Improve Employee Experience to Improve Customer Experience


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The employee experience can feel hard to manage. As leaders, we ask our employees to care about a lot of things, even those that are only tangentially related to their job descriptions. As an industry, we’re overwhelming employees with messages about the next big thing they need to learn…

Digital Transformation!


Blockchain Technology!

And those are all valid and exciting ways to define the next phase of customer experience for your organization. But your employees need to care – really, truly, deeply care – before anything can really happen for your customers.

This means you have to find WAYS for them to care. And mean it.

In an interview with Adobe’s, Foot Locker’s Chief Information and Customer Connectivity Officer, Pawan Verma, said this:

“Believe it or not, changing a technology, or changing the paradigm around marketing or different ways of delivering the customer experience, is a much easier part of digital transformation than the internal organizational readiness and shifting enterprise thinking,” Verma said. “Culture change is much harder…”

I think that’s a really insightful statement.

Culture change is HARD. You need to address it at the highest levels and make sure each piece is resonating with each individual.

And while it’s easy to toss up your hands and say “Why don’t our employees care more about this?” We need to take a look at what we’re asking them to actually care about, first!

What are we asking of employees… and what kind of employee experience are we creating?

1) We are asking employees to care about Digital Transformation as if that’s an answer unto itself.

Digital transformation is about creating a seamless and modern experience for customers, but often involves the uncomfortable phases of updating technology, introducing new processes, or creating new journeys to streamline.

Yet we often talk about it like magic.

Yes, there are amazing outcomes like a better customer journey and happier employees delivering it, but there are also real fears and challenges along the way. Your employees might hear digital transformation as a threat to their role, especially if the overall goal of a better experience isn’t aligned with the constant talk of large-scale, transformational change.

employee experience in digital transformation
via Harvard Business Review

The word digital becomes the campaign theme, instead of customers. In a Harvard Business Review article, aptly named “Don’t Put a Digital Expert in Charge of Your Digital Transformation,” the case studies revealed what we probably already know: Nearly all the transformational strategies led by digital gurus didn’t succeed, while there was an 80% success rate with those leaders with little digital experience.

We need to lead with language around customers, not just the digital way we want to tie their experiences together.

2) We are asking employees to chart their own courses.

Employees are asking for more empowerment and opportunities. They have reported a desire for “career pathing” (who knew that was a verb??) and more visibility into where they might fit in the future of our organizations. This showed up in a big way in retail turnover.

In 2018, employee turnover was reported as high as 81% for part-timer retail hourly workers. That was 76% higher than the previous year’s reporting, according to a Korn Ferry survey of top U.S. Retailers. That sort of employee turnover means fewer employees who really understand your customer’s experience. That means fewer employees who know your processes and technology well enough to even see ways to improve it, let alone suggest it.

Employee Engagement by Employee Turnover
via Korn Ferry

And while the average turnover rate for Call Centers hovers between 30% – 45%, some centers have turnover in the triple digits. That guy you just trained? Forget him, he’ll be gone in two weeks. Turnover like this is caused by a number of factors, but I think we underestimate what it means for an employee to feel connected to not only the customer journey, but also their own journey within our organization.

That means your employees are looking for help to help your customers, but they’re simply not getting it. They SHOULD care about their career paths. We need to help them see how important their role is in their organization.

3) We are asking employees to ignore what they know about customers.

We have become so obsessed with reporting results as charts and graphs that we have inadvertently asked employees to see customers and their needs as data, not people.

As a recent Harvard Business Review article pointed out, Wells Fargo cross-selling goals led to employees opening 3.5 million accounts without customer consent. The employees know better than to open an unwanted account for, let’s say, their brother. But when customers are only really seen as important in the abstract, we don’t think of them as people. We think of them as numbers.

We ask employees to care, in some cases DESPERATELY, about the results of their department, their team, their special products. But then we don’t ask them to care about what’s really happening to customers.

Results and data are absolutely important. But they can’t always be in the abstract. It’s one thing to say “darn, the stock market went down today.” It’s a whole other thing to say “Wait, how much did my account lose?” Employees need to see their leaders connecting the dots between the numbers on those charts and customers they serve.

4) We are often asking employees to keep their best ideas to themselves.

Your employees have great ideas about how to improve the experience for customers… they just don’t know what to do with them.

They know that asking about fixing that process or creating a new product is a big ask, and they’re not willing to die on that hill. Why should they? It probably means taking on more responsibilities that someone else will take credit for, and who needs that?

Organizations who have true discipline and governance around their customer experience efforts also have real discipline around employee experiences.

5) We are asking employees to understand the entire customer journey, but we’re never really talking about it.

Sure, we may offer some high-level training during onboarding or even ask them to switch jobs every so often to understand another department’s role. But we don’t really lead a customer-centric culture if that’s all we do.

We need to talk about the actual customer experience (and all those uncomfortable, hard truths that go with it!) in a regular, consistent, and meaningful way. When employees know they are part of an experience that is living a mission, it’s much easier for them to see their place in it.

What are you doing to improve customer experience by improving employee experience? Drop me a line and let me know!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeannie Walters, CCXP
Jeannie Walters is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a globally recognized speaker, a LinkedIn Learning and instructor, and a Tedx speaker. She’s a very active writer and blogger, contributing to leading publications from Forbes to Pearson college textbooks. Her mission is “To Create Fewer Ruined Days for Customers.”


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