What is Engagement?

Engagement is a word that we often hear used in a number of different ways in a business context—it is used to describe customer behavior, define employee commitment, explain the importance of various technologies, clarify the impact of social media, and justify enterprise modifications. Given the many uses of the word, we might begin our discussion of engagement with some simple definitions of engagement, employee engagement, and customer engagement, and then discuss the importance of the people component of engagement.


Engagement.The term engagement is a word that traditionally meant a formal promise or  commitment, and which later became associated with a commitment to marriage.

Today, the meaning of the word has expanded to include the commitment that an employer makes to an employee and/or to their customer; the commitment that an employee makes to his or her employer; or the commitment that a customer makes to a company, a brand, or a product.

Employee Engagement. Employee engagement is the emotional commitment that the employee has to the organization and its goals. An employee who is engaged is one who is enthusiastic about their work and who takes positive action to further the reputation and results of the organization.

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
– Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple

Customer Engagement. Customer engagement is the emotional commitment that the customer has to the organization, its brand, and its products. Engaged customers go beyond satisfaction with the organization—they demonstrate higher levels of loyalty and advocacy, and actively “promote” the organization.

“Employees and customers engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans, worthy of respect.”
Megan M. Biro, Forbes

Customer Experience and Engagement. In recent years, the strategy of many call centers is to create a culture that focuses on the “Customer Experience.” They examine their customer experience model (CEM), and look for ways to enhance the customer experience to improve customer satisfaction.

This CEM model often emphasizes the use of sophisticated technology, and a tightly scripted and choreographed tactical exchange with a customer. With all of its complex technology and scripting, this CEM is fine-tuned to deliver good customer service and to make the organization better and faster for the customer. However, it may run the risk of losing the personal emotional connection with the customer and the personal engagement of the employee.


Employee research indicates that highly engaged employees have an emotional and personal commitment to their company and their colleagues. Extensive customer research indicates that long-term customer engagement and loyalty can be enhanced when call center agents are allowed and encouraged to create a personal, as well as a professional connection with their company and with their customer. Zappos, the online shoe and clothing store famous for its high levels of employee engagement and customer loyalty, calls this personal, as well as professional connection a “ PEC,” a Personal Emotional Connection.

"When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” 
Simon Sinek, Leadership Expert

The Bicycle Analogy. A simple bicycle analogy is helpful to illustrate how the right combination of the professional and the personal contributes to employee and customer engagement.The bicycle analogy illustrates how the people component, combined with the effective use of back wheel resources in support of the people component, can create higher levels of engagement.

Back Wheel. The back wheel of a bicycle provides the power, the traction, and balance. Back wheel resources include the products, product knowledge, company policies and operations, phone systems, social media, customer data, and interactive database and account information that help to accomplish the task. The better the back wheel resources, the more efficient and effective the operation.

Front Wheel. The front wheel of a bicycle provides the steering, direction, and balance. Front wheel resources include the emotional intelligence skills, social intelligence skills, and communication strategies used by individuals.

Engagement. A successful bicycle experience, like a successful customer experience, needs an efficient front wheel, an efficient back wheel, and effective coordination between the two. We call this combination of technology solutions and people solutions the “ Engagement Solution.”

Implementing sophisticated Technology Solutions without integrating the People Solutions often leads to compliance but not commitment, and to under utilization of sophisticated and expensive technology. When technology and people solutions are integrated into your contact center engagement initiatives, the technology is not only installed, it is embraced by your call center team.



The EPG Solution is designed to assist the call center to increase the engagement of their employees and their customers.

Engagement Culture. The Engagement Culture is a term that we use to describe an organizational culture that is consciously designed to enhance engagement on the part of the people who work within the organization and the customers who interact with the organization. It is a culture in which managers and staff effectively use their emotional and social intelligence skills and the resources of their company to create a positive atmosphere in which individuals can personally thrive while at the same time providing high levels of service to their customers and to each other.

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”
- Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup

Effective use of Emotional and Social Intelligence Skills. Individuals working in an engagement culture use their emotional and social intelligence to more effectively monitor and manage their own emotional states, their stress levels, and the emotional states of others. They anticipate, read, and respond effectively to the emotional need cues of colleagues, supervisors, and customers. They use their emotional and social intelligence to meet both the emotional and the task and product needs of their internal and external customers.

Doing the Right Thing. Individuals working in an engagement culture pride themselves on working in an organization that works hard to do things right—to continually strive to improve technology and operations, and to decrease the effort that it takes to get things done for the customer and for others within the organization. They also take pride in an organization that encourages them to do the right thing—to make PEC’s with colleagues and customers, and to provide win-win solutions to their internal and external customers.


There is a good deal of research on the impact of engagement, and the basic message of the research is that an organizational culture that consciously encourages engagement leads to engaged employees who thrive—they are happier, more productive, and more effective with their peers, managers, and customers.

This higher level of positive emotion and productivity leads to better interactions with customers, and higher levels of customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

This leads to fewer lost customers, and more customers who recommend and promote the company, which leads to higher levels of revenue and profitability. Engaged employees and customers translate to long-term shareholder value.


The Engagement Performance Group (EPG) is a division of Merit Corporation, a consulting, change management, and skills training company that provides insights, tools, and skills development to organizations interested in leveraging their talent and achieving their goals for employee and customer engagement. The EPG division was formed several years ago in response to the growing demand for a simple and systematic approach to building and enhancing a positive corporate culture in contact centers, one that provides higher levels of employee engagement and higher levels of customer engagement and loyalty.

EPG provides contact center leaders and agents with the emotional and social intelligence skills needed to create exceptional customer experiences. We provide contact center leaders and agents with the skills and tools required to address the daily challenges of employee and customer engagement.