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Why exemplary employee experience is good for business

by Patti Alderman

May 24, 2021

Patti Alderman, AVP digital experience, explains why businesses should always put their employees first.

There is no doubt that good employee experience (EX) drives more than engagement and attracting talent – it also directly impacts customers. The bottom line: to be customer-centric you must first be employee-centric. We recently commissioned a study by Forrester which shows that the efficiencies created through enhanced EX allows staff to focus their energies on better serving customers, with 64% realising or expecting increased revenue.

This got me thinking about the recent news of large company mergers and why EX should be front of mind of any business thinking about integrating with another. Think of it like this: there’s a reason why some find it easier to build a new house rather than renovate an old one. Starting from scratch means a clean slate - building something from the ground up that can be shaped in the ways you want, free of baggage and unwanted history. Whereas renovating an old house by comparison can be a stubborn process, often held back by rigid structures limiting creativity and free reign.

Therefore, bringing two legacy companies together is like trying to renovate two old houses and then finding a way to fit them, and the families inside them, together; there’s years and years of baggage, different dynamics, contrasting learned behaviours and expectations - presenting a whole host of challenges. As the transition of a merger takes place (where the transactions take months and the cultural transformation takes years) employees might be trying to navigate two different systems and taking longer to solve problems and find solutions, leading to frustrations which are then passed on to customers. No-one wins.

Photo by Laurie Shaw from Pexels

Time to reset

The Virgin Media / O2 merger, for example, will be an interesting one to watch. This 50:50 partnership is going to be a big, big job - far from straight-forward. We have two very successful, very large companies with very different propositions and experiences. Add on two even more successful parent companies: Anglo-Dutch-American Liberty Global and Spanish Telefonica. Right at the core are the employees who need assurance, guidance, clarity and transparency on understanding the new proposition so they feel wholly supported in the change - because the EX is crucial to its success.

Cost-saving figures often sit at the heart of a merger, indicating the benefits to both shareholders and (hopefully) the customers. But what isn’t detailed in these plans is the cost that negative EX can play a major part in an unsuccessful deal. Big lessons can be learnt from the T-Mobile / EE deal where staff morale being deprioritised was widely documented.

Similarly, four become one as Dixons Carphone merges its four tech and retail businesses under the Currys name as part of a major rebrand. It’s promising to see that they seem to be acknowledging the investment into employees alongside its customers, including a sum of £25m over two years into a skills, wellbeing and reward programme which they believe will enhance the customer experience in-store and online.

Employee experience is a reflection of your business

Yes, that's correct. EX is the true reflection of your business - although most will hail their customer experience. The fact is, many employees struggle to deliver great customer experiences but persevere because they believe in the brand purpose or have a strong work ethic. However, to view the measure of your business, you only need to look as far as your EX.

So where to start? In the cases of big business changes, it means separating and letting go of familiar habits and embracing new approaches to working. We challenge the ambitions of leadership teams and make them think about who they are, who they want to be, why they want to be it and how they measure it. Using these newly-developed values and placing them at the heart of each business decision is key - yet it can be the easiest thing to forget when the fastest or cheapest alternative looks more attractive in the short-term. You have to define a clear north star and reset the hearts and minds of your leaders.

This means really prioritising employees and getting to know them and what they want, because their actions and interactions showcase your priorities and how well you are living your core values and brand purpose. There has never been a more important time to put EX first. As a society, we’re coming out of one of the most challenging periods in recent history, both professionally and personally. We’re different - and our workplaces need to reflect that, no matter how established or successful they are. For the businesses who have survived the pandemic, it must be acknowledged that the employees played a major role in that.

Our objective is to help companies learn how to prioritise EX so that it is reflected in every aspect of a business - after all, employees ARE the business:

  • How you communicate to employees around strategy, change and your day to day operations should reflect your brand and show empathy.
  • The tools and technology employees use to get the job done needs to be prioritised and streamlined as early as possible - this shows how much you value your own time, as well as your customers, by offering something efficient.
  • Employees need to be placed at the heart of new policies and processes to reflect the level of trust you have in them
  • Clear performance measures need to be established that indicate what is most important to you as a business - which are then transparent to employees who are on the frontline in helping achieve these targets.

Redefining workplace culture

Every year, Zone - the customer experience agency inside of Cognizant - examines and highlights the leaders of global businesses who are creating effective, efficient and differentiated customer experiences - and in almost all cases, EX is prioritised and plays a major part in the success.

Netflix is often held up as a company that practises good EX because they operate transparently in how they handle their culture and how they expect their culture to operate. Values are not just empty words and promises that sit in a company manual in the bottom drawer - they live their company culture and values which reap rewards.

Arguably, in cases like Virgin Media and O2 who have been around much longer, it’s harder to redefine a culture - which is why mergers can be such good opportunities if handled in the right way. Here we have two customer-centric businesses - which is great - but it also means they need to be responsible and desirable for their employees too. That means when sorting the junk drawers of their business, they need to be asking tough questions - ‘Do we need this?’ ‘How can we make this better?’ ‘How can we retain and attract top talent that can drive this new initiative forward?’ It’s about driving these changes, keeping the employees at the heart and still being profitable.

EX needs to sit at top of the priority list and must play a major part in the vision and strategy on how the company will be. Many think about the day in the life of a customer - and rightly so. But what about doing the same for an employee. Now there’s an idea!

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customer experience
CX
employee experience
EX,