by Brad Cleveland, author of “Leading the Customer Experience: How to Chart a Course and Deliver Outstanding Results“
When you think about customer experience, what comes to mind?
For most people, the answer is likely that it’s an organization’s responsibility to provide customers with a great experience. This isn’t wrong, but there’s more to it. Your best-laid plans for customer experience go nowhere without invested and dedicated employees. To build a strong culture of employee engagement at your company, you need to give them a voice in how things are run on both day-to-day operations and your goals and objectives.
For two decades, Gallup has studied the links between employee experience and healthy business outcomes. The results are clear: employee engagement leads to better employee retention and productivity — and customers that stay longer and spend more. Recent research by the Temkin Group finds a 30% boost to employee commitment in customer-centric companies.
If you’re beginning your company’s journey to be more customer-focused, it’s time to get comfortable with a paradigm shift: employee experience. Just as customers desire products and services that minimize frustrations and help them thrive, employees also want these things in their workspace. They seek emotional engagement in what they do every day and want to feel like their feedback matters. An engaged employee will go the extra mile because they understand how their actions make a positive difference for customers and colleagues.
How do you give your employees a voice? Here are some tips you can use in your organization:
1. Say “yes” to pulse surveys.
A pulse survey is a way for you to get feedback and check in with your employees on how they feel about the company. You’ll learn of any problematic issues and what your employees think of certain aspects of working at the business.
The surveys are quick and straightforward, taking less than 15 minutes per employee. The feedback you get can help improve your company by identifying areas that need improvement. Results also provide a benchmark so you know where engagement levels have changed. Investing in a staff pulse survey every month is often the best way to check in with your employees and address any concerns before they escalate.
2. Have two-way conversations.
A performance management process that enables communication and feedback between a manager and employee is also essential. The manager should not be the only one providing feedback, as employees themselves need to have the opportunity to share how they can improve their experience with changes from both the employee and the corporate side.
To be effective, these meetings need to happen on an ongoing basis — and with a structure in place — so both parties can prepare and look forward to them. So there’s no confusion on the path forward, conversations should always be documented, with clear expectations and action steps.
3. Go organic.
The idea that employees quit because of their immediate supervisor is a common misconception. While that is sometimes the case, the reality can be very different, as research has shown that people will leave when they’re no longer enjoying themselves, feel like they’re being underutilized, or sense that they’re stagnating in their careers.
Leaders must check in with their teams to understand what they need to support their daily tasks and career goals. A few simple questions can help a manager understand how to provide the support employees need. It may seem obvious, but it’s often missed every day: when your employees grow, your organization is more likely to succeed.
4. Schedule stay interviews.
A stay interview is a valuable tool for assessing the employee satisfaction and engagement that exists within an organization. The idea is that employees are interviewed regularly, outside of any performance review or coaching, to find out why they continue to work for your company. It promotes empowerment by allowing employees to express what’s going well, along with any concerns, in person rather than through surveys.
Stay interviews turn exit interviews on their head — they give you input on what’s working (rather than what didn’t work) and where to put your priorities and focus going forward. Stay interviews build trust; they show your employees you care and provide valuable insight on what’s most important to them.
Employee experience is indeed the cornerstone of customer experience. When you peel back the layers of any customer-centric organization, you’ll find a robust culture of honoring employees, encouraging their insight and ideas, and engaging them every step of the way.
Your best-laid plans for customer experience go nowhere without invested, dedicated employees.
Brad Cleveland is one of the world’s foremost experts in customer strategy and management. A sought-after consultant and speaker, he has worked in 45 states and over 60 countries for today’s customer experience trailblazers, including American Express, Apple, USAA, Google, and others. His new book is “Leading the Customer Experience: How to Chart a Course and Deliver Outstanding Results“.