Emotional Contagion: Employee Experience Influences Customer Experience

It seems like everyone today is talking about customer experience—CX for short. What are the CX strategies that make a company stand out? What do customers want when they interact with companies?

The secret lies in that last verb—interact.

Connection emotionally engages people. According to research, emotionally engaged shoppers are three times as likely to buy again.

Research shows that employee experience makes a big difference. Positive and engaged employees will generate positive and engaged customers… and vice versa. So how do you encourage a genuine connection between your employees and customers?

Emotional Contagion

Psychologists believe that people can “catch” the moods of others, almost like they’d catch a cold. It happens because human beings unintentionally copy the expressions and nonverbal behaviors of the people around them. They internalize those feelings and pass them on to others.

It’s a cyclical process, and it means that your customers pick up on the moods and attitudes of your sales team. If you’re a brand and you’re sending a representative into a retail store, you want them to be going in with a good attitude about their jobs and the product. You want them to be excited and to pass that excitement on to the people they meet in stores.

Brands and retailers know that successful salespeople excite and delight the customer. They know that a smiling employee is ideal. The lesson of emotional contagion is that the smile isn’t enough. There has to be genuine enthusiasm and engagement.

The Power of the Engaged Employee

Demand Metric studied reports from companies with engaged employees and disengaged employees. Employees with high levels of engagement tended to believe, with an overwhelming agreement, that their team members’ attitudes encourage customer loyalty. Retention results corroborated this: companies with high engagement levels showed 18% higher customer retention rates.

A Gallup meta-analysis, conducted most recently in 2016, shows that employee engagement predicts business success more than any other factor. Work units in the top 25% for engagement level outperformed their bottom-quartile counterparts in customer ratings, profitability, and productivity. At the same time, the more engaged teams experienced fewer safety issues, less absenteeism, and lower turnover.

Source: Gallup | Employee Engagement Drives Growth


Companies with engaged employees also enjoyed higher earnings per share. A Gallup representative believes that the difference lies in the fact that engaged employees feel more connected to the company and understand that they have an important role within it.

Engaged employees go out into the world with a sense of themselves as valued representatives. They confidently and knowledgeably pass on their belief in the company and its products, and they’re enthusiastic about doing so.


syncHR | Engaged Employees Bring Engaged Customers

syncHR | Engaged Employees Bring Engaged Customers


Think of engagement from the customer’s perspective. Most people have had the experience of interacting with a disengaged salesperson. They tell you about all the wonderful features of the product and why you need it, but you can tell that their heart isn’t in it. They’re reading from a script.

Then think of the salesperson you’ve encountered who believes in the product and the company. They’ve done the research and they understand how their product is unique within the industry. They know exactly how their company is innovating and they want to make you understand as well.

This interaction will be not only more positive but also more genuine. You’ll feel more connected to the engaged salesperson because they’re more engaged with you.

That being said, leaders need to understand that engagement can be difficult to get. Research suggests that only 30% of American workers show up every day ready to perform at their best. The other 70% are either not actively engaged or actively disengaged.

To shift as many of your employees as possible over to the “bright side,” you need to understand what makes the difference between an engaged employee and a disengaged one.

Workplace Experiences and Employee Attitudes

The disengaged employee is there because they have to be. They’re motivated by external factors:

  • They need the money.
  • They like the image that the job projects.
  • They’re caught up in a mindless loop of habit.

When you consider how quickly people pick up on one another’s attitudes, you can see how unlikely it is that this person would engage a customer.

Now picture an engaged employee. They’re at work because they want to be, feel that their skills are being well-used, and understand that what they do is meaningful.

These engaged employees are more energetic, enthusiastic, and motivated. They’re more productive, perform at higher levels, and are even more creative.

  • They believe in the company.
  • They understand the business context of what they’re doing.
  • They stay plugged into the industry as a whole.
  • They work because they want to make a difference.
  • They’re willing to put in extra effort to succeed.

Imagine that person in front of a customer. They speak about the company and the product with joy. They connect on a genuine level with the customer, and the customer picks up on that.

Customers walk away from those interactions with a more positive attitude about your company, and they’ll be more willing to come back and do business with you. These are the kinds of attitudes that you want your team members to have when they’re around your customers. But how do you make them a reality?

Developing an Engaged Workforce

Employee engagement is multifaceted. You can’t train people to be engaged like you can train them to use a new software tool or sales technique. You can, however, figure out how they feel about their jobs and help them feel more connected, appreciated, and valued at work.

Most importantly, you have to make sure that team members are connected to the company. According to a study from IBM, that means making sure that employees feel an alignment between their work and the organization’s core values. Employees have to feel that they’re contributing in meaningful ways to the workplace, and they have to feel that the workplace is using their skills and knowledge well.

Unless you ask, it’s hard to know where your employees stand on these key questions. Consider reaching out and asking them directly how they feel about their work and its importance. Consider questions like:

  • Do you feel like your suggestions and ideas are respected?
  • Do you have access to the things you need to do your job well?
  • Do you have the freedom to use your professional judgment and do your job the way you know how?
  • Do you receive recognition when you succeed? Do you get feedback when you need it?

You’ll get a variety of responses, but you’ll probably also see some common threads. If most of your people say “Yes, I feel like I’m contributing to something meaningful,” you’ll know that you’re on to something good. The more “yes” responses you get, the more likely it is that your team members are meeting customers with confidence and enthusiasm. If not, it’s time to see what you can do to foster greater engagement.

The Employee Component

Employee engagement isn’t a one-way street. You can do everything in your power to appreciate and empower your employees, but they have to be open to it. Employees have to want a positive experience.

In 2018, a group of researchers published an analysis of the connection between employee personality and engagement. The research showed that nearly half of the differences in work engagement came from individual traits like a positive attitude, a tendency to be proactive, and a conscientious mind.

You can’t change your employees’ individual traits, but you can challenge them to be more positive. Start by using positive language yourself. Look for individual accomplishments that you can praise. When you know someone has a well-developed skill, like cold calling, ask them According to a study from IBM on that skill.

In the meantime, when you hire, prioritize culture fit. Look for people who are excited about your product and industry. Always keep your eye open for great people who seem interested in what you do. That includes employees in other departments who might do well in sales.

Engaged Employees = Great Customer Experience

Cultivating a great customer experience is no small task. You’re interacting on multiple levels and through multiple channels, one of which is the personal interactions that customers have with your sales team.

Those interactions may be the most important element of your marketing strategy, and employee experience is a huge part of that. Your team needs to feel good about their work and excited about communicating with customers. With a strong cohort of engaged and enthusiastic team members, you’ll deliver a great customer experience.

Ready to talk?

It’s challenging to raise an engaged sales team, but you don’t have to go it alone. MarketSource specializes in the development of skilled and engaged sales teams, and we can help you manage your salesforce and prime your team for success.
Author: Karen Salamone

Author: Karen Salamone

Karen is Head of Marketing for MarketSource. She is a transformational B2B and B2B2C leader with a history of building marketing organizations, content teams, and demand generation centers of excellence from the ground up. She is recognized for delivering meaningful insights and fresh approaches and for earning best-in-class content, design, and multi-media awards.

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