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Why the best customer experience strategies start with the employee experience

Happy employee providing a great customer experience

Customer experience reigns, yes? Yes. The way you go about getting this right is by looking at your employee experience first…

Despite the recent buzz around improving the customer experience (CX), far too many companies simply aren’t customer-centric. Rather than ask their customers what they want, many continue to push the products and services they ‘think’ their customers want. Research finds just 14% of B2B marketing professionals say their companies are truly customer centric – that is where customer experience is ingrained in the fabric of the company1.

Firms that do listen are not only lauded (as McDonalds was, when it announced it would stop providing the 1.8 million plastic straws it gets through every day), but listening companies are more profitable too. A massive 86% of customers say they’d pay more for a great customer experience2. And if that’s not incentive enough, one study predicts that in 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator3.

Start with your employees

But maybe firms need to look at experience even earlier in the customer journey. A growing body of research is now pointing to the fact that even before firms can begin to think about customer experience (CX), they really ought to be thinking about (and prioritising) employee experience – EX. The logic is clear – customers will only receive a happy experience if staff themselves are engaged and are motivated to give the level of service and attention that their customers expect. As Forbes recently revealed, 79% of staff at companies with above-average customer experience are themselves ‘highly engaged’ in their jobs, compared to 49% of employees at companies with below-average CX scores4. It’s no coincidence it also found businesses with engagement scores in the top 25% had 10% stronger customer metrics.

The easy part, of course, is identifying these links. It’s often a far harder task to do something about it. But it needn’t be.

Experience starts with culture

A great employee experience starts and finishes with a great culture – not only that, but a great culture ‘as employees see it’ (there’s no point management thinking culture has been nailed if staff view things completely at odds with this). And great cultures really do start with staff. In other words: any customer experience strategy really has to have employees experience at the very heart if it. Staff need to feel they have an all-important sense of ownership about how they can be involved with creating great customer experiences. Happy and engaged employees create better experiences.

So how this this achieved? While culture isn’t something you can create overnight, it can certainly be an employee-led initiative when there’s great technology that helps facilitate it. Take technology that, for example, makes onboarding smooth, or makes updating their information easy or – in particular – that which incorporates proper goal-setting and performance indicators. 

Regular feedback with managers, based on performance prompts, is proven to create just the sort of relationship-building conversations that inspire better performance, by showing staff exactly how they belong in organisations. Continuous feedback coupled with tech-based performance reviews gives staff the ability to be bold, and not be afraid to learn from their mistakes – all of which creates happier, more confident, and therefore more customer-centric behaviours. Backed up by proper performance systems, staff can see how their contributions impact customer happiness, and therefore the business’s bottom line.

Of course, every employee ‘experiences’ their company’s culture differently. But when great technology is in place, it's this that provides a stable, performance-based backbone, bringing a sense of stability and predictability to work, which in turn, helps ground their experiences too. By removing barriers that prevent staff working brilliantly – and by enabling staff to get on with the job they have to do – companies are providing an experience that contributes to improving service. So, don’t think customer experience comes first, think employee experience. By focusing the latter, the former soon sorts itself out.

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1 https://cdn.b2binternational.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/10112655/b2bmarketingsurvey.png

2 https://www.superoffice.com/blog/customer-experience-statistics/

3 https://www.walkerinfo.com/knowledge-center/featured-research-reports/Customers-2020-A-Progress-Report-OLD

4 https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2018/02/23/the-un-ignorable-link-between-employee-experience-and-customer-experience/#5fe8e76e48dc