5 Keys to Employee Engagement for Customer Experience


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Lack of cooperation across organizations is a momentum inhibitor for customer experience management (CEM). Among best-in-class CEM practitioners, top challenges are:
* Cross-channel CEM.
* Organization-wide focus on customer service differentiation.
* Commonly agreed-to metrics.
* 360-degree view of customers.

All of the recent customer experience studies report broken linkages between:
* Functions’ and business units’ goals.
* Survey results and business results.
* Multiple voice of customer sources.
* Data and actions.
* Incentives and desired behaviors.
* Views of what customers want.
* Brand promise and what’s delivered.

Nearly half of senior marketers admit that high-profile negative customer experiences have compromised their brands. And currently, 84% of customers will register a complaint or tell others of a bad experience; this tendency is rising from 74% in 2007 and 67% in 2006.

Clearly, profitability is at risk due to lack of cross-organizational cooperation and alignment with customers. Effective employee engagement is at the heart of these issues. While strides have been made, customer-centricity tends to be an elusive aspiration. Only 12% of customers judge their vendors as extremely customer-centric, while 56% of those same vendors think of themselves as extremely customer-centric.

If CEM execution is broken, examine the foundation rather than fill potholes. Tendencies to focus on IT solutions, statistics, simplified metrics, customer acquisition, or isolated opportunities have over-shadowed the realities of people and processes and culture as the most important determinants of customer experience. There are 5 vital components to company-wide employee engagement for significant ongoing customer experience business results:

1) Systems Thinking
– A holistic view of the components of an entity.
– Comprises the components’ relationships with each other and with other entities.

2) Change Management
– 4 major steps are necessary before deploying a change: Evaluate, Envision, Analyze, and Plan.
– Stakeholder management is the focus for each of the 7 phases of managing change.

3) Internal Branding
– Living and delivering your brand promise.
– A multi-faceted cultural journey guiding everyone in managing their own impact on CEM.

4) Continual Improvement Practices
– Allow the company to be more nimble, responsive and proactive through organizational learning.
– Simplify complexities and emphasize fact-based decision-making through quality tools.
– Gain fresh perspectives and compelling reasons for change through frequent benchmarking.
– Focus on actionable, predictive metrics.

5) Sustaining the Momentum
– Prevent mis-use of metrics and incentives.
– Energize employees to reach stretch goals through ‘recognition strategy 2.0’.
– Require all employees — not just frontline employees — to build customer relationship skills.
– Emphasize product & service quality, as this outweighs any other efforts a business makes to convey trust.

These five vital keys can pay excellent dividends in customer experience improvement momentum through superior employee engagement levels that heighten customer-centricity and prevent customer hassles. In a dynamic business environment, there’s no realistic end-point to CEM; customer experience improvement is a way of life. As Dr. W. Edwards Deming said, “What everyone in a company does can be reduced to one of two functions: to serve the customer or serve someone who does.” As effective employee engagement increases, ownership of customer experience is adopted by employees organization-wide, leading to less waste and higher customer profitability as sustainable differentiators.

Note: Study findings reported above are from Aberdeen Group, Customer Experience Management, August 2008; CMO Council, Customer Affinity, July 2007; CMO Council, Turning Customer Pain Into Competitive Gain, January 2009; Forrester Research, Obstacles to Customer Experience Success, February 2009; Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report, October 2008; Edelman Trust Barometer, 2009.

Note: My new e-handbook Customer Experience Improvement Momentum includes techniques and tools for each of these 5 keys to employee engagement.

Lynn Hunsaker

Lynn Hunsaker is 1 of 5 CustomerThink Hall of Fame authors. She built CX maturity via customer experience, strategic planning, quality, and marketing roles at Applied Materials and Sonoco. She was a CXPA board member and SVAMA president, taught 25 college courses, and authored 6 CXM studies and many CXM handbooks and courses. Her specialties are B2B, silos, customer-centric business and marketing, engaging C-Suite and non-customer-facing groups in CX, leading indicators, ROI, maturity. CX leaders in 50+ countries benefit from her self-paced e-consulting: Masterminds, Value Exchange, and more.


  1. CEM hasn’t evolved into a way to see the complete customer experience and is still mostly focused on agent-to-customer interactions. In order to see the entire cross-channel experience enterprises need to look beyond the contact center and try to analyze every interactions at every touch-point. This is what ClickFox CEA (Customer Experience Analytics) does.

  2. Thanks for your comment; yes, it’s rare for a company to be aware of the full customer experience, and even less common for the full spectrum of customer experience to be proactively managed. Analytic tools are certainly useful toward systems thinking. Otherwise, like a bump in a rug, progress in one area may unexpectedly sub-optimize another area. That’s why I decided to write an e-handbook with practical templates and step-by-step guidelines for holistic customer experience management. I’d be interested to hear about companies that are already mastering these best practices.


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