Employee experience matters – a lot!

Next Level Customer Engagement

01 Feb 2016 – Shaheema Adams

Recently, several posts on social media have drawn attention to the importance of cultivating the right employee experience in a companies’ overall customer experience lifecycle. This took me back to a quote from Doug Leather’s book The Customer Centric Blueprint where he maintains that engaging your employees in your quest for customer-centricity may seem daunting, but small steps in the right direction are exponentially better than large steps nowhere.

Employees (not robots) deliver the experience

In any given interaction with a company, a customer may have a negative experience, a positive experience or a great experience. In all three experience outcomes, there is a common denominator – the employee! Customers interact with a person, not a process or system. Therefore, more often than not, the type of experience customers walk away with boils down to the last engagement they had with an employee. Even in the new age of technologically driven services, employees still play a part in the journey – someone has to press the button! An employee’s attitude drives their behaviour which in turn drives them to deliver results. Therefore, if they have a negative employee experience, it will over time affect their attitude, their behaviour and ultimately influence the experience they deliver to the end customer.

Poor management decisions affect employee experience

In a recent experience with a “customer centric” retailer, the front line employee’s attitude and behaviour was superb but when we needed to consult her manager on one of my requests. The experience for both of us turned negative as a result of the manager’s poor attitude and behaviour. When we discussed it later, the employee simply replied – “our feedback to management is not taken into account, yet we are at the forefront when it comes to interacting with the customers and experience first-hand what they want and need”. This scenario highlighted that the employee experience between front line staff and line managers is  important and all employees involved in the experience must be equally empowered and skilled to deliver an un-interrupted customer experience.

Employee experience will not happen by itself.

In the companies that I interact with, we discuss things like linking performance to service and which attitudes and behaviours they would like employees to display, but the topic of actually designing the employee experience is often left off the table. We breeze over the impact that the intended changes might have had on the overall employee experience. Initiatives like training, change management or even simple employee communication, by default become a line item on HR’s budget and simply not an important enough feature on the customer strategic roadmap. Sadly there is still a myth that employee experience will sort itself out.

Great overall employee experiences, just like great customer experiences, must be designed to enable employees to support customers the way they are supposed to. These experiences unfortunately don’t happen automatically. If the right focus is given to employee experience or to Doug Leather’s point – “take small steps in the right direction”, employee experience can become the most promising competitive advantage that companies can create for themselves.