Chicken or the egg?
There has been a growing trend over recent years of experts declaring that the ‘customer comes first’ days are over and that actually employee experience is more important than customer experience. Richard Branson is quoted as saying “Put your staff first, customers second, and shareholders third”. CX Expert James Dodkins has wrote a book called ‘Put Your Customers Second’. This doesn’t mean to say that they are dismissing the value of the customer, but that by keeping your employees happy you have a better chance of them delivering a good experience to your customers. If your customers are happy then chances are your business will be performing well and your shareholders will be happy.
The aforementioned James Dodkins states “The extent to which you genuinely care for your employees is the same extent to which your employees will genuinely care for your customers”.
That sentiment is also backed up by Customer Experience Consultant, Annette Franz, who surmises “Quite simply: without employees, you have no customer experience. The linkage between employee engagement and experience and the customer experience has been proven. It’s real, and your employees matter! If your employees aren’t engaged with the organization and the work they are doing, it will be very difficult for them to delight your customers and to deliver the experience they expect.”
The Boss Knows Best?
Let’s forget for a moment about which one is the most important and agree that they are both important. But they are not the only opinions that matter. Shareholders or leadership in a company have an integral role in CX strategy. Jeanne Bliss, Author Chief Customer Officer 2.0 and Cofounder, Customer Experience Professionals Association, states “Becoming a ‘customer experience’ company requires the engagement and alignment of leaders to be willing to change how the company does business. This means embedding new leadership competencies, driving accountability to the customer journey, uniting the silos and getting rid of the barriers that get in the way of employees’ ability to deliver value.”
A truly customer centric company must have a buy in from shareholders to succeed. I am reminded of a recent personal experience at a car dealership. I had a reasonably positive experience buying a car from this certain dealership and would probably have been willing to leave positive feedback when requested. Unfortunately, the approach they took from the moment I agreed to the deal soured the whole experience. They made a huge point about the importance of me leaving them 10 out 10. Anything but top marks would not suffice.
The reason, I was told, was that the management based all their bonuses and performance metrics on receiving 10 out of 10. No less would do. I got phone calls, emails and even a personal video message asking me for this rating and emphasising the importance. Clearly the message from the top level was that the employees must get this score. In fact, it was being directly linked to their pay. In reality they had probably delivered a 7 or 8 out of 10 service. They had to delay the day I picked the car up at the last minute and I was left waiting for 45 minutes during one visit. Perhaps if they were more interested in getting my actual feedback and understanding where these pain points are, they could actually make real positive changes to their service that would help them deliver a 10 out of 10 experience. The leadership should be focused on that rather than insisting on a top rating.
When leadership look at their own CX strategy they are often not seeing things from the same perspective as staff or customers. Customer service and experience expert, Shep Hyken, expands on this stating “Executives who rate their companies high in customer service and CX are often seeing a ‘rosier’ picture than how the customer perceives the customer service and CX. It is therefore important to compare results between different levels within an organization and to also gather relevant feedback from the customers point of view to gain a more complete picture.”
Mine The Gap
Lots of companies are collecting customer and employee feedback but they are being treated totally separately with no connection between the two. If you start to connect the dots and then throw in the views from leadership, you start to see the big picture.
For example, your leadership might believe that your company has a truly customer-centric vision. Employee feedback might suggest that there is still some work to do to and they do not have a true understanding of the brand values. Those conflicting views would identify that more needed to be done to provide employees with a true sense of purpose and a shared vision needed to be promoted. If you ask your customers a similar question about the values of a brand you might discover that the internal vision and brand values you are promoting are not being exposed to your customers. Your employees might not have the right tools or training to deliver the vision or the values might not be properly mapped out by leadership.
It is only through doing this gap analysis to discover where there are differences in views that you can work towards a more consistent overall experience. Over time if you can start to align the three areas, you can hit a sweet spot where your customers, employees and stakeholders are all happy.