Superior Customer Experience, Only Possible Through Superior Employee Experience

Ever have a real downer of an experience on a call with a company? You can intuitively feel when a customer rep you deal with hates their job, and thus, their company is likely to be a crummy place to work. Conversely, you can feel the energy when the person with whom you deal loves their job, and thus, their company likely rocks. Employee happiness is everything, and customers can feel this. It boils down to this:

Happy employees = happy customers

Snappy employees = happy competitors

I don’t mean to blame employees for being snappy; rather, it’s a reflection of their corporate cultures. Tiffani Bova, global customer growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce, agrees. “Research shows that the factor most directly linked to creating a positive customer experience is actually our own employees,” she observes in a recent Salesforce post. “In other words, the fastest way to get customers to love your brand is to get employees to love their jobs.”

“When you say your customers are deeply engaged with your brand, what – or who – are they actually connecting with? When they call with a service question or consider a purchase, customers are not interacting with an omniscient, faceless brand: They are in direct contact with the very people whose attitudes, competence, and sense of empowerment combine to give that brand its substance and soul. Over the past year, as companies have begun to reckon with social injustices, structural inequality, and the physical and mental well-being of their employees, those very same employees have begun to demand more from their leadership.”

As the world begins to emerge from the Covid crisis and a growing digital economy increases its acceleration, corporate success will depend on the freedom of innovation and workplace flexibility employees will have — which, again, reflects directly on the customer experience. “There’s a big opportunity for business leaders to lean into innovation as digital tools and technologies are democratized and become more accessible,” says Cliff Justice, US leader of enterprise innovation at KPMG. “One of the biggest challenges business leaders face is building, empowering and managing the future remote workforce,” he says. “While being virtual affords us many opportunities, there’s also the inherent challenge of striking the right balance of community and social connection that comes with an in-person workforce. Organizations need to have the right talent mix within its workforce; however, being remote puts some limitations on that and can make it challenging to identify the blind spots.”

With technology facilitating remote as well as data-driven work – such as AI, 5G and cloud – “there’s an urgency and challenge to upskill or retrain employees to be able to work in the new environment and, furthermore, to extract value from the digital tools that are reimagining work,” Justice adds.

While digital technologies are changing, and hopefully will improve work, they can also help to deliver a more positive employee experience in terms of mental health and well-being. Jacqueline Brassey and a team of McKinsey consultants advocate the use of analytic tools to better track and understand the depth of employee experience, to better identify where and how their jobs can be improved, and boost their sense of wellness. Data analytics, “deployed in conjunction with remote data collection using the output from wearables and digital biomarkers,” need to be leveraged, as well as inputs from proactive wellness efforts. Analytics can be employed to “alert individual employees when they should consider taking time to recharge, for instance, or notify leaders when teams seem to be experiencing high levels of stress.”

Employers could also work with solutions providers “to measure well-being across their workforce and use sophisticated prediction algorithms to link these findings to productivity,” Brassey and her team state. “At an individual level, employers could use analytics solutions to help identify employees at risk and, with their agreement, refer them to internal or external support services.”

At the customer and market engagement level, there’s never been a more critical time to employ technology to boost superior employee experience. “With innovation as the north star, businesses can expect a couple cultural transitions brought on by the emerging partnership between humans and data-driven technologies and enterprise automation,” according to KPMG’s Justice. “As data-driven technologies become more sophisticated and efficient, more and more everyday tasks will be automated. But rather than replacing jobs, technologies like AI and GPT-3 will complement the work of employees.”

Along these lines, Justice urges “a working partnership between humans and their human-like AI counterparts.” This includes “enterprise automation, an end-state for business leaders seeking to combine automation with contextual intelligence to drive greater agility, reduced risk and better customer and employee experiences from the front office to the back office. We can expect to see more of the data gathering and tasks being automated, which will free up time and resources for our human employees to be more present and drive value for the business.”

Salesforces’ Bova also encourages actively gathering data about employee experiences. “Ask them what’s working and what’s not working, instituting a culture of listening and engaging in surveys and data collection initiatives.” Then, develop a process for key decision-makers “to easily access employee feedback, and create a space for them to brainstorm ways to incorporate that feedback into workplace processes.” This should lead to efforts to “make tangible changes to workflows, technology, and systems that take employee feedback into account. Then clearly communicate those changes back to employees. It’s not enough to simply ask for feedback. We must also acknowledge that we heard it, and explain how and why we are acting on it – or not acting on it, as the case may be.”

The Covid crisis over the past year “revealed the friction that company silos create, and it laid bare the mental and health burdens of workers,” Bova adds. “Company culture needs to evolve such that people can collaborate and feel part of something bigger than themselves, despite the lack of physical connection.”