The terrain between HR and CX can be rocky without a strong partnership. Here are some tips on how CX and HR teams can work together for everyone’s benefit.
Let’s face it: Sometimes there can be tension between human resources (HR) and customer experience (CX) teams. Employee engagement, once the sole province of HR, is now a critical part of CX initiatives, so questions of ownership and fears of territory invasion are natural—part of the evolution of a company in the quest to be customer-centric.
What’s the best way to resolve the issues and get on with business?
The first is to acknowledge that the question of departmental ownership—when it comes to employee and customer engagement—is obsolete. Smart companies striving for customer-centricity know that there is only one question: how can we all work together, at every level, to achieve success in these two critical, intrinsically bound areas?
Here are examples of how we established and are maintaining strong CX/HR collaboration at the B2B technology company for which I work:
1. Involve HR from the beginning.
From Day #1 of our CX program, we have asked for and received guidance from our HR executives. The senior vice president of HR is on our CX executive sponsorship committee, and the director of HR in North America is on our Customers for Life steering committee. Because of their involvement, we clearly indicated our partnership was important and included their perspectives as we developed each program. Certainly, this alignment avoided any obstacles about ownership or territory, and today HR execs are among our CX program’s biggest supporters.
And we weren’t rigid when it came to the leadership of various projects. When we conducted a survey of the voice of the customer from the employee’s perspective, HR took the lead and was instrumental in building the survey, deploying it and, then, the CX team took the lead with analyzing the results and developing an action plan. The intent of the VOC-E was not to find out how employees feel about benefits or vacation time—instead, we wanted to hear our employees’ recommendations on what we could do to improve the customer experience. After all, many of them work with our customers every day.
If you have never done a survey like this, I highly recommend it. Employees not only know where a company is falling short on CX, but they also usually know why. For example, we knew from customer surveys that issue resolution time was a major priority. It was the employee survey that helped us pinpoint areas for improvement, such as finding ways to get customer information to employees more quickly. That in turn triggered greater collaboration between customer support and product functional leads. It was a partnership that made this CX professional’s day! I like to think that CX and HR had set an example of collaborative behavior for other departments to follow, all in the name of improving customer experience.
2. Tap HR’s expertise.
When we revised our employee performance management standards to include CX as a benchmark for our hiring, evaluation and rewards processes, HR’s contribution was invaluable. Their team addressed some of the open-ended standards we had drafted and took them one step further, making them specific and measurable. For example, “Is the employee customer-focused when responding to a customer support ticket?” became “Does the employee respond within 24 hours and every 24 hours until the issue is resolved?”
There were other benefits to HR’s participation—benefits for both the HR and CX organizations. Because HR was involved in drafting the performance statements, the project gained more credibility and gravitas than if it had simply come out of the CX think tank. By the same token, since CX was involved, the project gained branding relevance and immediacy by being not just an HR standalone, but a project under the aegis of our company-wide “Customers for Life” initiative. As a result, it became a case study in the mutual benefits of working together to improve the customer experience.
3. Align on hiring customer-focused employees.
By involving HR in our CX program, their team members know what we’re looking for in a new hire. Recently, I was seeking someone to help analyze customer surveys, and the HR team knew immediately that I wanted more than a data analyst. Those analytical skills needed to be there, of course, but HR also knew that I wanted someone who would respond to our internal customers, ask the right questions and deal appropriately with their concerns.
The customer is everyone’s business
As a CX practitioner, you might have encountered resistance to your initiatives from your HR team. Consider offering support for some of their initiatives and demonstrating how CX can help. For example, our team assists the HR team whenever they send out surveys to employees. Whether in the question design, deployment or analysis, our team partners with them to make sure they are gathering valid insights. In addition, we share the results of our customer relationship surveys, highlighting employees who frequently receive accolades from customers and recognizing them through HR award programs.
There is a natural CX lifecycle within any company. An evolution. Most CX programs start by finding the low-hanging fruit identified in customer surveys and deploying the CX team to fix those items that are most obvious. Then you realize you can only gain so much with the “find and fix” approach. You need other departments involved to make greater progress—and that includes HR. Once you agree that the customer is everyone’s business, you’re well on your way to success.