Winning the Hearts and Minds of Employees — the Other Half of Total CX Performance


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Customer experience (CX) executives have traditionally placed the bulk of their time and attention on customer experience in the marketplace and on exactly what kind of experience gets delivered to the customer. In other words, externalcustomer experience. Which they should. After all, it’s what customers experience — and how they think and behave in response to those experiences — that ultimately matters most.

Yet, ignoring the fact that much of a company’s total customer experience performance takes place inside the organization — in the hearts and minds of its employees and in the internal culture that supports CX execution (or, does not) — can leave significant performance gaps, or worse, gaping holes in the experience that ultimately gets delivered to customers.

Put another way, a company can spend enormous time and resources designing the most outstanding customer experience strategy imaginable, but if employees can’t or won’t deliver the strategy, performance will inevitably suffer. If the company does not have the organizational and culture wherewithal to support effective strategy execution, expected CX outcomes will be diminished or missed altogether. These are aspects of internal customer experience – the other, critical half of total CX performance.

Consider these three key forms of internal CXM performance.

Employee CX Literacy: Employees, managers, and even senior executives across the organization cannot effectively deliver a designed or targeted customer experience if they aren’t knowledgeable about that planned experience and how they – personally – can contribute to its successful delivery.

Employee CX Engagement: The eventual success of any company’s strategy is ultimately determined in large part by the willingness of employees to put their CX literacy to full and effective use; i.e., to invest discretionary effort (“walk an extra mile”) to ensure the designed customer experience is in fact consistently and fully delivered.

Internal CX Culture: Employees can’t do the job alone — an effective internal CX culture that supports and nurtures them in their efforts to deliver the designed customer experience is required. Tools, training, resources, feedback, management “walking the CX talk,” rewards, recognition, reporting on progress, and celebrating success are just some of the elements of internal CX culture.

Notwithstanding the obvious importance of these forms of internal CX performance, they have received scant managerial attention in far too many companies — even from their dedicated CX leadership teams! They are also only rarely addressed in the related academic and business literature by CX researchers and thought leaders. Further, formal internal CX performance measurement systems have been the exception, not the rule, as has the use of internal performance metrics in companywide CX dashboards. Importantly, most of today’s leading CX analytics software providers still do not offer employee/culture-facing performance measurement, analysis, and reporting capabilities.

Some of this inattention is attributable to a misguided belief that elements of internal CX performance are simply too ethereal to be effectively measured, much less managed. 

A parallel mistaken notion that employee performance and organizational culture issues are somehow beyond the purview of a company’s CX leadership team has also played a role. And, as noted, until quite recently a lack of effective and readily available measurement, diagnostic, and deployment tools has added to the problem.

But all this is now slowly beginning to change. In spite of the barriers — real and imagined — CX executives are increasingly concluding that internal CX matters are simply too important in terms of managing total corporate CX performance to be ignored. New and increasingly sophisticated measurement and management tools, including state-of-the-art CX performance dashboards, integrating both external and internal metrics, are also starting to make a big difference.

Developing Internal CX Performance Metrics

Another development has been the discovery in a growing number of companies that internal CX performance constructs like employee CX literacy or internal CX culture can actually be broken down into identifiable, measurable, and manageable elements, even though they might initially appear hopelessly abstract.

A brief overview of how such a process can work for the three forms of internal CX performance mentioned earlier is presented on the following pages.

Employee CX Literacy & Engagement

A hierarchy of effects can help companies initially think about “employees living the CX strategy”. The hierarchy (Fig. 1) contains both cognitive and behavioral elements, with each element building on the preceding ones in a more or less linear fashion.

Figure 1.

Employee CX literacy starts with awareness — employees have to first know that a corporate CX strategy even exists. Beyond that, they have to understand the strategy see it as being personally relevant and believable and ultimately become committed to personally “live the CX strategy”.

A critical mid-step toward employee CX engagement lies in identifying specific CX strategy-supporting behaviors that employees can take up. Left to their own devices, employees can struggle here, so managerial intervention is essential. In one recent client survey, over 76% of employees told us they were committed to “helping deliver our designed CX experience,” but only 43% said they had “a clear understanding of exactly which behaviors they should adopt” to support the overall CX effort.

Finally, it is one thing to know how to “deliver the CX experience” and quite another to actually deliver it on a day-to-day basis. And so, the pinnacle of the hierarchy addresses initial and then longer-term, sustained employee behavioral take-up.

Importantly, the progression of a workforce through the hierarchy toward greater CX literacy and engagement can be measured by periodically asking employees how they feel about a series of statements like the examples in Figures 2 and 3 below. (Some quick interpretive notes on the data displayed are provided below chart.)

Figure 2. Employee CX literacy here is only moderately developed. Top-2-Box scores should ideally be 75-80%+. Also, CX literacy-building seems to be focused more on customer-facing employees, rather than on the workforce as a whole.
Figure 3. Employee CX engagement is not where it needs to be; i.e., 80%+ in agreement. Bottom-2-Box scores are low (only 12%), but Top-2-Box scores don’t break 50%, with 42% of these mission critical employees sitting on the CX fence.

Internal CX Culture

As noted earlier, employees need help in becoming more engaged with the designed CX experience, and the company must provide that help by creating a supporting internal CX culture. But what does such a culture look like and how can its performance in nurturing employees be measured? Below is a set of CX culture effectiveness “markers” (Fig. 4) that can be used as 1) an initial diagnostic tool, 2) as the basis for an ongoing performance measurement process, and 3) a roadmap for building a stronger culture over time.

Figure 4.

At a minimum, CX executives can use the “markers” as a checklist to evaluate a company’s CX culture. Better yet, ask employees how the culture is performing through an ongoing measurement process, using items such as the examples in Figures 5 and 6 below.

Figure 5. Significant regional differences are observed here on this critical CX culture “marker”. EMEA leads with Top-3-Box score of 83% (excellent!), while other regions lag far behind, most notably Asia Pacific.
Figure 6. Adequate CX coaching and mentoring appears to be missing – only 41% can agree, with nearly 1/5 openly disagreeing. Findings also suggest a possible disconnect between senior sales and CX leadership re roles and responsibilities for CX literacy-building.

Internal Performance Metrics for the Corporate CX Performance Dashboard

As noted above, the measurement of internal CX performance can be quite nuanced and detailed. But for companywide brand dashboard purposes, only a few composite or indexed metrics are required. As a starting point, consider these three:

Employee CX Literacy: the extent to which employees know how to the “live the CX strategy”.

Employee CX Engagement: the extent to which employees are actually “living the CX strategy”.

Internal CX Culture Effectiveness : the extent to which the company is supporting and enabling employees in their efforts to deliver the designed CX experience.

All three metrics can be initially established and then periodically updated via employee survey research as well as various types of operational data such as customer care performance monitoring, complaint desk problem resolution, and employee performance reviews. 

Some companies also add “voice of the customer” via customer satisfaction research which explores employee performance at key junctures in delivering the designed customer experience. Additionally, there can be a role for subjective CX executive observation and judgment in assessing employee and culture performance.

At least, for now, adding internal CX metrics to a corporate CX performance dashboard may have to be a manual activity until software providers “catch up” with the need to integrate features and functions for the other half of total CX performance. For illustrations purposes, a rare example – currently – of how internal metrics can be included in a CX performance dashboard is provided in Fig. 7 on the following page.

One clear benefit of an integrated dashboard is that it provides a single, complete line of sight on total CXM performance in one place. A less obvious benefit is that it can help CX executives better understand how investments in internal CX performance yield improved CX outcomes externally among customers. Finally, well-designed dashboard’s offer not only descriptions of current performance, but also diagnostic, prescriptive, and even predictive capabilities – all of which can be leveraged to optimize the design and delivery of customer experience.

Figure 7. From Aspect Software – example available in public domain Via Google.

Summary Thoughts

A customer experience strategy is only as good as a company’s ability to effectively and consistently deliver it. As a result, there are two-equally important halves in CX management – the external and the internal. Far too many CX executives ignore or pay scant attention to internal-half issues, but then wonder why better outcomes (improved experiences, changed perceptions and behaviors, etc.) are not being achieved externally among customers.

Employees who are CX-literate and CX-engaged and an effective organizational culture dedicated to supporting employees in delivering the CX strategy don’t just happen. They can only arise over time as a result of careful planning, investment, training, reinforcement, and sustained CX executive attention.

Constructs like employee literacy and engagement and organizational CX culture can seem abstract. In fact, they can be broken down into identifiable, measurable, and manageable components. Some examples have been shared here. Successful CX executives adhere to the well-established admonition: You can’t manage what you don’t measure!

Integrated corporate CX dashboards, which incorporate both external and internal metrics and a rich blend of performance data from a variety of sources (employees, operations, customer satisfaction, etc.), can provide a holistic view, enabling CX executives to better manage total customer experience.

Tom Nelson, Ed.D.
Tom is CEO of Lodestar Advisory Partners, a Princeton, NJ-based research, business intelligence, and advisory services firm specializing in customer experience, marketing and brand performance, and innovation management.


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