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 your improvement efforts – or engaged overall with the organization – it will be very difficult for them to delight your customers and deliver the experience they expect.
As customer experience professionals, we talk a lot about gaining executive buy-in and commitment, but there’s a lot less talk about employee buy-in and commitment; this is equally as critical to the success of your customer experience strategy.
Employees are critical to the customer experience, which is critical to the success of the business. But what tools do we give to employees to prepare them to deliver a great customer experience? What tools do we give them to help them understand why being customer-focused and customer-centric is paramount? How do we sell the concept to them?
The following summarizes several tools and approaches to use to get – and to keep – employees on board. It should be no surprise: you really need to start from the beginning. When you’re recruiting, you can start to set and frame expectations so that candidates and new employees understand what they’re signing up for, what kind of company they’ll be working for, and what the brand represents.
- Job Descriptions: Any company that is focused on the customer and expects employees to deliver a great experience will mention this in job descriptions. Set expectations early. Let employees choose if your company is the kind of company they want to work for. My hope is that candidates are thrilled to know that customer experience is a clear priority for a company, but then I’m a little biased!
- Interviews: Be clear with candidates that the company is customer obsessed and that the role, frontline or back office, they are interviewing for impacts the customer and her experience. The customer experience is everyone’s job. If the candidate is on board, then frame interview questions around understanding how the employee would take ownership.
- Vision – Company and Customer Experience: Your company vision is an inspirational and aspirational statement that outlines what the company is trying to achieve near-term and long-term; it also guides decision-making processes and subsequent, resultant courses of action. Your vision will (a) draw the line between what you’re doing and for whom you’re doing it and (b) create alignment within the organization. Your customer experience vision and company vision are always linked, and often one and the same. Without this north star, employees can easily go off track and focus on projects or ideas that aren’t critical to what the business is trying to do.
- Core Values: Your core values are beliefs that guide the organization in identifying which behaviors and actions are right and which are wrong, both for your employees and toward your customers. Everything you do must be aligned with your core values, and they should be integrated into everything you do. When in doubt, ask: “Is this the right thing to do? Does it fit with our core values?” I like the idea of involving employees in the development of those core values.
- Brand Promise: A brand promise is the expectations you set with your customers. It’s a combination of the brand purpose and the reality of what the brand can deliver. It defines the benefits a customer can expect to receive when experiencing your brand – at every touchpoint. It’s meant for both customer and employees, as employees at all levels, frontline and behind the scenes, must live – and deliver on – the promise.
- Customer Feedback: Listening to customers and ensuring that their feedback is shared (and acted upon) throughout the organization helps connect the dots for employees – they hear how what they do relates to, and translates into, what the customer experiences. I don’t think organizations do enough of this; feedback often remains with those who are listening or with those who need to act on it, but fails to make it into the hands of those who need to hear it most: the employees who delivered the evaluated experience.
- Rewards and Recognition: These are often tied closely with customer feedback. When we recognize and reward employees for doing the right thing or for delivering a great experience, we reinforce the behaviors we expect. We also continue to make that connection for the employee to the outcome, i.e., to how they contribute to the customer experience and, ultimately, to the success of the business.
- Role Play: When we role play, we model behaviors that we expect from our employees. We teach them what it looks like to deliver a great experience. When employees are in the know, they can commit and take ownership. Knowledge is power!
- Journey Maps: A customer journey map is the ultimate tool to help connect all employees to how they contribute to – and impact – the customer experience. The map is the backbone of the customer experience, and while it details what the customer experiences as he’s trying to do some job, it’s important to include when, where, and how employees contribute at each step along the way. This is powerful; when employees see how they impact the experience, how their contributions matter, they can take ownership of those moments.
- Communication: This is really a precursor – or a critical component – for all of the items listed above. It’s important on its own, but it must also be used in conjunction with each of the tools above. What gets shared and communicated is viewed as important to your employees. And communication lends clarity, which is critical to engagement and to providing a clear line of sight to the target, your customers and the customer experience.
- Customer Ambassador Program: An ambassador program cements employees’ commitment to the customer and to the overall customer experience strategy. It not only celebrates those who deliver (or support those who deliver) exceptional experiences but also shows the organization’s commitment to the customer and his experience. Ambassadors carry the message and the great work that the core CX team is doing throughout the entire organization. Think of it as a grass roots effort to drive culture change and to execute on process improvements. Ambassadors will help to get all employees engaged in your customer experience strategy.
One final thought: You’ll be much more successful in gaining employee commitment and in executing your CX strategy if you engage employees in the decisions and the design along the way rather than forcing initiatives and changes on them. Employees get engaged when they are involved in the decision-making process, when they feel like they can add value, and when they feel that they matter.
There’s no success without commitment. -Tony Robbins
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