Michael Lowenstein, Ph.D., CMC Thought Leadership Principal, Beyond Philosophy
By EX, of course, we mean employee experience.
Customer experience optimization has, for some time, been the stated goal of many enterprises around the world. Where the role of employees in meeting that goal is concerned, however, there has been a tacit belief that the equation “happy employees = happy customers” works. Statements such as the assumption that positive employees feel satisfied; and, when satisfied, may recommend the company to others, are often cited. How real is the belief that driving employee engagement within an organization leverages customer satisfaction which, in turn, helps produce high performance for the enterprise, i.e. core tenets of the Service-Profit Chain? It’s time to re-think the assumptions of how both employee satisfaction and engagement impact customer behavior.
For several decades, corporations and employee consulting and research companies, have been focused on engagement, essentially the fit, alignment, and productivity of human resources in achieving company objectives. Though usually left up to HRD, the fundamental premise of engagement has been that it is good for business – citing higher quality, greater efficiency, innovation, lower turnover, workplace camaraderie, and the like. More advanced organizations have recognized and reaped the strategic benefits of going beyond engagement; and that is what we will address here.
When we discuss building on the foundation of engagement, what we really mean is the opportunity – for customers, for employees, and for enterprises – represented by ambassadorship and employee experience design. At the core of employee experience is the recognition of how employee behavior connects, directly and indirectly, to customer behavior.
There’s a cold reality to face. Most organizations do not fully understand, or leverage, the key linkages between customer experience and employee experience/behavior. Enterprises typically focus on employee satisfaction or engagement, in the belief that high levels in either area will directly drive customer loyalty. Our research and consulting experience has shown that employee satisfaction and engagement have rather incidental and tactical connection to customer behavior. Employees, though, are critical stakeholders in the delivery of experience value. So, it is vital for companies to learn where they are in creating enterprise-wide employee ambassadorship (commitment to the organization, the product/service value proposition, and the customers) and stakeholder-centricity.
To assist both individuals and managers in helping determine readiness to move from employee satisfaction and engagement to ambassadorship, we have designed a brief, but insightful, self-assessment survey. This survey feeds into a database of responses which, once completed, is shared with the respondent.
The self assessment has been designed to help identify how, and how effectively, enterprise culture helps shape employee behavior and the delivery of customer value, with employee ambassadorship as an optimal state. The questions address such key areas as organizational readiness, consideration of the employee emotional investment, employee life cycle, and leadership.
One of the key things we’ve learned from analyses of the self-assessment surveys, and also through our interactions with clients, is that employee perceptions of emotional value, particularly where their job experience is concerned, are given relatively little consideration within the enterprise. This has serious consequences, both short-term and long-term.
More specifically, we’ve learned that:
1) Despite the strong proven connection between employee and customer experience, HR employee initiatives often operate in a silo, separated from customer-related enterprise goals
2) Understanding the emotional investment and commitment of employees to customers is rarely given attention, much less a priority
3) Employees are infrequently, if ever, even asked about how their experience (training, operating parameters, reward and recognition, etc) connects to customer experience and value delivery
4) There is little recognition that employees, like customers, have a defined life cycle
5) Building humanity into the enterprise cultural DNA, though well-documented to yield excellent financial results (in part through customer loyalty behavior and employee contribution/retention), has seen slow adoption, despite over 30 years of employee engagement initiatives.
Employee experience has evolved, but not quickly enough. Employee fit, utility, and productivity are important, but not enough. Organizations need to have more actionable insight into what motivates employees. If companies are truly serious about optimizing CX, then more attention and resources must be devoted to EX.