The employee is always right

“The customer is king.” We’ve all heard it and know what it means. But a king is nothing without their court, and a customer’s experience will not be great unless your employees’ experience is first taken care of.

Laura Breines

Customer and employee experiences are often seen as separate, with distinct needs. However, emerging evidence is demonstrating that businesses should be looking to their employee experience to add value to their bottom line. In fact, according to PwC, companies that invest in and deliver superior experiences to employees as well as customers can charge a premium of as much as 16% for their products and services.

Behind the scenes

Putting the onus on the employee experience has a big impact on how services are delivered, as every touchpoint a customer has with your business is mediated by an employee even when the customer isn’t aware of it. Digital services, for example, rarely have a direct customer-employee interaction, but the experience itself is mediated by the work that an employee does behind the scenes.

Well-informed, coordinated and better-performing staff deliver better experiences. And it is not just behind the counter where you see this trend. It extends to those digital touchpoints where social support teams, website administrators and developers play a pivotal role in the experience of the customer.

So if these customer touchpoints are not satisfactory, it means that processes behind the scenes used by the employee to carry out this function is also likely to be below the required standard. And in some cases, it might not be working at all.

But it goes beyond “just working” – there needs to be a conscious effort from the employer to create an employee-customer touchpoint that is easy, flexible and clearly defined. Let’s take inventory in retail. Employees should be able to access a full stocklist in an easy and fast way, ensuring that customers have the right information when shopping with the retailer – be that different sizes in stock or if there are any special deals associated with that item.

A good employee experience here would be integrating AI into your inventory management system. If employees know that a particular item, or a variation of that item is selling faster than the others this lets merchandising staff know that perhaps the displays need to be rearranged, the back room staff know that this item is likely to be requested a lot and management know that that section of the store is likely to be busier than than others. This understanding allows employees at every level to perform their roles more effectively and as such deliver a better service to customers.

But, if that search function is below standard, showing wrong or delayed information, then this is going to cause frustration for the employee. Unable to match the demands of the customer (who is likely to go elsewhere), that employee is going to be offering up a lesser experience – through no fault of their own.

You then have two problems – employee dissatisfaction, leading to reduced performance, and customer dissatisfaction. Both are going to impact that bottom line.

So how do you find out whether your internal experiences are up to scratch?

Listening is pointless without action

If you want to know what your employees need then you are going to have to borrow from the customer experience playbook – that means observational, analytical and experimental research.

It’s also about involving employees in critical decisions affecting them and their work, listening to their experiences to make improvements to their internal processes, which will, in turn, improve the service given to customers.

However, as valuable as listening to your employees is it’s nothing but lip service if these insights aren’t turned into actions. Hearing your employees is only half of the equation, if they see that their input is valued and systems are put in place that allow them to do their job in a more effective manner, the output of this is happier, more productive, more fulfilled workforce which ultimately provides a better experience for customers.

Such an approach is hugely valuable when working with vast and dispersed workforces. Take Los Angeles Airport (LAX) which employs 40,000 staff members across a range of roles. Its employee tool, Altitude, acts as an information portal for accessing the necessary tools and information that staff rely on daily such as problem reporting, discounted food ordering, FAQs, getting to LAX commute options and service directories. Which in turn, enhances the traveller experience, as a streamlined service is being offered up.

But it was only possible by taking a step back, looking at the employee experience from a distance, and getting feedback and direction from the people using those tools regularly while simultaneously prototype testing and conducting further research.

As an organization, you should be thinking of customer and employee experience as two parts of the same ecosystem – your employee experience won’t benefit from isolating individual parts, much in the same way that your customer experience doesn’t benefit by adding a single tool or by only focusing on one element.

If you are seeing churn in your business or fractured customer experience, your first (air)port of call should be evaluating the needs and experiences of your employees. Get the behind the scenes in line, led by your workforce, and you are going to see the customer-facing elements improve – and so will your bottom line.

This article originally appeared in TheCustomer.

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