Every business wants their customers to have a great experience every time they deal with their company – the customer experience (CX) is considered the Holy Grail. Large sums are spent on discovering and implementing the best customer experience possible. Less heralded but arguably no less important though is the employee experience.
In May 2016, Adam Hale, now CEO of Sage People, stated that “organizations invest millions in building their customer engagement strategies, but rarely know much about their employees.” So, what’s the solution?
CX and EX are closely linked
It is increasingly apparent that the two experiences are inextricably linked and that one impacts the other in the most fundamental of ways. It’s common sense if you think about it. Without your employees you won’t be able to provide any sort of customer experience. And, if your employees aren’t engaged and happy in their work, they won’t be able to (or won’t want to) provide a fantastic experience for your customers.
So here is the challenge to business leaders. If you want to make significant improvements to CX strategies you’ll first need to focus more on engaging your own workforce. It stands to reason that if there is any sort of disconnect between how a company treats employees and how employees are expected to treat customers, there is discontent that will not benefit anyone – company, employee or customer!
A growing body of research shows that an engaged workforce is the key to better customer experience. In its 2016 Employment Engagement Benchmark Study, Temkin Group reported that companies that excel at customer experience have “1.5 times as many engaged employees as do customer experience laggards.”
So, we can all agree that employee engagement is crucial. If personalization and personal care is what distinguishes a brand, then the employee experience at that company must deliver on those values. This way, employees experience the benefits of the brand first-hand. That makes them better equipped and motivated to reinforce and interpret them with customers. It also helps to cultivate a distinctive culture, which in turn helps attract and retain employees who fit with the culture and are more likely to thrive in it.
One of our clients, Starbucks, as an example, is well known for its unique and generous employee perks, including health insurance for part-time staff and free tuition for the entire workforce. A customer study in 2014 showed that 87% of the company’s brand affinity is driven by the way they treat employees, so prioritizing the needs of its employees really helps Starbucks to build its brand and increase sales.
Hiring and training is essential
When recruiting, businesses should be thinking carefully about the profile of people they hire. To build a great customer experience you need to have employees who really fit your ethos. Managers need to identify the fundamental behaviors and values that your company requires and then hire people based on that information. Try not to hire on skills alone – find the right people, with the right attitudes and then you can teach them the particular skills they need to excel in your company.
Training given should be inspiring and uplifting and should reinforce how any employee can turn company and brand values into a competitive advantage. Effective training, without a huge investment – either financial or in resource terms – can turn employees into brand ambassadors. And that’s invaluable. Your employees will be totally committed to the aims of the company, will want to see it succeed, will go out of their way to make it happen and will want to stay for the long term. And the knock on of employees being proud of your brand is that they’ll pass on their enthusiasm to customers. Moreover, all this leads to increased sales and higher customer satisfaction!
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Naturally you’ll want to build open communication channels with employees to get their feedback and ensure their buy-in to the business direction. Regular engagement surveys remain a valuable tool. But however regularly you survey your staff, it’ll all come to nought if you don’t take action on the results. Communicating your company’s commitment to staff well-being in a meaningful way once results are known is the best way to start a two-way dialogue. Only then will you be able to foster and build employee engagement, as there is nothing more disheartening for employees than being asked to give their views, and then for that feedback to be ignored. That is probably more damaging than not doing a survey at all and in the end will lead to disengagement and lower morale.
Your employees are without doubt your most important asset – and critically they can provide you with vital information on your CX as they often have great ideas about improving your company’s products and processes. So, recruit wisely, train carefully, treat them well, listen closely to what they tell you and act upon their feedback and you’ll have an army of your biggest advocates. And that brand loyalty and enthusiasm will transfer seamlessly to your customer experience. As Sir Richard Branson said, “Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”