Smart marketers know that a focused, robust strategy for customer experience (CX) should be a priority. In fact, 67% of large companies report that they expect increased spending on CX during 2017. Brands are finally recognizing the importance of really listening to the customer, and putting their money where their mouths are.
But that’s still not enough.
Even though companies are starting to completely tune in to their customers, they often ignore a critical stakeholder with broad knowledge and experience with the brand: the employees themselves. Most leaders agree that engaged employees, brand ambassadors in their own right, create happy customers.
Take Nordstrom for example. Competing in the hyper-competitive retail sphere, it maintains its competitive advantage leveraging an asset most companies fail to utilize: their employees. Matching organizational strategy (customer service) to execution (on-site employees), Nordstrom’s deploys thousands of brand ambassadors that are the key to making their company competitive.
Don’t waste employee insights
With salaries as the largest expenditure for most businesses, it makes little sense to waste employee insights which can often prove more valuable than the voice of the customer. Unfortunately for most companies, HR and marketing tend to be completely siloed. This means that business leaders are only looking at one side of the coin and consequently, making decisions without comprehensive information about the state of their companies, internally.
Why you can’t afford to ignore your employees:
Customers report symptoms;
Employees reveal the cause
Obviously, the customer voice is vital. But while customers report the good and the bad of the business, they’re often just reporting symptoms of deeper problems — problems they don’t have the insights to identify.
Imagine you’re a retailer. A frustrated customer might report that she consistently has trouble ordering products online for pickup in her nearby brick-and-mortar location. Maybe her products don’t arrive on time, or she’s improperly notified before her item is ready for pickup. While her complaint highlights a clear issue, it doesn’t reveal anything about how to solve it. Are fulfillment operations lackluster? Are back-end e-commerce platforms not properly working? Maybe in-store staff are simply not trained effectively to handle online orders.
Whatever the underlying issue, your employees can help determine what it is. Frontline employees especially are intimately familiar with the problems in systems, internal processes and day-to-day operations that manifest as difficulties for the customer. It’s hard to make an intelligent correction without their insights. Whatever industry, customers and employees are the closest to how your business operates.
Employee insight drives business success
Understanding your employees isn’t just relevant to your CX, though. It’s a must-have for making the right decisions to improve bottom-line outcomes and top-line performance. Let’s face it, most employees have frontline insight that top management just doesn’t. Top management may devise the operational and business strategy, but the employees execute it, and therein lies success or failure.
A common downfall: it is not just engagement for engagement’s sake. It’s not enough to be engaged. The real question is: What are we engaged about? Employee engagement must be purposeful and strategically aligned to transform employee insight into tangible business results. It is to create empowerment and ownership, foster a relationship and generate the trust required to create competitive advantages.
With a culture of open feedback and honest communication, companies benefit in every area of operations, from a better, more intelligent CX strategy to improved training processes and increased retention — victories that both HR and marketing will celebrate.
Surveys alone won’t cut it
Despite the clear benefits of an employee-first CX strategy, creating and maintaining this kind of culture takes work. Too often, companies rely on annual reviews and misaligned tactics to gauge how employees feel. But this technique doesn’t work for customers, and it doesn’t work for employees.
A culture that actually fosters feedback is one that prioritizes continuous and holistic opportunities for real dialogue at every level. This means constantly leveraging a suite of solutions to interact and engage with employees, both on solicited and unsolicited levels. Feedback must be embedded into strategies, objectives, and goals by capturing insight in a variety of ways: related to specific business processes, on an ad hoc basis, in an always-on manner, or in a scheduled approach. And it doesn’t stop there.
Lastly, for feedback to be effective, it needs to be acted upon. Employees will only provide and benefit from feedback if they can see that leadership is taking them seriously. Don’t waste their time and valuable opinions if you aren’t willing to show them you’re committed to improving.
As the CEO, I often get asked if leadership must be onboard. In practice, leadership can, and often is, a challenge to creating a purpose-built, feedback-driven organization. But my answer never changes: “If you are washing the stairs, you always start from the top.” Leadership must be onboard.
True engagement is only possible with the right investment of time and resources. While many leaders are beginning to catch onto the value of the employee perspective, they haven’t quite taken the leap to embrace feedback, eliminate antiquated silos and really start to improve. But the ones that do first will find that they’ll move far beyond the competitors that ignore the employee’s voice.
Creating a purpose-built, feedback-driven organization doesn’t happen overnight – but for those who undertake the journey, it will be well-worth it in an unmatched competitive advantage others will struggle to meet for years to come. Just ask Nordstrom.