are defined by the shadows their leaders cast. As a leader, people are watching you. Employees take their behavioral cues from what they see from you. If you yell and scream, they’ll think that is OK. If you don’t care, they won’t either. When standing in the afternoon sunlight, your shadow looms much taller — leaders must carefully manage the shadow they cast on their staff.

At Safelite, we’ve provided a customized People Powered Leadership development series to all of our managers, which is designed to make them the best leaders they can be. 

Gauge employee engagement frequently

To ensure Safelite has achieved employee engagement, the company uses several tracking tools. In addition to an annual company-wide employee opinion survey, monthly “pulse checks” are randomly emailed to employees to survey their feelings about the organizations.

Participation rates are even a way to gauge engagement — disengaged employees rarely take time to provide feedback. The surveys ask questions about ownership, satisfaction, commitment, pride and advocacy, which help us know if our employees feel fully engaged.

Once you have your employees engaged and aligned with your vision, they will naturally focus their energy on the customer. Creating a customer-centric culture is really a two-pronged approach: one that we’ve named “People Powered, Customer Driven.”

By being People Powered, we will drive business performance by putting our people first and having an obsessive focus on having talented people who are inspired to deliver great results. Meanwhile, the objective of being Customer Driven is to achieve extraordinary results by looking at our business through the eyes of the customer; making it easy for them to do business with us, ensuring their experience is memorable. 

Since our cultural transformation, Safelite has successfully doubled its business. That’s all thanks to our people.

In his 25 years with Safelite Group, Tom Feeney has been instrumental in establishing Safelite AutoGlass as a national company and a well-known brand. Since becoming president and CEO in 2008, he has set the course for growing Safelite’s profits by 200 percent through two core principles: People Powered and Customer Driven. He is the recipient of the 2011 International Service Excellence CEO of the Year Award, the 2011 1-to-1 Media Customer Service Champion, the 2013 Columbus CEO Customer Service Award and many more. For more information, visit