As many businesses are beginning to look towards economic recovery, we’ve seen a growing recognition of the importance of the employee experience. I suspect this may be a recognition of the vast amount of stress in the workforce. For many companies, significant portions of the employee base are facing deep economic hardships. Employees have been working harder than ever in an effort to keep their jobs and pick up the slack as their companies have cut positions and reduced spending. As the economy and the job market improves, these employers may be facing latent turnover of some of their best people.
At the same time, companies interested in making more strategic investments to accelerate growth will need to have a highly engaged and aligned workforce. Over the past several years, we’ve been working with a diverse set of of clients on a rigorous integration of customer and employee experience design.
Here is a summary of what we’ve observed and what to do about it:
- The experience customers have with any organization is the product of behavior that emerges from a complex organizational system.
- Every organization is strongly predisposed to deliver the current customer experience based on deeply entrenched legacy effects, beliefs, values and unwritten rules. These legacy effects are reinforced by employee experiences at every level of the organization.
- Most customer experience efforts significantly underestimate the difficulty of shifting legacy effects. In some cases, organizations create a vision for the desired customer experience that is fundamentally at odds with the character and culture of the organization. As a result, their initiatives fail to produce a noticeable shift in the customers’ actual experience.
- Any effort to fundamentally improve the customer experience must first decode how and why the organizational system produces the current experience. This understanding allows executives to identify what changes are feasible and what specific interventions are necessary. Without this understanding, efforts to change the behavior of the organizational system are likely to be naïve.
- Delivering a substantially different customer experience requires a holistic, end-to-end perspective on the employee experience. Within that holistic perspective, targeted employee experience interventions must address and rewrite any “unwritten rules” that produce behavior inconsistent with the intended customer experience.
- By creating a strong linkage between the customer experience required to drive profitable growth and the employee experience required to generate this customer experience, a company can justify and prioritize investments in the employee experience.
- Describe the experience you intend to deliver to customers. Describe what customers are trying to accomplish and map the end-to-end activities customers follow to accomplish those things. Then detail the experience you want them to have. What do you want customers to feel after their interactions with you? What are the company’s ultimate goals for delivering a powerful customer experience beyond the transaction itself – for example, additional sales, word-of-mouth marketing?
- Identify the organizational and individual behaviors required to generate that customer experience. What do people and the organization need to do consistently to create the intended customer experience? What specific changes in behavior are needed? What must front-line employees do differently, and what decisions should front-line employees be empowered to make to solve customers’ problems? How do the work and behaviors of behind-the-scenes employees, plus their interactions with the front line, affect customer experience?
- Identify the business processes, practices and unwritten rules that have to change to produce the required behaviors. Diagnose how and why your company generates the current customer experience. This must be based on rigorous examination of the experience from your customers’ perspective. Identify where bottlenecks in service occur, where the smooth flow of customer interaction is interrupted. Measure alignment of customer-facing processes, roles, measurements and rewards, and surface the unwritten rules that drive individual and group behavior related to the customer experience. What exactly do the unwritten rules encourage people to do, and how do the resulting behaviors facilitate or interfere with the intended customer experience?
- Design specific employee experience interventions that remove the barriers and rewrite the unwritten rules. Map the end-to-end employee lifecycle and identify what your employees experience along the way. Model and segment employee populations, measure their fit with “ideal employee profiles” for different roles and correlate with customer experience and business performance. The appropriate interventions may be in how you attract, incorporate, engage, retain or enrich employees’ work. Because useful interventions can be made anywhere in the employee lifecycle, you must be rigorous in determining where to intervene and where to invest in employee programs. The goal is not just to design a compelling customer experience, but to enable employees to understand their connections with the customer experience and feel empowered to deliver the designed experience.