As compa­nies strive to improve their customer rela­tion­ships, the smart ones are making this crit­ical discovery: Their employees are essen­tial brand ambas­sadors.

Gallup Orga­ni­za­tion research under­scores the vital impor­tance of any company’s human touch­points, and demon­strates the powerful rela­tion­ship between employee perfor­mance and customer engage­ment. People, Gallup researchers note, often make a huge differ­ence in the strength of a company’s customer connec­tions. People are not the only factor in building customer rela­tion­ships, of course, but their contri­bu­tion is substan­tial and striking.

The problem is, far too many employees have no idea what their company’s brand promise is, even though they’re supposed to be “living” it. And compa­nies don’t seem to care enough about keeping this promise to hold managers account­able for their employees’ promise-keeping perfor­mance.

In fact, according to some figures seen in non-Gallup studies, a fright­en­ingly low percentage of the average company’s work­force, perhaps as low as 5%, actu­ally under­stands the company’s strategy. And because a company’s brand promise is a mani­fes­ta­tion of its core busi­ness strategy, as few as one in 20 “brand ambas­sadors” can artic­u­late the company’s customer promise. In addi­tion, very few compa­nies pay their managers an incen­tive based on how well they keep the brand promise and fulfill the company’s strategic objec­tives.

Read Gallup’s Beware of Empty Promises, by the author of Married to the Brand, William J. McEwen.