Have you considered that employees are a tool in your CEM Toolbox?
Continuing my CEM Toolbox series, which follows my CX Framework and builds out tools to facilitate the framework, the next stage is all about focusing on the employee experience.
But employee experience is a tool, you ask? Yes! Employees are actually your most important tool! Remember that the employee experience drives the customer experience; if your employees aren't engaged, it will be very difficult for them to delight your customers; in very simple terms, this describes "the spillover effect." Here's some evidence - as if you needed more!
Companies in the top quartile of engagement scores had 50% higher total shareholder return than the average company. -Aon Hewitt
Companies with highly engaged employees score 12% to 34% higher in customer satisfaction ratings. -Vance
Each incremental percentage of employees who become engaged predicts an incremental 0.6% growth in sales. -Aon Hewitt
There are a few different ways to not only ensure employees are a part of the overall customer-centric culture but also to ensure that employees have a great experience.
- Hire the right people
- Provide a clear line of sight to the customer
- Plot the employee lifecycle and map the employee journey
- Gather feedback from your employees, both solicited and unsolicited
- Empower employees by unleashing ownership and accountability
- Show appreciation, recognize greatness
What tools does that require? I'll briefly touch on some, as well as more details for each.
It all starts with hiring the right people. In addition to ensuring that we hire for attitude (because we can train skills), we need to ensure that "right people" is defined as those who are aligned with what we are trying to achieve. Alignment in this regard means they share the brand's values, passion, and purpose. Employees want to work for companies with which they are aligned.
The tools we need include a clear job description, a solid understanding of the brand's values and purpose, and an open mind. Why an open mind? Because the right people aren't always the most experienced or the most obvious ones, either. Consider hiring someone outside the norm of what you usually hire. Think of it as a fresh approach. But just make sure they're a good fit - for the position and for the culture.
Your onboarding process is critical to getting the new employee off on the right foot. You can’t just hire people, set them free, and think they’ll understand what’s expected of them. By “knowing what’s expected of them,” I don’t just mean knowing what to do in their new roles. Yes, obviously explaining the job, the benefits, and where to find the paper clips are all important to the onboarding process, but what I’m referring to is that they must know what it means to be a part of your organization, i.e., knowing your brand promise, values and commitment, what it means to live the brand, and where the priorities lie. In other words, define the culture.
A tool that is helpful with both onboarding and ongoing training, as well as with providing a clear line of sight to the customer, is the customer journey map. It helps the employee connect the dots and make sense of how cross-functional teams work together to deliver the customer experience, and it provides a clear understanding of how what the employee does contributes to that experience. It helps them understand how their work matters. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on customer journey mapping as a training tool.
In addition to a customer journey map, companies need to look at the employee experience by walking in the employee's shoes, i.e., they need to create an employee journey map, too. This has all the same benefits for the employee as it does when we create a map for customers. Don't overlook this important tool. An employee journey map clearly outlines the employee experience for you from end to end, helps to identify moments of truth and areas for improvement, and brings awareness to the good and the bad parts of the employee experience. The journey map will facilitate a culture transformation.
Similarly, communication and performance feedback are important tools for creating a great employee experience. Executives build alignment through constant communication: to educate, inspire, share the vision, and teach employees how their actions impact the customer experience. A culture of transparency – one of open, honest, and candid communication – will yield amazing results.
Communication also includes feedback, whether it’s ongoing feedback to the employee about performance or from the employee in the form of a survey or some other listening approach. (I'm a fan of stay interviews - so we can avoid exit interviews!) As a follow-on to - and an integral part of - the map, be sure to listen to employees, capturing their feedback in a meaningful way and in a timely manner. Feedback, like communication, is a two-way street. And it needs to be acted on. Do something with it. If something's broken, fix it!
"Employee empowerment" is one of those phrases that is over-used in conversation/theory but under-utilized in reality; I am referring specifically to unleashing a sense of ownership and accountability from within them. How? Feedback and coaching are probably the best tools.
- If employees receive direct feedback about their performance, they need to own it and correct it.
- If a customer has a bad experience directly related to the employee's service, they need to be held accountable. Coach them; let them learn from it and improve.
- If a customer has an issue, encourage employees to step up and come up with creative solutions to fix it.
- If employees have ideas on how to improve the customer experience, they should be encouraged to share with the team - own it and do it.
Employee ownership means your people are invested in the company emotionally. Employee ownership also means that employees are involved in decisions about how to improve the customer experience - and the company culture is such that this is allowed, supported, and applauded. Employee ownership also means that the executives are no longer in charge; the employees are. They think and act like they own the business.
And, last but not least, rewards and recognition for a job well done must be a part of your culture. Praise for delighting customers should always be given. Showing a little love and appreciation goes a long way toward building a great employee experience. Use a tool like Kudos to facilitate this piece.
One final note about the employee experience. Putting employees first is a lot of work. There’s a lot to it. An organization that puts employees first is not simply giving out t-shirts and having foosball tournaments. There’s a concerted, concentrated effort, day in and day out, to do the right thing and to build the right culture. Leadership plays a huge role in making sure this happens.
There is a chain of cause and effect running from employee behavior to customer behavior to profits. -HBS Working Knowledge (1999)