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Employee Happiness is the Key to an Excellent Customer Experience

by Colin Shaw on June 13, 2019

What we know from early research on employee engagement is that if you have happy employees, chances are you’re going to have satisfied customers. My new ebook, Happy Employees Make Happy Customersexplores this concept in great detail.  So how do you get happy employees and how does it affect Customer Experience? The answer is easy to say and harder to do. You must design an Employee Experience that enables the Customer Experience you want to deliver.

We discussed the importance of creating a complementary Employee Experience along with your Customer Experience in a recent podcast. We also asked Beyond Philosophy’s employee engagement expert and author of Employee Ambassadorship Michael Lowenstein to join us as well.

Lowenstein teaches on this subject. He says that understanding the emotional components of the employee experience and how they link to the emotional elements of the Customer Experience creates an emotional hierarchy. Employees need a commitment to the value proposition, the organization itself, to fellow employees, and, perhaps most importantly, to the customers.

Lowenstein says that’s where many opportunities lie. While we do see companies doing an excellent job of connecting the two, we also see many that have a long way to go.

Commitment is an essential element of linking the two experiences. Without commitment, it’s just words that don’t mean anything. At British Telecom back in the day, we had six values, and the first was to put the customer first in everything we do. Ironically, it was the very last thing we did. We did everything possible to put the organization first.

Lack of commitment is just one issue, however. Several different ways exist for an Employee Experience program to go wrong. Sometimes management doesn’t recognize it as an issue. Other times it has to do with what the company incentivizes. When it is an issue of incentives, the breakdown often happens at the employee level as employees are not engaged or motivated.

So where do you start getting employees to be more engaged and happier? When we are talking to our clients about Customer Experience, we ask them first about how they want customers to feel about the experience. Let’s assume they want customers to feel they can trust the company, as well as feel cared for and pleased with their experience. This answer is good because all those emotions drive value for you.

You must line up the external experience to the internal one. In other words, you want the Employee Experience to mimic the Customer Experience. Organizations who are more progressive have that understanding. Ideally, you then want to have an employee experience that makes the employees feel that the organization trusts them, cares for them, and feels pleased with their efforts.

What we’re talking about here is human behavior. Whether it’s customer human behavior or whether it’s employee human behavior, the same principles apply.

In our global Customer Experience consultancy, we start with some of the tools and techniques we use with Customer Experience but apply them to employees. For example, we ask questions like:

  • What’s the experience that you’re trying to deliver to your employees?
  • What emotions are you trying to evoke in your employees?
  • What part of the employee experience drives the most value for you?

The answers to these questions often get the team on the same page. By defining these details, you have a clear idea of what you want. Then, you can come up with a specific plan to get there.

Lowenstein says that the real opportunity for most organizations is in linking the two experiences. As companies focus on customers, the employee gets shunted off to the side. Organizations look at employees in terms of fit, productivity, and alignment, which is all fine, but they do not look at an employee in terms of creating this high-level focus on the customer.

Also, many times, organizations have a problem because they think they are already linking the two programs. However, they usually have not. Lowenstein says that in his research, they have looked at employee experience with a strong focus on customer value delivery and how that impacts the employee. Lowenstein describes situations where five to ten years after training, the organization assumes that the people they trained still focused on the customer. However, in reality, employees were not anymore.

Another problem is when a company does not understand what’s really driving value. Instead, they believe what people say is driving value. However, the two are often different things. For example, employees will say that salary or benefits are most important to them. However, our research has shown that people also need to feel proud of where they work as well as proud of the work they do. They need to feel that they are true to themselves.

Don’t get me wrong; salary is essential, but it’s not the critical driver you or even they might suppose. Knowing what drives value for employee satisfaction, engagement, or commitment is crucial to understanding how they behave and how to improve the employee experience.

Lowenstein says the emotional drivers of value demonstrate profound differences between what people say they will do and how they behave in real life. It’s essential for companies that want to create the linkage between the Customer and Employee Experiences to create stronger value propositions. If they do, then organizations can create practical initiatives that motivate employees to become engaged with the value proposition and deliver it consistently.

There are also some common drivers of happiness and engagement for employees. When you hear words like transparency, inclusion, trust, enablement, and empowerment integrated into their values, the organization tends to enjoy success, per Lowenstein.

Moreover, these drivers carry over into Customer Experience. Lowenstein says when you are transparent with employees, you are also transparent with customers, and it creates trust with both of them. Lowenstein says these concepts are the basics and should be part of the company mantra because companies doing it consistently are successful.

For my part, I would also focus on the emotional bonding side of things. Employees want to feel included in the club/group/tribe. If your leadership can create that environment, you can create that type of emotional bonding and gain commitment from your employees to deliver that same experience to customers.

As Customer Experience consultants, we believe in servant leadership. By focusing on serving your employees, you can instill that value to help others in them. You can teach your employees to provide stakeholder value.

It all boils down to your company culture. Establishing a customer-centric culture of an organization is crucial, and also one of the hardest things to do in business.

So how do you do the impossible?

  1. Find champions. It is essential to have senior leadership on board. Your champion for a culture change should be disciplined, vigorous, and willing to devote the time it takes to establish the culture in your organization.
  2. Secure the resources. Once you have a champion at the top, get resources allocated to the effort. Without resources, like time, attention, and money, you could have the most magnificent culture in concept, but little culture change in reality.
  3. Include the whole organization in the effort. Lowenstein says that to establish a culture, it has to flow throughout the enterprise, to permeate the DNA of the organization. Moreover, the culture should govern every function in the company and be accessible at every level.

Lowenstein says that if you can do this properly, it can have a magical effect on your organization.

The best example of how to create change in your organization is the Kotter Model for Change. There are eight steps, which include:

  1. Create a sense of urgency, or as I like to say, “create a burning platform for why things need to change.”
  2. Build a coalition of individuals that agree the change is the right thing to do.
  3. Form a strategic vision of the change you want to see with specific initiatives; or, in other words, paint a picture of the future.
  4. Enlist an army of volunteers that will help you change things.
  5. Enable action by removing barriers for them.
  6. Generate short-term wins for your team.
  7. Sustain acceleration toward your goals.
  8. Institute change.

It would help if you also painted the picture of the future. Explain that this is where we are today, and this is where we need to go tomorrow. Also, it is essential to explain why your vision for tomorrow is vital to the organization so that all your team feels the need to change.

I remember talking to a newly-promoted CEO from an electronics company in Europe. I asked him what the difference was between his last job and this one. He said, “Being CEO, I have to say the same things 20 times a day.” He was referring to the need to communicate that constant and consistent message.

However, one of the most significant things I have learned over the years is that actions speak louder than words. Leadership should take the steps you want your team to take. Let’s face it; people don’t necessarily listen to what you say, so actions speak louder than words.

There are loads of organizations that need to change, but few organizations do. Many times, that is because they’re not undertaking these things and are not committed to what it takes to change.

Usually, we spend much time talking about the principles and best practices for designing Customer Experiences. However, an integral part of your design is the employee side. After all, it is employees who engage with those customers to make those experiences happen.

Employee Happiness is the Key to an Excellent Customer Experience, employee experience




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Hear the rest of the conversation on Happy Employees Make Happy Customers on The Intuitive Customer Podcast. These informative podcasts are designed to expand on the psychological ideas behind understanding customer behavior. To listen in, please click here.


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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of six bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawEmployee Happiness is the Key to an Excellent Customer Experience