The Employee Experience: The Not-So-Surprising Secret to Delivering the Ultimate Customer Experience

Phil Hamburg
Phil Hamburg,
Executive Managing Director,
Root Inc.

I have a question for all of the company leaders out there: Do you really have a finger on the pulse of the customer experience you’re delivering?

I’m sure you’re reviewing data and analyzing numbers. You may read reports to find out who is performing well and who is not and personally peruse customer surveys to hear what people are saying. But, here’s the reality – this isn’t where the best-in-class customer experience insights lie. It’s not hidden in your next great marketing promotion or loyalty club, either.

That magic potion you’re after is actually right in front of you. It’s something you’ve probably been overlooking. It’s your people! What kind of employee experience are they having? How closely are you studying that?

As a leader, you have the best of intentions for your company and your people. But it’s really difficult (practically impossible, really) for someone at the higher levels of an organization, no matter how well-intended they may be, to truly understand the daily challenges their frontline employees encounter. Sure, you can hire consultants to analyze the marketplace and help you get at a solid understanding of the external factors impacting your customer experience. Yes, that is important, but it can be much more difficult – and often times more important – to get a grasp on the internal factors. One thing we know to be true is that the customer experience will never exceed the employee experience. You must ask yourself: Does our employee experience allow our people to bring the best of themselves to work so they can then deliver the best customer experience possible?

It’s time to look inside yourself (and your company). Focus on your frontline employees and managers, the ones with the daily, real-time experience that makes them uniquely qualified to provide you with a realistic point of view that often goes unnoticed. What are your top performers doing differently? Can that be replicated and scaled across the business to enhance and differentiate your customer experience? If “Undercover Boss” isn’t your thing – and let’s be honest, most leaders aren’t willing to work the front line long enough themselves to really get it – here are a few things you can do to focus on the employee experience so you can, in turn, deliver the best customer experience.

  1. Define your customers’ reality. The customer experience is delivered through multiple touchpoints and channels today: via in-person, a brand website, call centers, social media, and more. But, before an organization can launch a new customer experience strategy, leaders need to have clarity around the current state as it exists in all of these channels. By understanding the reality of where you are today from an internal employee’s perspective and an external marketplace point of view, you can set up your platform for the future.
  2. Find the bright spots. Go find the parts of the customer experience machine that are working really well already. Then replicate them and scale them across your company. The best-performing individual contributors are doing something right – what is it? How can you get others to follow suit? Once you discover this “secret sauce” and spread it around, the bright spots will start to appear everywhere.
  3. Live it or leave it. You can’t just present and “tell” your strategy; you need to personally exemplify and live the necessary behaviors that bring the strategy to life. Data tells us that this isn’t happening – just 26% of workers strongly agree that most of the managers in their organization embody the values or behaviors that they would like their employees to have1. Even fewer, just 14%, believe their company’s leaders are generally willing to change their ways2. If you’re not willing to change to make a new strategy work – why should anyone who works for you? The only way to get everyone on board is to be authentic, consistent, honest, and vulnerable.  Model the behavior you’re after in others.
  4. Create an “ours” mentality. Everyone needs to have a shared goal and priorities and understand how their individual roles play a part in achieving this goal. Paint a picture of the entire customer experience – shedding light for people on the parts they don’t necessarily own but need to be aware of. You want everyone to be involved and take ownership.
  5. Mind the managers! We can’t stress the importance of managers enough! Managers need to understand the strategy, as they can either be the enablers or the chokepoints for an organization depending on how you treat and leverage them. Invest in developing their skills and knowledge and they’ll be able to support their frontline teams in delivering the customer experience you’re after.
  6. Promote personal purpose. Are your people encouraged to bring their personal purpose to work? Individuals might not share the same values or beliefs, but it’s important that everyone put their own values and beliefs to work – that’s when people do their best. This is living congruently, one life at home and at work.

Popeyes is a great example of an organization successfully embracing their people as individuals who each play a role in the greater good. They want their people to have an emotional connection to their work, so they’ve placed plaques with the company’s purpose and principles in offices and conference rooms so employees are never far from a reminder of what the brand aspires to be and do.

And it goes beyond just plaques; CEO Cheryl Bachelder truly believes in fostering an environment where the employee experience is meaningful to each individual:

But I often say to our team members, “That is just a plaque. You are the only Popeyes that people will ever meet. So, far more important than that plaque, is discovering what YOUR personal purpose and principles will be at work. You will decide how you will represent our company. You will determine what purpose and principles others see in our company.”

In other words, I need you to thoughtfully reflect on your life and values and craft a statement of purpose and principles that you want to put into action at work. It has to be moving and meaningful to you. It has to change how you spend your time, if it is to have any impact. Until you tackle this self work, it will be difficult for your leader/supervisor to know how to put you in the best place to add value. It will be impossible for your leader to help you reach your goals.

I must know you to grow you.
Cheryl Bachelder3

So, the next time you consider changing your customer experience strategy, remember – the companies delivering outstanding customer experiences are the ones delivering great employee experiences, too. Look at your strategy through the lens of your people – and then make empowering them your number one priority. The best companies focus on their people first. What will happen when you make the shift?

 

1 2013 study: “America’s Workforce:  A Revealing Account of What U.S. Employees Really Think About Today’s Workplace.”

2 2013 study: “America’s Workforce:  A Revealing Account of What U.S. Employees Really Think About Today’s Workplace.”

3 Bachelder, C. (2013, May 28). Re: Defining Your Personal Purpose for Work. [Web Log Post]. Retrieved from http://guides.boisestate.edu/content.php?pid=19556&sid=843732