“…engaged and empowered employees are critical to the customer experience.”
By Candice Troupe,
Senior Vice President – The Verde Group
Negative experiences – or friction — are the best predictor of whether or not a customer remains loyal to a business. That’s a fundamental conclusion The Verde Group has drawn from our learnings as a CX research consultancy.
But, there’s another underlying and important element to CX that’s sometimes overlooked: it’s very often great employee experiences that drive great customer experiences.
Research backs this up — a recent Harvard Business Review Analytics Service survey from August 2021 showed that 55% of executives believe it’s impossible to provide great CX without great EX. Look no further than Apple’s great brand, experience and service when you book an appointment at the genius bar, for instance.
Peloton, Walmart and the new EX
Here’s a spot-on example of why the linkage between the two is so important for organizations. I’m an avid Peloton cyclist and, a couple of weeks ago, as I began my workout, one of the pedals broke. Peloton has, of course, marketed itself as a highly digital brand so I immediately went online to order new pedals but ran into a problem with my credit card. No worries, I thought, and switched to the automated chat bot to resolve the credit card issue but I couldn’t get a resolution there. Feeling a little frustrated and disappointed, I asked to speak to a human customer service rep who, it turned out, was able to resolve the issue very quickly. Perhaps, more importantly, the rep was clearly someone who enjoyed their job and cared about helping me — they were apologetic and helpful and empathetic about the fact I wouldn’t be able to cycle for a few days. And they made the entire experience, while short, memorable and positive.
While I’d describe myself as an avid fan of the Peloton brand and active member of the community, this was a real moment of truth for me given the investment I’ve made in my bike and monthly subscription. Had the service rep been abrupt or unhelpful, my experience and views about the company and its brand would have been tarnished.
It shouldn’t be surprising that engaged and empowered employees are critical to the customer experience. Without satisfied employees, customer experiences suffer.
Keeping employees happy however, is more challenging than ever these days. Especially post-COVID, they expect a more rounded experience, beyond simply good pay. They want to work in an environment where there are collaborative and positive relationships, and where there’s some level of support and training — not only for the job they’re doing today but so they can grow and develop in their career. And employees care a ton about their health and wellness in a way that wasn’t necessarily top of mind before the pandemic.
A few leading companies, like Walmart for instance, are investing heavily in employee experience because they understand its importance to CX and economic outcomes. In fact the mega-retailer is doubling down on EX because it understands that by training employees to be successful on the job and investing in their future, employees are more likely to stay with the organization longer, believe in the brand and deliver a great experience back to customers. What sort of EX tactics is Walmart employing? Employees, for one, are given free Walmart Plus membership to act like customers and provide input into the experience. They’re given mobile devices to enable easier on-the-job training, access to courses that teach retail and leadership skills and pathways to finish high school and earn a college degree.
Figuring out how to improve employee experience isn’t always straightforward and it calls on organizations to be creative and open-minded. The pandemic caused massive workplace disruption that’s still being felt. Employees as well as customers have experienced a lot of stress, uncertainty and burnout, trauma that’s changed perspectives and expectations. The key is for organizations to understand that they need happy employees who are engaged enough and understand expectations around driving CX and want to actually help the business advance its goals and outcomes.
This last point is often where organizations fall short — they don’t clearly draw the linkage between customer success and employee expectations. And, often, the silos within organizations may mean that one part of the business is working on customer experience and another, usually HR, is handling employee experience. Both experiences need to be linked — laddering up to a CX vision where employees see themselves as supporting and delivering that vision.
Four ways to drive better EX outcomes
So, what are some of the specific factors that can help improve employee experience and, by extension, customer experience? Here are a few vital ones to consider:
- Collaboration and positive relationships — Employees want to work in an environment that’s safe, fun and flexible, where there are positive rewards and recognition for the customer experiences they deliver.
- Empowering employees to make decisions — Employees need some latitude to figure out how to resolve customer problems and make them happy in a way that drives positive business outcomes. This means not always being boxed in and rigidly playing by the rules all the time.
- Development and training — This is more critical than ever because people are thinking about their careers over the long term. The efforts outlined by Walmart above show value to employees and provide them with opportunities to do their best work and to grow. Another wrinkle to keep in mind post-pandemic is the need to deliver development and training in a hybrid environment with at-home and in-office employees.
- Health and wellness — This may be the piece of the puzzle that’s evolved the most dramatically over the last few years. More than ever, people are looking for a rewarding career that doesn’t completely sacrifice their other life commitments and passions.
Many of these EX factors may already be familiar to your organization but they’re worth taking a fresh look at. After all, employees’ expectations are higher than ever.