What makes this question so profound, and so pivotal, in both employee experience and customer experience optimization today is that every aspect of value delivery is at play. Further, it should be understood that all stakeholders are keenly aware of when humanity and purpose are being practiced and ‘lived’ by an organization and when there is insincerity, an insufficiency, or an absence of same.
On the customer value side, increasing reliance on AI and digitization, though decidedly more efficient in multiple ways, have also tended to de-personalize and commoditize the experience. On the employee value and behavior side, Covid-influenced working conditions have contributed to disconnection, disaffection, and even emotional burnout, resulting in high prospective churn rates in many business sectors, i.e. “The Great Resignation”. Employee discontinuity also has both an indirect and a direct impact on customer behavior. As viewed by many consulting organizations in their evaluations of the unfolding era of low unemployment coupled with talent shortages, the common themes of enterprise humanity and reframed purpose seem to be among the most attainable stakeholder prescriptives.
More than buzzwords, “being human” and “finding enterprise purpose,” especially in brand-building and leveraging stakeholder experiences and relationships, have become critical concepts for both customer loyalty and employee commitment. But, there is little that is new or trailblazing in this idea. To understand customers and employees, the enterprise needs to think in human, emotional terms. To make the brand or company more attractive, and have greater impact on customer decision-making and employee connection, there must be an emphasis on creating more perceived value and more personalization. Much of this is, culturally, operationally, and from a communications perspective, what we have been describing as “inside-out advocacy” for years. We can also identify it as customer and employee experience accueil, which will be explained.
There are a number of ways in which taking a humanistic and purpose-driven approach to everything customer-related works for all stakeholders, and directly influences and impacts their behavior. Here are four of them, building from an architectural base.
1. Create a stakeholder-centric human culture and set of processes
Evidence of a humanistic, stakeholder-focused enterprise is where values, mission and vision can be seen, and endorsed, by everyone inside and outside the company. The French have a great word for this — accueil (pronounced ack-key) — which means openness, acceptance, welcoming, cohesive, and receptive. It sets up as a major distinction with most Theory X, micromanaged, repressive cultures and array of customer processes.
Accueil can be seen in ‘people-first’ transactions and relationships with companies like Southwest Airlines, Trader Joe’s, UKG, Virgin Group, Baptist Health Care, Wegmans, and USAA. As pointed out by books like The Customer Comes Second, Conscious Capitalism and Firms of Endearment, and as identified in multiple experience effectiveness studies, stakeholder-centric company cultures, supported by stakeholder-centric processes, also perform at consistently attractive financial levels over extended periods of time.
2. Create experiences that are proactively human-engineered
Within customer-related processes, experiences need to be designed, engineered, or re-engineered, so that, even when electronically-based, authentic humanity is built in. With the dramatic increases in digital transactions, distanced relationships, and marketing automation, this has become an increasing challenge. However, this is also where the concepts of accueil can be observed. Similar thinking and approaches can be applied to employees in remote working situations.
More than Six Sigma-type rational and functional quality, it is the authentic warmth and openness that most customers desire from vendors, and employees from their employers, even when contact is minimal. Human-engineered experiences also require that measurement techniques be sensitive to the components that drive, or detract from, what customers get from their vendor relationships and what employees receive from employers in the form of EX. All stakeholders are seeking these experience elements; and when they are minimized, or entirely absent, high churn should be more an expectation than a head-scratching surprise.
3. Create human emotions and memories in transactions and relationships
Today, delivery of functional and tangible elements of value, even at superior levels, are little more than experience table stakes. We often speak of the Daniel Kahneman “Peak-End Rule”, where subconscious positive and negative experience emotions yield the memories which drive downstream stakeholder behavior. This psychologically-based approach is a critical progressive marker and a differentiator for companies in successfully bringing the human touch to CX and EX.
Several years ago, Bridget Duffy, MD, who is the Chief Medical Officer of Vocera Communications, wrote an insightful CustomerThink blog post about how emotional connections, coming out of a culture of humanity, can drive customer loyalty behavior and company growth. From my perspective, the value of creating positive emotions in CX an EX can’t be stated much better than she did:
“Customers choose service providers based on personal experiences, trusted relationships and valued recommendations. To understand customer needs and expectations, organizations must first map the gaps in efficiency plus empathy. Market leaders must provide services and use technologies that restore empathy to the customer experience.”
Again, while Dr. Duffy’s focus was on customers, virtually the same words and concepts can be applied to employees.
4. Create human connections between employee advocates and customers
By themselves, advertising and promotion generate little trust. B2b and b2c consumers trust humans more than companies or institutions. Smart companies operate as “real people”, with employees working to provide value to customers. That trust and confidence is eroded if employees aren’t committed and/or are headed for the exit door in high numbers.
In humanistic organizations, employees at all levels, and in all functions, understand how their work and actions impact customer perception of experiences. If employee commitment and advocacy are an extension of the company’s customer-related DNA, then it is employees who embody humanity and purpose.
It is not nearly enough for employees to be engaged. Humanistic experience is achieved when employees are armed and enabled to deliver on the brand promise. The technology and tools can’t replace real-time passion, or genuine commitment to the organization, brand and customers. It is employees who are the real, flexible experience engineers. As needed, they can treat each customer differently, and even the same customer differently, if the experience context is different (something I’ve labeled ‘divisibility’, which is also somewhat data-dependent).
As a concluding thought, it’s important to point out that executing in all these areas requires disciplined, consistent enterprise and functional leadership that understands what human-centricity means in stakeholder relationships and overall perceived experience value. As Dr. Duffy stated in her blog, companies “… must focus on building connections and relationships into all aspects of the organization – from executive leadership to frontline staff – so that from the first impression to the last, people feel a connection. Going beyond customer service to creating a real emotional connection to a product, service or company will drive market differentiation, customer loyalty and growth.”
We’re in violent agreement here. A sense of actual humanity and enterprise purpose in all aspects of customer experience delivery, in the future of both employee experience and customer experience, matters a great deal.