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At least that’s what I’ve always been told. And I’ve practiced it, preached it, and believed it. But, I’ve learned that approach is short-sighted. Maybe the laser focus on the Customer Experience (CX) has worked in the past, but this single-minded approach doesn’t cut it any more. There’s more to it. Maybe it’s time to think “Employee Experience” (EX) first.
Let’s step back a moment. Is the customer still king? Sure… kind of. Reports by the American Customer Service Satisfaction Index show that leaders in customer service outperform the Dow by 93 percent, the Fortune 500 by 20 percent, and the NASDAQ by… hold on… 335 percent!
However, according to The Consumer Conversation 2015 report, only 37 percent of businesses surveyed said they were “able to tie customer experience activities to revenue and/or cost savings.” Good for the one-third that say they’re doing it. Too bad for the other two-thirds. That’s a lot of wasted money and effort. In fact, an Accenture report concluded that half of companies’ CX initiatives do very little to retain customers or increase revenue. With the market for customer experience management services and technology predicted to hit nearly $11 billion by 2020, the customer-comes-first focus has some heavy money tied to it.
The customer is the reason you have a job to come to. Still, few organizations are getting it right, despite investments in customer care programs, marketing, and extensive customer survey platforms. The answer isn’t in buying customer loyalty and affection. It’s not in increasing the marketing budget. It’s not bribery. And even innovation doesn’t last long—competitors out-innovate the innovators. The answer is right in front of you. It’s your employees!
The problem is, most organizations today are so obsessed with the Customer Experience that they ignore the primary factor in creating that experience—your employees. Few organizations treat employees as though this were true.
Every organization has a customer. If you’re in retail, it’s the person buying your ripped skinny jeans. In technology, it’s the person downloading your software. In education, it’s the student. In government, it’s the citizens of the community. The customer is the reason the organization exists (and why you have a job).
But with the increased emphasis on CX, we treat CX as if it’s both the end goal and the process by which we obtain that goal. A superior CX is like a garden. A healthy garden from which we can harvest fresh produce is the end goal. But you can’t create results by waving a wand and taking daily measurements. You have to attend to the activities—planting the seeds, watering, fertilizing, weeding—that create the outcome you’re shooting for.
Your employees are the soil and nutrients in which your CX grows. If you have a foundation of engaged employees, your CX will be taken care of. Conversely, without a garden bed of great people who choose to take care of your customers, all the technology, surveying, innovation, and massive investment in programs won’t keep your CX from dying on the vine.
An extraordinary Employee Experience is the basis for successful Customer Experience. The degree to which your employees are nurtured and cared for dictates the degree to which your EX efforts will bear fruit. In other words, EX = CX.
Last Fall I walked into a bakery that was in a section of a supermarket. Despite being housed within a large store this bakery was privately owned. It was known for its pastries, and I had my mouth set on a fresh apple fritter. As I stood at the counter, I overheard a man I assumed to be a supervisor chiding the teenage counter worker in the back room. Others nearby also heard the berating. I rang the counter bell, and the young girl came out. The first words out of her mouth were, “What do you need?” Not, “Welcome,” “How are you today?,” or “Would you like a sample?” She didn’t even have the courtesy to look me in the eye.
My first thought was to walk away from the bakery. But as I thought about it, I realized it wasn’t the fault of the teen in front of me. My Customer Experience was a direct result of her Employee Experience. I asked for the manager, let him know what I had overheard, and then gave him a lecture on taking care of his employees (I’m a consultant, that’s what I do). I walked away, without purchasing the best fritter in town. (As a side note, the bakery closed over six months ago, and still hasn’t reopened.)
Your employees are your brand. If your brand is a promise, your employees are responsible for fulfilling that promise. They are the face of your brand—the face of your business to the customer. Many companies sprint past EX on their way to building their CX. It doesn’t work. The CX is the result of the engagement and behaviors of your employees.
Think of it this way. The last time you experienced a customer snafu, did you ask the question, “What type of experience are we providing for our employees?” Probably not. That’s HR’s job. You’re solving more important problems. But, odds are that problem was the direct or indirect result of someone failing to correct a problem, step up to quality issues, provide that extra bit of customer service, build a relationship, or fulfill a promise or obligation.
EX has the ability to change the direction of the needle—up or down—on whatever metric you choose: customer satisfaction, quality, revenue, patient satisfaction… you name it. Think about the costs of implementing a world-class customer service effort in an environment where employees are disengaged. Some organizations even go to extremes to design employees out of the system, coming up with elaborate schemes to keep employees from damaging the customer relationship. Why? The Employee Experience is poor, and employees simply don’t care about delighting the customer.
We call this The Law of Congruent Experience. It says: Employees will deliver a customer experience that matches their own experience in the organization.
Indifferent employers mean indifferent employees. Indifferent employees create indifferent customers. Think about the employee that was just berated by her supervisor. Do you really think that the next apple fritter will be served up with a smile and a “thank you for your business?” Doubtful.
Despite the title of this article, I’m not advocating ignoring your CX. But there’s a step that many businesses leave out in their quest for the holy grail of Customer Experience—the Employee Experience.
EX = CX.
Article by Tracy Maylett originally published on Business2Community.com
Happy customers translate to successful organizations. But in their quest for the optimal Customer Experience, or “CX,” most organizations ignore the most critical piece in the process—the Employee Experience, or “EX.”
Companies are upping their games when it comes to CX. And, if done correctly, it can pay huge dividends. In fact, even incremental improvements of just one point in CX scores can result in huge revenue increases. That’s $65 million in extra annual revenue for a hotel chain, $118 million for an auto brand, and a staggering $175 million per year in new revenues for a wireless provider.
There’s a lot of money being thrown at getting CX right. The market for CX management services and technology is expected to grow from $4.36 billion to $10.77 over the next five years. Yet, just 37 percent of businesses surveyed report that they are able to link these customer experience activities to increased revenue or cost savings. That’s a lot of wasted money in a potential goldmine.
The problem isn’t that they are going after revamping CX; it’s that they are going about it the wrong way. In their quest for a superlative CX, they forget that CX is really about EX.
Last year, I stopped by a neighborhood bakery for an apple fritter. As I approached the empty sales counter, I watched as a manager chided a teenage employee. His body motions were animated and disturbing, but paled in comparison to his rather offensive language.
The manager and the young employee noticed me, and the teen came to the counter. Her first words were, “What do you want?” Not, “Can I help you?” or “Would you like a free sample?” No, it was a terse “What do you want?”
Taken aback, I was just about to comment on the teen’s lack of caring, but stopped short when I realized something important: My CX really wasn’t the fault of the poor teen in front of me. She was just the relay between the bakery and me, the customer. My poor CX was a direct result of her poor EX.
I left, without buying the best apple fritter in town, but not before laying into the manager for his lack of understanding of both the customer and the Employee Experience. As a side note, the bakery was closed six months ago, and has not reopened.
This experience is far from unique. We all have near-endless accounts of both positive and negative examples of our own CX. But recent press has made this even more apparent with stories of CX disasters.
Take Chipotle. Between November of 2015 and January of 2016, Chipotle customers were hit by a much-publicized E. coli outbreak, sickening 55 people in 11 states. Chipotle temporarily closed dozens of restaurants, and locked the doors of more than 1,900 restaurants for one day to address safety concerns. The exact cause of the outbreak was never clearly identified. Chipotle stock took a dive of nearly 30%.
But, there’s more to Chipotle’s woes. Chipotle concerns don’t stop at the CX. In 2014, a handful of Chipotle workers filed suit against the company for allegedly forcing employees into working overtime, without getting paid. Since that time, nearly 10,000 Chipotle employees have joined the suit.
What does that say about the EX?
While I’m certainly not trying to draw a link from unpaid overtime to E. coli, it does appear Chipotle has some work to do on both sides of the equation.
Take a look at Wells Fargo and their recent series of bungles. The bank was found to have opened accounts and credit cards for its customers, without the customers’ knowledge. It then collected fees from these fake accounts.
The bank had created a culture that not only allowed employees to defraud customers, many employees felt they were required to do so in order to keep their jobs. Rather than owning up to their role in building this culture, however, the bank fired 5,300 employees, calling them “underperformers.”
Both Chipotle and Wells Fargo know better—or at least we hope so. Both were strong going into these very public struggles, and both will likely rebuild their brands. However, they won’t do it without the support of those that create the CX in the first place—their employees.
The rise of the employee experience is the next topic human resources professionals should pay attention to and here’s why. Try this experiment. Go to LinkedIn and type in “Employee Experience” with the quotes in the search bar. As of November 29, 2016, I found:
When I did this same search about a month before, I found less than 1,700 people with “Employee Experience” in their title. More and more HR professionals are changing their titles to include this new term, and it seems to be senior HR leaders in reputable companies who are leading the way. Here are several examples:
When you think about it, “human resources” does sound like an antiquated and non-politically-correct term. Are employees really the company’s resources? “Human resources” is a corporate term to specify the different inputs needed for a company to produce a product or service. When viewed as a cog in the machine of corporate gains, “human resources” really doesn’t do an adequate job of describing employees. After all, companies are really made up of a group of people that produce value for customers. It’s your people that ultimately drive the company’s success.
Google has a nifty tool to show how popular a term is on the search engine. Google Trends allows you to see the relative interest in a term over the past five years. If you do a search on Google Trends for the term “Employee Experience,” you will see a 140 percent increase in interest by comparing the average popularity value of 35 in 2011 to 85 towards the end of 2016.
Google’s description of “interest over time” is a little tricky. Google explains: “Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. Likewise, a score of 0 means the term was less than 1% as popular as the peak.”
If you compare interest in “Employee Engagement” you will see that “Employee Experience” has a ways to go to catch up. Nevertheless, the trend in interest for “Employee Experience” is still climbing.
Simply put, the employee experience is the sum of the various perceptions employees have about their interactions with the organization in which they work. These perceptions drive how employees feel about their work and how much effort they put into their job. The employee experience determines how effective your company is at attracting, retaining, and engaging your workforce.
Are we in the middle of a major shift in mindset when it comes to employees? I hope so. As the global economy grows and competition becomes more intense, the war for talent will only become harder. Attracting, retaining, and engaging top talent will be the key advantage successful companies use to win in this era, and it all starts with creating an amazing employee experience.
P.S. While posting this article, I did another search on LinkedIn and found 5,303 people with “Employee Experience” in their title.
Question: If you are in HR, will you be replacing “human resources” with “employee experience” in your title? Did you do so already? Why?
As humans, we are incredibly good at grouping things. We are also very good at seeing patterns. Indeed, pattern recognition has been shown to be a clear evolutionary advantage for our species. That said, our natural penchant for patterns can sometimes obscure what is really happening. If you spend any time with optical illusions, you’ll quickly see how our brains distort reality by using innate patterns, or “shortcuts.” Predictable patterns mean our brains have to work less, and nature loves to conserve energy.
So, how does this observation apply to your organization’s Employee Experience (EX)? If we follow our brain’s preferred course, we might naturally try and create an Employee Experience that is nearly the same for each employee. As noted, we are wired to look for repeatable patterns and processes. Yet, this tendency may create a bias that works against our most important business goals.
Consider the following. Your organization’s EX is the sum of the various human-based operating conditions that surround and influence your employees at a behavioral and social level. In other words, your EX is that unique social environment in which your employees do their work.
In designing your EX, whether at the team level or at the organizational level, the goal is to create an EX environment that supports your organization’s key business objectives. For example, if you need precision in your engineering team, then the engineering team’s EX should promote and cultivate precision. If another team’s value is derived from creativity, then their EX should be tailored to foster creativity, such as designing work schedules that allow for uninterrupted chunks of time.
There is also a secondary lesson to be gleaned from these two examples. The Employee Experience should not be the same for every employee. Certainly corporate values and ethics need to stay the same, but other components must differ if you are going to get the most from your organization’s talent.
Armed with these insights, the next step is to try and understand your organization’s current EX. Every organization has an EX. Some are inherited. Some EXs are carefully controlled and created. But most are haphazardly acquired, or the EX has been foisted upon the organization’s current leadership. But, you can’t shape and improve your EX unless you have clear understanding of the starting point.
We suggest that one way to better understand your current EX is to analyze your employee survey data. But, we suggest you use it differently this time. Rather than focusing on traditional groupings and comparisons, dig deeper and use your data to help understand how and why employees are having different Employee Experiences within your organization. The key question to be looking for in your employee survey data is: Do my employees have different Employee Experiences, and, if so, why?
Here is one possible way to tackle this process. Start by sorting your employees into four groups based on how favorably they view your organization. We suggest you follow a traditional bell curve. For example, the highest raters might represent the top 15%. These are the fully engaged employees that give your organization top marks. They are the most enthusiastic champions of the organization, whose excitement is palpable and contagious.
The second group could be the next 35%. This group likely represents your key contributors. These are the employees that meet performance expectations, the “strong-and-steady.” They get things done, but they typically invest limited time innovating, improving processes, or breaking from the status quo.
The third group might be the next 35%. This is an employee segment where there is a strong opportunity for improvement. They generally feel underutilized, spend a lot of work time taking care of personal needs, do enough to get by and not get in trouble.
The last group is your remaining employees, and this group represents those that are disengaged at work. These employees are bored and frustrated; say negative things about the organization and tend to blame others for their failures.
Once you have sorted your employees as suggested, the next step is to look at the following three metrics.
Compare the overall favorability score each group gives your organization. What do you see? What do you learn about each group’s Employee Experience? Then work at finding who are in these groups. For example, are they mainly women, engineers, line workers, etc.? Try and understand the forces that have shaped and molded these groups.
Based on all the survey responses, find the top three questions from each group. These are the questions where the group gave your organization the highest favorability rating. Compare those questions across the groups. Ask yourself, why does my top group care about one particular set of questions as opposed to what the other groups have indicated?
Compare each specific question within your top group against how the other groups responded to these same questions. In other words, you are examining the same question across each grouping to see how they responded. Where are things different? What insights can you find?
Armed with this data, a picture, although fuzzy, will likely emerge as to what your current EX looks like. This will serve as a good starting point.
But, you can’t stop there. Next steps might include targeted surveys that measure everything from what drives your employee value proposition to running exit surveys to illuminate why individuals might be leaving.
The key is to build an EX data analytics plan that is both comprehensive in its reach and targeted in its depth. Also, make sure your analytics plan covers multiple time periods as well as natural employee lifecycle landing points.
One last tangential point. During the analytical process, don’t just look for points where data converges; rather, look for points whether data diverges. Check your natural bias in favor of patterns by looking for instances where you see strong differences. Then ask yourself why those differences exist and what insights can be found.
In the end, by taking an analytics approach to your Employee Experience, you will be able to explore the nature of your EX and begin the process of shaping it to create a winning organization.