Want a Great Customer Experience? Start With Your Employees

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customer experience starts with employees

Organizations large and small allocate vast resources to optimizing the customer experience (CX), often at the expense of other initiatives.

In a competitive marketplace where customers have more choice and more market knowledge than ever before, this isn’t misguided by any stretch. An excellent customer experience is vital for conversion rates, customer retention rates, revenue per customer, and other metrics that directly impact profitability.

But too many companies prioritize CX over everything else. They get tunnel vision. They fail to see the whole playing field. They forget to look after the people responsible for building and sustaining an amazing customer experience architecture: their employees.

The customer experience is better when the employee experience (EX) is better. And that means business is better when the employee experience is better. In a 2017 study, Gallup found that workplaces with high measures of employee engagement (a stand-in for high employee experience ratings) had 41% lower absenteeism than workplaces with lower engagement measures. In a separate report from 2019, the Conference Board found that disengaged employees cost U.S. businesses approximately $500 billion each year.

Don’t let your employees down. An optimized CX that drives revenue begins with an optimized EX that reduces churn, cuts waste, and empowers every customer-facing member of your team to perform at their very best.

Invite Star Employees to Create Testimonial Videos

It’s likely that customer testimonials fit into your marketing and acquisition efforts in some form or fashion. Perhaps you incorporate original customer testimonial videos into your social media campaigns or post genuine product reviews on your website. You do this because you know prospective customers value feedback from their peers.

Why should it be any different for your employees? Just as you know (or should know) your most reliable customers, you should be able to readily identify your star employees — the ones you trust to create powerful testimonial content for new hires and juniors. Use these videos to set a positive tone during onboarding and include them in your internal resource library to support employee self-service as time goes on.

Map Out the “Employee Journey”

You’re probably familiar with the concept of the customer journey, which traces the pathways taken by prospects as they become aware of your brand, research (consider) its products or services, and ultimately make a decision (or not) to buy. You might even map this journey for actual customers or idealized “personas.”

“A lot of companies have some sort of journey map for their customers, but I’m curious to know how many have that for their employees. It has a significant impact on customer loyalty,” writes Jeff Bettinger, SVP and CHRO of Nu Skin.

Mapping each employee’s journey, from the pre-hire phase through every significant and not-so-significant event of their time with the company, provides rich information about that employee’s experience — and how to improve it. Just as a full picture of the customer journey helps teams retain and expand customer relationships, the employee journey helps leadership keep quality hires onboard and engaged, with long-term benefits for CX.

“Employees are often considered the most important asset of a company,” notes Bettinger. “It’s not just about getting the right person on the bus, it’s also about keeping them there for the long haul.”

Set Realistic Expectations and Goals Using Relevant, Fair Metrics

Your employees should expect you to slice and dice their performance, especially as it intersects with the customer experience. But they have a right to expect fair and relevant measurements grounded in reality too.

For example, micromanaging customer-contact employees’ time tends to backfire. Pay less attention to the duration of employees’ bathroom breaks or pauses between calls and more about how efficiently and effectively they manage customer interactions. Evaluate customer-contact performance on quality, not quantity.

Create an Incentive Program That Rewards Employees for Good Customer Service Outcomes

And reward that performance. Create an incentive program for CX-adjacent team members that directly rewards them for good outcomes. It’s fine to gamify the customer-contact experience by, for example, giving a gift card to the agent who successfully resolves the most tickets each day. But real rewards for performance should be more meaningful, like tying a significant portion of total compensation to objective CX and efficiency metrics.

Provide Self-Service Options to Reduce Your CX Team’s Workload

Your customer contact team will provide better service (and better CX overall) if it’s not overwhelmed by simple or repetitive tasks that can easily be automated away.

The customers themselves may appreciate this as well. According to a large-scale study by customer experience expert Steven van Belleghem, 40% of customers prefer self-service to human contact when interacting with organizations.

Why not give them what they want? A robust self-service portal enables customers to address basic CX issues without talking to a human agent and frees those same agents to give their full time and attention to problems that can’t be solved through self-service alone.

Deliver Real-Time Customer Feedback to Customer-Contact Employees (Coach in the Moment)

Reduce the need for one-on-one employee coaching sessions and make those sessions less awkward with a system for delivering real-time or same-day customer feedback. In other words, coach your employees in the moment, not days or weeks later.

The transition to a more responsive feedback system might be difficult for some longtime agents. But most will appreciate a richer stream of information that empowers them to do their jobs better and gives them the satisfaction of supporting a better CX.

“With proper feedback, you can let agents know they’re doing a great job,” writes Shep Hyken, chief amazement officer at Shepard Presentations. “This leads to happier agents, better customer experiences, and reduced attrition.” And when agents need to be redirected, better that it happens while the experience is fresh.

The Employee Experience Is the Customer Experience

Your employees are not your customers. You shouldn’t confuse the two groups; they are distinct and always will be.

But if it’s true that you wouldn’t have a viable enterprise without your customers, it’s doubly true that you’d be nowhere without your employees. Your employees, in other words, are just as important to your company’s long-term prospects as your customers. Maybe more so, as the set of potential customers for your company is almost certainly larger than the set of qualified employment candidates.

So, if you really care about the customer experience, if you really believe that CX is fundamental to your company’s growth, then you need to care about the employee experience too. They’re the ones who make it all possible.

Image credit: Pavel Danilyuk; Pexels

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