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Looking past the PR spin: the people that matter most in delivering customer experience

by Tom Harvey

March 23, 2022

The need for a seamless and satisfying customer experience (CX) is imperative to the success of any customer-facing organization. However, one element of this that is perhaps not discussed often enough is the need for good employee experience (EX). According to a 2020 study from Forbes Insights - of more than 300 employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX) leaders - 70% of executives agreed that improved EX leads to improved CX.

During the pandemic, we saw many impressive examples of companies going over and above to help their customers. Websites were built overnight; family members were drafted in as delivery drivers. The digital leaders, such as Amazon and Netflix – our go-tos during lockdown – upped their game, ensuring the customer journey was as streamlined as possible.

Yet, it is not ‘organizations’ or ‘businesses’ or ‘brands’ that care about their customers – that’s just the PR spin. What – or who – makes the difference is the employees. If they are under-resourced, unhappy, ill-trained, unsupported, then their dissatisfaction will manifest itself in the way they treat their customers. Despite CX expectations becoming higher than ever however, many workplace technologies and solutions have not been updated to meet the demands of this digital age. Many are still expecting their employees to manage with traditional intranets and systems that are often several decades old.

Employees are the best ambassadors

Understanding the link between EX and CX is critical. There is absolutely no point investing in expensive advertising, social media and PR campaigns if the EX has not been thoroughly researched and evaluated, and any issues identified and resolved. It’s not rocket science – happy employees translate into happy customers. Compare and contrast the great experiences with the frustration and disappointment of dealing with organizations that just don’t seem to care about their customers. Just think of any miserable, unhelpful customer-facing individual you have come across, and how that has impacted your perception of the company they represent.

Employees are the best ambassadors for any organization, and how good EX is will impact everything from productivity to customer satisfaction. Many people will not hesitate to post a bad review about their employer on social media and on job sites such as Glassdoor, where companies can be searched by their review rating. In the UK, where there are currently a record number of job vacancies - applicants can pick and choose - and will without doubt take into account existing employees’ perception of a company when considering where to apply.

To help illustrate the point, we asked some of our own employees how they viewed the EX in terms of impacting the CX. Here are just two of the responses:

“The employee experience can inspire trust and confidence. If employees have a negative or unhelpful experience, they are likely to make assumptions about what similar experiences are like for our customers.”

“If employees are given opportunities to learn about new products or technologies, they can pass that knowledge on to customers to help them realize more value. If employees know the organization structure, they'll be able to get help for customers easier when needed.”

Treat your personnel as you treat your customers

The best way for an organization to ensure that employees understand, buy in to, and embrace the company culture, is to treat them like customers. EX and CX need to have the same foundations, the same structure, the same tone of voice. Employees cannot be expected to be brand ambassadors if they are not convinced about the brand ethos.

People talk about ‘consistent branding’, but the usual perception of that is the visual look. A company’s brand value should run throughout the organization – and that can only be achieved if the brand values are present at every employee touchpoint. Today, of course, those touchpoints are mostly digital, and therein lies the problem for those behind with their digital transformation activities.

Employees working with old systems, clunky intranets and siloed systems will have been placed behind the queue in the upgrading schedule. Customers may well see an impressive website, with a smartbot helper, or may dial in to a call centre with the latest IVR technology, but that all needs to be supported by employees who too often have not been advised of what the customer can see, and how they can interact. Some CX today is woeful. Customer service agents that are not aware of special sales promotions, call centre staff that cannot access order systems, technical helplines not connected to purchasing records, online interactions that seem determined to send customers round in circles. How many times have you wondered, in frustration, whether the CEO has actually tested the CX processes of his or her company?

Creating a stronger team spirit

The rapid rise in remote working catalyzed by the pandemic has made consistency of information and messaging even more important for the newly-distributed workforce. Technology is essential for people to keep in touch, to be aware of changes as they happen, and to do their jobs in the most efficient and effective way possible. Whatever the role – whether sales, marketing, product development, finance – employees need to have a simple, cohesive way of accessing the knowledge they need in order to deliver the best possible CX.

Company intranets, bulletin boards and emails should be firmly consigned to history. Just as customers expect a seamless experience, so employees should have the benefit of an EX platform that is the central source of all information that underpins the brand ethos. The flexibility of today’s platforms means that enhancements are straightforward, without the need to change infrastructure or retrain employees. Creating a cohesive EX will enable individuals to better understand their role as it impacts others, and in turn create a stronger team spirit.

To conclude, what better than a comment from one of our employees and greatest ambassadors: “Productive, effective employees are the key to great customer experience. When organizations enable employees with the information and resources they need, the net result is a workforce that is more empowered to support customers and create amazing customer experiences.”