Organisations that understand the link between happy engaged employees and happy engaged customers will exceed in the experience economy. Successful EX (Employee Experience) equals successful CX. Yet these strategies are often not aligned to the detriment of both employees and customers.
Research from the XM Institute highlights how organisations that are CX leaders consistently demonstrate better EX results as well. Lawrence Mitchell, Chief Customer Officer for SumoSalad, comments, “Employee experience is very fundamental to the customer experience. Employees represent the brand and the culture the brand embodies. Frontline employees, such as customer service and sales staff, are brand ambassadors and they can have a massive impact on the customer experience whether that’s positive or negative.”
Lawrence adds. “I believe employee experience is more important or fundamental to get right as it’s the employees that add the value for the customer. Staff that are happy and engaged will go that extra mile for a customer. They will be proactive in finding solutions and assisting customers to achieve their goals.”
Though the link between employees and happy customers and therefore business growth, is undeniable, many organisations struggle when it comes to engaging their employees and providing them with an exceptional workplace experience. This in turn impacts the customer experience.
Most people are not happy
Most customers seem underwhelmed by the experiences they have with employees. The 2019 CCW Market Study Trends In Customer Experience Design & Strategy states, “Less than 11% of consumers believe employees “very much” care about helping customers solve their problems. More than 8% believe they do not care at all, while about 29% say they “slightly” care.”
If an employee is unhappy or disengaged, observes Lucia Kelleher a leading Behavioural Neuroscientist, this will impact every interaction they have with a customer. She says, ““Employees can greatly affect the emotional mood of a customer. Customers buy a product or service because it makes them feel good at the time. If something happens that disrupts that feeling, such as a frontline agent being rude or unhelpful, they will become dissatisfied.”
A recent Gallup study revealed that most employees are disengaged at work – worldwide only a tiny 13% of workers are engaged. The Gallup report also says that the vast majority of people, some 63%, are “not engaged,” meaning they are unhappy but not drastically so. In short, they’re checked out. They sleepwalk through their days, putting little energy into their work. A full 24% are what Gallup calls “actively disengaged,” meaning that one quarter pretty much really hate their jobs.
“This situation is bad for employees, it’s bad for the customer and ultimately it’s very bad for the organisation” says Kelleher.
On the other hand, companies that can engage their employees will gain numerous benefits in terms of improved productivity, reduced staff turnover costs and less absenteeism. But the biggest benefit is the impact it has on customers. Mitchell points out, “Companies that invest in their culture and the employee experience benefit through enhanced customer experience which in turn offers a significant point of differentiation for the brand.”
Aligning CX and EX
To integrate the employee experience with your customer experience strategy, Mitchell advises treating your employees as a customer segment. He says, “When you are doing your customer segmentation, define your employees as a key group within your segmentation modelling. Then take a helicopter view of this segment to identify their needs and wants. You need to understand their entire journey and experience from recruitment, to onboarding, to training and development and so on.”
Creating exceptional customer experiences and engagement requires understanding the customer’s journey. Likewise, employee engagement is dependent on creating exceptional experiences based on understanding and mapping the employee’s journey. Mitchell adds, “The language may be different but essentially the same processes are required”.
Kelleher concurs, “Employees expect end-to-end workplace experiences, inspired by their experiences as consumers, whether it’s as simple as picking up a pay cheque to all the way thru to accessing education and learning, performance management or managing benefits”.
The same challenges
As with CX, silos can be a major challenge to EX. CX and EX operate in silos, owned and managed by separate teams. Marketing or a dedicated CX team may be the architect of CX where HR is the architect of EX. This can lead to misaligned goals as well as poor access to the data and insights necessary to drive improvements across all functional areas of the business.
Mitchel highlights, “EX simply isn’t given the priority that CX is given in many organisations. They may lack the means to adequately measure employee engagement and experience. Without the right data and insights it’s hard to make the necessary improvements.”
If you are thinking about employees as a customer segment that means listening to them. Employees often have the best knowledge about the organisation’s customers. They can provide valuable insights on how to serve customers better. These contributions and feedback need to be encouraged and recognised. Just as Voice of the Customer programs are important for CX, Voice of the Employee can play a pivotal role in shaping EX.
CX is very complex and difficult for organisations to deliver on. Most CX initiatives have stalled or hit roadblocks or are failing to achieve the desired outcomes. Though EX may add another layer of complexity, it may be the very thing you need to make your CX succeed.
Lawrence Mitchell is presenting at CCW (Customer Contact Week) Australia & NZ in February 2020.