Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers

the Customer Experience Agenda
Kojo Manuel
  • Ensure that you have inclusiveness within your organisation to drive an effective experience agenda

I read a book years ago by Ricardo Semler titled, ‘The World’s most unusual workplace’. The amazing story of how workers took over production and management excelling in the operations and management of the factory which Ricardo Semler (the author) had inherited from his father. The company had no receptionists, secretaries, or standard hierarchies. Workers were allowed to set their work hours and even their salaries. They could also ask to review their bosses to assess their performance.

Ricardo broke every rule of doing business, firing an entire echelon of upper-level managers and allowing employees to work at home, study and discuss the company’s financial statements, make corporate decisions, and virtually run the operations of the business. The result was that in ten years of constant experimentation – a period in which Brazil’s economy faltered – Semco (the name of the business) achieved a growth rate of 600 percent!

This might be an extreme case albeit highly successful it does highlight some key lessons from which we can draw strands as we plan our customer experience agenda. Satisfied employees will take good care of, and satisfy your customers, plain and simple. The pandemic has transformed the way we work today. These changes have been very quick making businesses flexible to adapt to the changes.

A key part of this new development is the focus on the re-evaluation of customer experience strategies with companies striving to get their CX strategies right to be successful. There is a very close relationship between the employee’s experience and the customer’s experience. Employee experience (EX) is the sum of all interactions an employee has with their organization, and it can significantly impact business performance.

Companies that treat their employees well and provide them with a supportive environment will have more satisfied customers and deliver better business outcomes. Employees who have a good experience at work, and feel well-cared for by their employer, will interact better with the customers they serve. The outcome of this development is a significant improvement in customer outcomes. Conversions are increased while loyalty and advocacy are on a high. It all starts with leadership by cascading the mindset from the board and C-suite, through to the CX leader.

When the board of your company and the CEO back your CX strategy the impact is phenomenal. Your CX strategy will empower staff on the frontline, but it has to be led from the top to make sure that everyone understands it and knows the part they have to play in its delivery. According to experts (Pennington, 2016) your focus must be on building a customer intelligent company, one that makes better use of its existing assets.

A few things suggested are, the art of listening, being proactive rather than reactive, measuring and rewarding performance, and getting ownership.

The art of listening

Employees must listen to each other, as by so doing they build a shared understanding of their work and this fosters loyalty to the organization. According to US psychologists M. M. Helms and P. J. Haynes, ‘Listening to employees and colleagues has advantages beyond the information being imparted since listening to another individual indicates their opinion is valued and respected.’ Ricardo Semler refers to this phenomenon as ‘corporate democracy.’

These days organizations that have paid greater attention to Employee engagement have reaped the benefits of high employee morale and markedly low staff turnover. The recommended path to follow is to collect a lot of information that can be used to shed light on employee engagement. The fact is many organizations collect this information but they don’t always make good use of it.

If you want to develop an effective CX strategy in your organization, then you can make a start by taking data from staff feedback, employee satisfaction surveys, and exit surveys of departing employees to help you build a picture of the organization you are working with. Where employees engage each other regularly with leadership support they are more likely to build an internal culture that warms to enhancing the experience of internal stakeholders.

Unilever embarked on this journey by articulating three core pillars that inspired their new employee experience: human experiences, simple interactions, and meaningful impact. They created what they termed the ‘Employee Universe’ encompassing a matrix of interconnected components, fronted by a chatbot named Una. a personal assistant, guiding the employee to what they need at that moment. They used this to build a learning loop through conversations with Una that were contextually relevant.

Be proactive rather than reactive

When employees have that feeling of inclusiveness, they pay back that favour through their performances across the organization. Front liners are beneficiaries of this culture and therefore are more likely to share this feeling with the external customer. How do you judge the sentiments of your teams? By using all the data and insights you can muster you are likely to get on top of what is happening in your organization and the industry ultimately.

When you listen and leverage data you will get to know the business impact of different levers. The bonus here is transparency. By opening up to the input from customers and staff at all levels on how to improve the business you gain knowledge to run the business better. Big decisions need buy-in with team support and a shared leadership approach that fosters a collaborative internal culture, your business will always put its best foot forward when managing customer experience in a collaborative environment.

One way organizations manage a proactive culture is by deploying an Intranet that delivers a modern, agile, mobile-friendly Digital Workplace. Years ago, I worked for an oil company in London where we had this intranet that enabled us to engage each other in an unhindered way. We were a population of over 1,000 in the Head Office yet it was as if everyone knew everyone. When employees are supportive of each other the collaboration rubs off the external customer undoubtedly.

Measure and reward performance

The truth is, it is pointless to work so hard on customer experience but do so little to improve the employee experience. A key metric in measuring the employee experience is employee engagement. To what extent are your employees aligned to your CX vision or strategy? Do your performance reviews reflect the view of only one person and apply excessively narrow criteria?

How about, trying a broader assessment based on the views of those who have a stake in the individual’s performance — their supervisor, manager, co-workers, and internal or external customers to get a fuller picture. Widening the spectrum of your performance assessment will ensure that you set the right KPIs to measure employee performance so it is quantifiable and thus can easily be rewarded.

There are traps in this process, though. Many performance reviews reflect the view of only one person and apply excessively narrow criteria. To get a fuller picture, try a broader assessment based on the views of those who have a stake in the person’s performance such as their supervisor, manager, co-workers, and internal or external customers. Many organizations today ask customers for direct feedback about their experience with an individual so it can be used for coaching and training.

The advantage of this approach is that it allows you to detect what’s going on in your business and establish the root cause of any problems so you can act to stem trouble early on, rather than wait till it snowballs. Be transparent, there is a bonus to transparency. Those at the heart of the operation have a better understanding of what goes on at the front lines better than the person who is dealing with it from the backend. Therefore, take full advantage of that knowledge to run the business better.

Get ownership

Change is always worthwhile when you have buy-in. Whatever you are planning to change, you must take your people along with you. When your staff members are not involved, they stay passive and hardly commit their total effort to make the change work. On the contrary, when you involve them, they take ownership of it. If they own it, they feel part of it, which is far better than getting buy-in by ‘selling’ your idea to them.

How do you get staff to take ownership of the change? Keep them informed not only on the context of what is being done, the why and how, but also the important role they play in the execution of the strategy. Furthermore, you must share with them the tools and support they can expect to receive that will set them up for success. have a plan B for when things don’t go according to plan.

The common sentiment today is “customer experience (CX) belongs to everyone”. Experts say this claim is virtuous but also perilous. The mindset that if “something belongs to everyone” then “it doesn’t belong to anyone”. In a corporate environment, this roughly translates to “if I am not directly responsible, then it’s not my responsibility”. This is a misconception; it leads to inaction and poor decision-making.

There is also the other side of the coin. when everyone in your organization becomes a bit overzealous with customer-centric sentiments and takes or attempts to take ownership of customer centricity and tries to be the driving force behind it. Remember that too many cooks spoil the broth. The experts are clear on this, Customer centricity is a boon, however, it can also become a bane.

The key is to harness it properly through internal disciple and strong leadership, one which will advocate for all customers. Aligning your business with the customer-centric vision requires a radical change, a transformation, in how you operate and measure success. This can only be achieved by being an advocate for both the customer and employee perspectives.

Rethinking your experience strategy to step-up growth: Keep doing what works best and aim to improve   The Writer is a Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected], Manuel


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