How to Cross-Pollinate Customer Experience, Employee Experience, and Partner Experience Growth

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Customer experience, employee experience, and partner experience have much more in common than otherwise. This is why cross-pollination opportunities abound. These 3 stakeholder groups are the engine your organization relies upon for growth. Customers provide funds for salaries, budgets, and investors; employees provide what customers need; and partners deliver what employees and customers need.

Cross-pollination in nature makes our oxygen and food possible. It enables growth. Cross-pollination in business inspires learning, diversity, harmony, and growth. (In this article, CX, EX & PX are used as abbreviations for the management of customer, employee, and partner experience.)

So, the question is: how are you co-planning and comparing lessons learned for stronger CX, EX, and PX growth?

Lessons Learned from Customer Experience

You may be familiar with the 5 competencies of the Certified Customer Experience Professional credential: (1) VoC & Intelligence, (2) Metrics & Analytics, (3) Design & Improvement, (4) Culture & Accountability, and (5) Operationalized Strategy.

These competencies are universal for B2C, B2B, NGO, government and freelance entities. Indeed, retail tactics will differ from B2B tactics, and the same is true for other entity types. However, the principles of these 5 competencies do not differ by sector or industry. In fact, the principles of these CX competencies are equally universal to EX and PX.

This realization of universal principles has huge ramifications. Rather than making survey scores the focus of your benchmarking, compare CX, EX and PX approaches to the universal principles in your benchmarking:

  1. Why are your internal CX, EX & PX groups pursuing specific approaches for each of these 5 competencies?
     
    • How does the recipient’s experience differ for the various approaches in use?
       
    • Based on your answers to these 2 questions, what should you stop, adapt and adopt for improved CX, EX & PX practices?
  2. What are your partners and business customers doing for CX, EX & PX, and why?
     
  3. What are groups outside of your industry doing for CX, EX & PX, and why?

Notice that this list begins with “why”. As Simon Sinek advocates: always start with why. Discovering why something is done or not done reveals motives, goals, challenges, and workarounds. Starting with why prevents copying things blindly. It clarifies assumptions, improves benchmarking, and informs your thought process for your own decisions.

Discovering your own partners’ and customers’ CX+EX+PX approaches will enlighten decisions for harmony and consistency. Trust and relationship strength depend upon consistency across time, places, channels, products, people, and business models for your brand.

Exploring other industries’ approaches will help you innovate your CX+EX+PX practices. Your goal is not to match your industry’s performance, but to break through industry norms for sustainable differentiation and rewards. This is a key to high ROI in CX+EX+PX.

Lessons from Employee Experience

Today’s pervasive “Me Over We” employee mindset is a glaring red flag that EX is falling extremely short of its intentions. In fact, similar intentions of EX, CX & PX are likely inappropriate for our post-pandemic world.

Let’s face it — EX, CX & PX intentions are typically selfish, with objectives such as: How can we get employees to attract new talent to our brand? How can we get customers to attract prospective buyers? How can we get partners to sell more? The “Me Over We” employee backlash appears selfish because EX is historically more mercenary-oriented than relationship-oriented. The same can be said for CX and PX.

Granted, part of the blame for the “Me Over We” mindset is due to the pandemic’s persistent and severe life and health scares and product shortages, as well as war-instigated fuel price hikes and interest rates rising as a result of all of the above.

Still, recent employee studies reveal that only 33% of non-managers feel they are getting due recognition for their contributions within the business. Just 42% say their managers are meeting expectations for supporting their work/life balance, and only 37% say their leaders are succeeding at encouraging a good working environment and team culture.

Employee Experience Lessons
Source: Resetting Normal: Defining the New Era of Work, 2021, Adecco

Typical employee engagement and EX methods have apparently missed the fundamental goals of trust, mutual respect, empathy, shared purpose, and minimization of silos. How might EX change if these fundamental goals become the basis of employee surveys?

Trust in business is unacceptably low. State-owned businesses are trusted by only half of the global population. Publicly-traded businesses are trusted by only 4% more people. Even family-owned businesses are distrusted by a third of the population. In this study, people were asked to rate these types of businesses on a 1-9 scale, with 1 = I do not trust them at all and 9 = I trust them a great deal. Percentages shown here are top-4 box: the percentages of people giving these business types a rating of 6, 7, 8, or 9.
Business Trust 2022
Source: 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer

This level of distrust of business is a crisis beyond EX. It is a definite sign that prevailing practices in EX, CX and PX are inadequate.

When EX, CX, or PX is focused on the company’s view of value, missteps can occur, and missed growth opportunities are abundant.

Instead of trying to get these vital stakeholders to be extensions of your sales force (bringing in new revenue/resources), we need to shift our EX, CX & PX intentions to (A) crystal clear understanding of their goals and (B) adapting our organization’s performance accordingly.

The great lesson for our future is this: TRUST is at the heart of strong EX, CX, and PX.

Let’s focus on understanding, monitoring, and improving how well we’re contributing to our recipients’ goals. Let’s ask employees, partners and customers these questions in place of our old question set:

  • What are you trying to do in your life/business through our brand?
     
  • How well are we contributing to that?
     
  • What would you like us to start, stop, and keep doing?

Lessons from Partner Experience

In partner experience management, similar lessons are surfacing. “The agenda was price, SLAs, and operations in a recent partner review I was facilitating,” said Norma Watenpaugh of Phoenix Consulting Group in a recent webcast. She continued: “But when I asked, what do you want from this partnership?, each party answered: We want to grow new markets and create competitive advantage. I recommended: Change the agenda accordingly!”

“The first thing you need to look at is: What are the relationship principles?” advised Anoop Nathwani of Alliance Accelerator in the same webcast. “How will you behave with one another? What does trust look like? What will we do to mitigate distrust? If those relationship pieces come together first of all, then it’s more a matter of a ‘collective WE’, rather than ‘you’ll do something and we’ll do something’.”

Eureka! Let’s make CX, EX and PX all about the collective WE. Let’s think of customers, employees, and partners alike as true partnerships for long-term relationship strength.

“It’s important to keep the customer ‘out of the middle’ when using business partners to deliver your brand experience”, said Bob Azman, former chairperson of the CXPA. He recommends an 8-point checklist for selecting partners (vendors, resellers, alliances, etc.) in accordance with your experience excellence standards. He asks: “If they are an integral part of how you deliver your products and services, why aren’t they an integral part of strategic design and execution?”

“Strong partner relationships produce deal sizes twice as big, closing deals 50% more, with 40% higher probability of close”, says Watenpaugh. “Applying these numbers to your pipeline, the sales growth is mind blowing.”

This is definitely a playbook page worthy of cross-pollination across CX, EX, and PX!

Cross-Pollination Strength for the Future

The global pandemic has highlighted a severe need among all managers to clearly see employees’, customers’, and partners’ views of value. It has underscored the necessity of rapid managerial action to close gaps in meeting these vital stakeholders’ expectations.

Furthermore, it is emphasizing urgency for managerial mastery of Ease of Work and Ease of Business success factors:

Ease of Work

  • Respecting interdependencies: awareness and inclusion of groups who rely on you.
     
  • Follow-through: say what you mean and do what you say, give heads-up on changes.
     
  • Being on the same page: dedication to shared agendas, shared vision, shared values.

Ease of Business

  • Lifetime value mindset: alertness to cumulative gains achieved by employees and partners, investing in their capabilities, and minimizing their hurdles as a means toward maximizing their value.
     
    • This is within the context of customer lifetime value because customers pay for salaries, budgets, and investor gains.
       
  • Experience-inspired action: use of EX and PX data to shape managerial thinking and actions in how they run their teams and departments and the business, within the context of CX-inspired action.
     
  • Experience-inspired growth and innovation: high-priority use of EX and PX insights in initiatives, improvements, expansions, process re-engineering, solution development and roll-out, business models, etc.
     
    • This is within the context of high-priority use of CX insights in all of the above, because growth suffers if CX suffers.

These Ease of Work and Ease of Business competencies should become the basis for everyone’s performance standards in your ecosystem, and also the basis for your CX, EX, and PX surveys. The findings should become your North Star for running your business. It makes no sense to manage your business in disharmony with these 3 “hands that feed your growth”.

Seeing the eye-opening lessons learned across CX, EX and PX should inspire you to stop managing these areas as silos or nice-to-have endeavors. Keep the horse before the cart. Emphasize relationship strength in cross-pollinating CX, EX and PX, and they will naturally expand revenue and resources, along with many more advantages in your sustainable growth.

This article is the second in a year-long CustomerThink Advisors series on How Stakeholder Experiences Drive Growth.

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