Need to Improve your Customer Experience? Start by Talking to your Employees

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We’re all well aware of gaining insight into the Voice of the Customer (VoC) to improve the customer experience. Increasingly over the last few years, we’re also starting to hear more and more about the Voice of the Employee (VoE) and employee engagement. But a lot of people fail to mention that VoE and VoC have a lot in common, and that a focus on one at the expense of the other, can hinder attempts to improve the customer experience.

Before diving into how the two concepts work in a symbiotic relationship, let’s take a step back. What is employee engagement and Voice of the Employee? It is, in fact, very much like the relationship between Voice of the Customer and customer experience. While VoC provides the insights that fuel improvements to the customer experience, Voice of the Employee does much the same for employee engagement. Voice of the Employee refers to a range of programs that organizations conduct across the employee lifecycle, including 360-degree feedback surveys, annual employee engagement surveys, touchpoint or employee insight surveys, and Voice of the Customer through the employee.

Getting the most from the Voice of the Employee program means you’re able to drive employee engagement which, whatever the terminology, is a core aim of any HR professional. And especially with 68 percent of U.S. workers disengaged or actively disengaged, this is increasingly important now more than ever (Source: Employee Engagement in U.S. Stagnant in 2015 / Amy Adkins. January 2016).

Similarly, it’s equally as important to invest in employee engagement as well. Employee engagement is correlated with reduced business costs (lower turnover, lower costs, fewer absences, and fewer mistakes) and improved business outcomes (higher productivity, higher revenue and market share, improved safety and increased customer satisfaction) – a win-win for any company, especially in an increasingly competitive market. Executives are especially aware of this, as 90 percent of companies are currently rethinking their engagement strategies (Source: 2016 Deloitte global human capital trends data, Deloitte Consulting LLP).

In the past, companies generally measured employee engagement with an annual or biennial HR survey gauging employee attitudes and opinions toward their employer. Some organizations followed through with action plans and measurable change, while others did very little in response to the data collected. In turn, this of course is naturally going to affect the customer experience – if employee morale is low, customer service is bound to decline concurrently. In Temkin Group’s 2016 Employee Engagement Benchmark Study, the firm revealed that companies which excel at customer experience have 1.5 times as many engaged employees as do customer experience laggards.

Indeed, even for those who embed action planning into their process, a common complaint amongst frontline managers is that the data is not actionable or too outdated, or that the outcomes are not within their span of control to change. This can create frustration among employees, causing them to lose interest, become disengaged, and not prioritize the customer in their day-to-day roles. Here are three ways to better engage with employees to help ensure customer experience is not lacking:

1. Go beyond numbers and rankings:
If employee engagement is struggling, it isn’t always due to lack of effort on the part of employers. In fact, many companies are leveraging tools like surveys and performance ratings to identify and address workplace issues, provide guidance to employees and avoid major turnover. Unfortunately, these traditional tools of engaging with employees often fall short – they often reduce employees into mere data points and eventually become counterproductive. To counteract this from happening, companies need to rethink the use of traditional employee engagement tactics and look for more agile methods that allow for a two-way conversation.

For example, an insurance provider developed a comprehensive program to gather insight about current engagement levels and the potential drivers across the organization and different employee segments. This gave the team the framework needed to develop and share a set of firm-wide engagement priorities and drive accountability across the manager population. At a more local level, people managers and team leaders were also provided with engagement priority analysis reflective of their specific employee groups.

2. Engage regularly with your employees:
Believe it or not, most companies are not engaging enough with their employees. Many rely on the annual employee engagement survey to get a pulse of their current workforce. For employee engagement to help drive customer experience, getting feedback from your own people should be at the top of the list, and doing so often. Companies need to close the feedback loop and share back with employees how their insight is driving change in the organization. Showing employees that their input had results is a key step to ensuring that people are committed to their work.

For example, a quality men’s tailoring company implemented a branded survey to capture feedback from all employees. With such an impressive response rate, the company knew the employees across the organization wanted to be involved in the process and are keen to share their voice. With this feedback, the company then designed a unique ‘Engagement Index’ to gather all survey analysis and feedback, and deliver it in an easy-to-digest format that can be shared with all employees.

3. Treat your employees well:
It’s not enough to just listen to your employees, and how you treat them matters just as much. Specifically, prioritizing the needs of employees helps companies build their brand and increase sales. To provide a better workplace, companies need to first understand what motivates their employees – build a community of your employees and ask them regularly for feedback. Then, gain employee intelligence by finding out what truly matters employees. Only by talking to them regularly can you have a deeper understanding of their needs and wants.

For example, the same quality men’s tailoring company implemented a strategic engagement program, starting with interviews and a full day workshop to design the framework and set of values. This allowed the entire staff – from those at the frontline to the leadership team – to identify positives and negatives, and then communicate what changes were being made and why.

In today’s “always on” feedback environment, there is no single answer for either measuring or addressing Voice of the Employee and/or employee engagement. No longer are annual surveys the only – or most desirable – measurement tool available. An always-on approach to measurement requires a continuous listening approach and a strategy that is proactive and uses data and analysis. With this type of strategy, it is more likely companies will have not only more engaged employees, but happier customers as well.

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