It’s almost impossible to argue that now, more than ever, true power lives with the customer. Because of this, the concept of the customer experience (also commonly referred to as CX) has grown to almost mythical proportions in recent years. It’s no longer enough to just offer quality products or services. The customer experience that you offer needs to be as good or even better than everyone else’s – yet this in and of itself brings with it a few unique challenges that must be addressed.
In many ways, customer experience has become one of those ubiquitous terms – not unlike “the cloud,” or “digital” and “innovation.” Everyone knows it is important, but few can define exactly what it means within the context of their organizations – or, more importantly, how to accomplish it.
As a result, vast amounts of investments are being directed toward the external customer in tactical ways cloaked in strategic customer experience initiatives – digital marketing, website redesign, mobile applications, predictive analytics, omni-channel, user experience (UX), User-centered-design (UCD)… the list goes on. From a certain perspective, this has led to companies over-indexing their business investments by focusing on their customer revenues.
“Challenge yourself to understand and realize your enterprise as an adaptive system, one that can respond with speed to change or stimuli.”
Make no mistake: all of these efforts are currently and will always be important. But in a lot of ways, they’re missing the bigger picture – they’re focused too thinly on just one small part of a much larger whole. Equally important are business investments, where you prioritize and invest in what is ultimately the foundation of everything you’ve worked so hard to build up until now: your employees. After all, your customers experience you directly or indirectly through your products and services.
The Internal Factor: The State of Employee Engagement
Making an effort to engage with your employees brings with it a wide range of benefits that can’t be ignored. According to The McKinsey Global Institute, productivity tends to improve by between 20 and 25% in organizations with connected employees. Employees who are given the opportunity to exercise their strengths on a daily basis tend to be 8% more productive individually and six times more likely to be engaged than those who do not. Even teams with high employee engagement rates tend to be 21% more productive and have 28% less internal theft than those who are disengaged.
Yet according to one recent study conducted by Gallup, only about one out of every eight employees is actually committed psychologically to their job. To put it another way, employees are increasingly disengaged, contributing far below their potential, particularly from a discretionary effort and innovation point of view.
Making matters worse is the fact that the digital workplace itself is evolving in a very accidental way. We’re rolling out a proliferation of tools, tech, devices etc. in theory designed to increase collaboration, productivity, and engagement…with the best of intent, we think we’re enabling people to work the way they want to work, “empowering” them… without realizing they are losing massive amounts of productivity every day and growing increasingly frustrated trying to context switch amongst a multitude of channels, devices, and apps.
The Problem With Data
Also keep in mind that the life of an employee is growing more complicated all the time. More data will be created by the end of 2017 than in the previous 5,000 years combined. There’s an old saying that tells us that “today is the least amount of data you will ever know,” meaning everyone is having to deal with a present and a future that involves more and more data.
We need to stop fooling ourselves that employees can handle this influx effectively. The impact comes in the form of missed business opportunities as employees cannot infer sufficient insights from the data and the psychological burden of having to “keep up”, work the problem and achieve the results with fragmented tools and support continues to grow.
All of this is a long way of saying that these are the types of issues you are steering directly into when you prioritize the “outside in” approach to customer experience. Again – the power lies with the customers and it always will, but at the same time this “outside in” view is often too siloed and too simplistic for reasons just like these. Your employees are sharing their experience – directly and indirectly – with your customers. It is in your own best interest to make sure that both are as strong as they can possibly be.
Dr. Samantha Nottingham perhaps said it best in her piece “Brandsparency” when she said that “a business can no longer operate thinking its inner workings will not be exposed to the external world. Your consumers and customers can also easily look inside. They can see your people and how they feel; your processes and whether they are modern and fair; your values and whether you ‘walk the walk’; and your culture – the good, bad and ugly.”
Customer Experience, Employee Experience and the Power of the Integrated Experience
So if you buy that customer experience and employee experience are now inextricably linked, and your customer experience is only as good as your employee experience…what do you do about it? Luckily, the solution to all of these problems and more is much closer than you likely think.
First, you need to recognize that this is NOT a new problem. Instead, it is one that is becoming more urgent and more pronounced as time marches on due to both access to information and the speed of change requiring more adaptability and resilience than ever before. Because of this, you need to shift your thinking from “customer experience” to a customer/employee-based “integrated experience” – again, lean into the fact that these are two sides of the same coin, so to speak.
Successful enterprises will realize they cannot separate enterprise needs from individual needs and will prioritize the engagement and well-being of their biggest asset – people and talent. Put the person/human at the center. Take the time to understand their true needs and how to unlock their fullest potential – and not just the functional, but emotional and social needs as well. At the core recognize that enterprise needs are individual needs and a healthy enterprise requires at its core that we enable a healthy, productive, engaged employee. Help your employees and customers achieve their jobs to be done by reducing friction and improving how you react to their desires and demands.
And, most importantly, challenge yourself to understand and realize your enterprise as an adaptive system, one that can respond with speed to change or stimuli (planned or unplanned, expected or unexpected).
In the End
Organizations are increasingly transparent through the proliferation of information sharing. The customer is driving, and is making buying (and employer) decisions based on their holistic experience with you – functional, emotional, and social. At the same time employees are increasingly disengaged and contributing below their potential. Make no mistake – this may be the biggest hurdle to overcome when it comes to achieving long-term success moving forward.
Organizations that are not putting their people at the center of their customer experience strategy and providing their people with the right tools and services to meet their needs and help them achieve their potential risk negative brand perception, loss of talent, sub-par customer experience and impact to market share.