Several years ago, in worldwide customer service experience research conducted for a major high-tech devices client, to drive stronger downstream customer behavior, it was found that processes and customer interaction had to take service employees well beyond the basics of knowledge, efficiency, and friendliness. Consistently, and irrespective of continent or country, the most effective reps, functioning within a supportive, humanistic culture, showed true empathy for the customer’s issue, literally “owning” the issue as if it were theirs as well, walking in their shoes. and making a true emotional connection.
What wasn’t so completely understood at the time is that that this level of cultural support, employee commitment and personal investment also positively impacted the employee experience. This was something of an epiphany for our client, representing an unanticipated set of ‘bonus’ business outcome results.
Customer experience pros can argue back-and-forth about whether a vendor can create deep emotions such as bonding and love in a customer. There are lots of articles and studies around stating things like “Highly engaged customers are loyal customers”. There’s little doubt that engaged customers can, and do, help shape and reinforce the brand. They can also provide useful feedback and build brand-based communities. As well, there is a general realization that EX and CX intersect. Today, is that enough? Perhaps more important, in this era of high employee turnover and tight talent availability, will it be enough tomorrow?
From my perspective, at least, experiences that drive stakeholders’ emotional brand trust and bonding can be both shaped and sustained. That’s largely a function of organizational culture, progressive processes – – and the direct and indirect contribution of employees through commitment and advocacy behavior.
On the employee side of the equation, commitment and advocacy build passion and partnership, as well ac connection to the enterprise culture, enhancing the customer experience. And, as importantly, it also enhances the employee experience, something HCM and HR execs are just coming to realize and leverage.
There have been a number of professional and academic studies, in multiple industries, linking employee attitudes and behaviors with the value customers perceive in their experiences.. Through targeted research, and resultant training, communication, process, and reward and recognition programs, what we define as commitment and advocacy – a concept which has been well-understood for 20+ years – formalizes the direction in which employee engagement has been trending. Simply, as we’ve often summarized, the trend can be expressed in terms of optimizing and connecting the behavior of committed employees to the organization and its goals, to the company’s unique value proposition, and to the customer. This creates a state where all employees are focused on, and tasked with, delivering customer value as part of their roles within the enterprise, irrespective of location, function or level. In other words, though there needs to be coordination and management of initiatives through HR and a CXO/CCO, everyone in the company, from the file clerk to the CEO, has this day-to-day responsibility embedded within their job descriptions and roles.
This raises a classic chicken-and-egg question: Does focusing on the employee, and the emotions inherent to creating and sustaining a positive employee experience, generate as much benefit for the organization as enhancing the customer experience? There is ongoing debate about which should be the priority. Several entire books, in fact, have been written on this subject (such as The Customer Comes Second by Hal Rosenbluth and Diane Peters, and Firms of Endearment by Sheth, Sisodia, and Wolfe). There is general agreement that both developing positive, committed employees and customer advocates should receive high priority and emphasis if an enterprise is going to be successful. What building commitment and advocacy does mandate, however, is that having employees focus on the customer, and delivering customer value, will definitely drive more positive experiences and stronger loyalty behavior for both stakeholder groups.
With all of that said, today’s employee landscape is one of rapid, dynamic change, characterized by increased awareness of employee equity needs, especially related to emotional burnout and churn drivers. Building on a foundation of engagement, evolved organizations are coming to understand and appreciate that the EX path forward will be based on a non-toxic, supportive and inclusive culture where fairly-treated employees, recognized as valued assets, have training, enablement and empowerment, communication, contribution and career opportunities.
So, the future – the quo vadis – of EX? It’s HUMANISTIC.