This is an article Blake Morgan co-authored with her husband, Jacob Morgan, an author, speaker and futurist.
Why is it that in some companies employees are willing to go above and beyond to deliver superior customer experiences, and in other companies employees couldn’t be more apathetic? It’s because when organizations invest in employee experiences it unlocks their discretionary effort to create great experiences for their, and your, customers.
Take Scott Morris, a salesperson and employee at Workday, a software company in Silicon Valley that replaces a company’s core system of record for HR and finance.
Scott was struggling with his sales position at the company. He wasn’t having an easy time, and sales for a software like Workday can take a long time because the software is replaced for a customer every 10 to 20 years. He was getting frustrated and he had challenges in his personal life.
His daughter was recently diagnosed with dwarfism and he realized Workday’s employee insurance was not going to cover the extensive speech training his daughter would need. With this knowledge of the limits of his employer’s insurance, Morris was thinking of just throwing in the towel.
But before simply giving up he asked HR if they would change their policy and review the insurance offering. That way Morris would get the coverage he needed for his daughter’s speech therapy.
HR decided to review their insurance policy and extend the insurance offering for everyone in the company. Good thing they did because Morris’ sales career immediately exploded. In the next six months he secured three huge deals for the company and the following two years continued to bring major success for Morris which proved invaluable to the growing company. He brought on new customers such as Target.
When this story was told to Blake Morgan at a small dinner party, the Workday executive told Blake that Workday’s chief human resource officer did not even recall approving the special request (and was shocked to later find out this sales employee was a critical part of Workday’s growth). That’s how normal it was to simply do the right thing for employees.
In 2012 Workday’s IPO valued the company at $9.5 billion. The company boasts a 98% customer satisfaction rating.
Workday was started by Aneel Bhusri and David Duffield, the founder and former CEO of ERP company PeopleSoft. Duffield started the well known Maddie’s Fund endowing it with $300 million to save dogs and cats. Another reminder that the company was started by people who believe in having a values-based culture.
Companies have cultures, and those cultures impact how employees are treated. That employee experience greatly impacts the customer experience. Workday can inspire other companies that want to commit to improving their employee experiences and reap the benefits of that improvement.
In A Technology-Driven World, Experiences Matter Most
Companies around the world realize that even in a technology-driven world, it’s the experiences that matter most. In fact, a psychologist by the name of Thomas Gilovich did some research on this and found that if we invest in a physical good, our satisfaction over time goes down, but if we invest in an experience, then over time our satisfaction goes up.
It’s these experiences that help us decide which organizations we want to work with or consume from. For several decades companies have been investing in customer experience, which Blake defines as the perception that the customer has of your brand. That perception is a feeling the customer gets from doing business with you. That feeling creates a vibe – and that vibe impacts if the customer will come back, buy more or tell their friends, or not.
Recently though we have also seen the emergence of employee experience, which Jacob defines as the (re)designing of your core workplace practices that focus on three environments: culture, technology and physical space.
Inside of many forward-thinking organizations today, separate teams exist that oversee these functions. There’s a separate customer experience and an employee experience team and they rarely talk to each other despite being heavily related and in fact dependent on each other. It’s time for these two teams to work closer together. Today’s modern leaders often say they see their employees as their customers. They embrace the idea that if you treat your employees well you will have happier customers and more of them.
In Jacob’s recent book, The Employee Experience Advantage, he looked at 252 organizations around the world and found that companies who do a great job investing in employee experience have 4.2x the average profit and 2.1x the average revenue when compared to organizations that don’t do a great job of investing in employee experience. Not surprisingly, these same organizations also appear on lists such as the 24/7 Wall Street Customer Service Hall of Fame and the American Customer Satisfaction Index twice as often.
Consider many of the interactions you have on a regular basis with banks, airlines, supermarkets or cable providers. The process is usually identical regardless of the bank you go to or the airline you fly.
To continue this conversation of the link between CX and EX we have outlined four experience strategies that should be leveraged for both your employee and your customer experience efforts.
1. Know your customers
Employees are your customers. You serve them by implementing tools that they need and want to use to get their jobs done, giving them spaces in which they can work productively, and designing a culture where they want (not need) to show up to work.
Just like employees, you serve your customers by giving them relevant offers, just-in-time content, and pro-active service. But in both of these cases how would you be able to do this without truly knowing and understanding what your employees and customers care about and value?
In both cases this means using data and collecting feedback on a regular opt-in basis, letting employees and customers know that you are doing something with the information you are collecting, and then actually making change in a visible way. This is accomplished with a mix of being human and also leveraging technology. The human side of this means practicing things like empathy and self-awareness to yourself in your employees’ or customers’ shoes. A classic example is how managers handle a drop in an employee’s productivity. Instead of rushing to fire that employee, the manager simply takes that employee out for coffee and asks, “Is everything okay? Is something going in your personal life that you’re struggling with? What can I do to help you?” This is what human connection looks like.
When it comes to knowing people, this is not important simply for employee experience. Companies must truly know their customer. Customers today expect it, even demand it. Almost everyone in the world has a nightmare customer experience they can easily recall. Often this is the result of a company that provided an impersonal, ill-timed and overall callous customer experience. In the extreme, imagine a hospital where an amputation must be conducted and the wrong arm is marked to amputate. Once, our then-infant daughter Naomi had an appointment at a hospital. Sitting in the waiting room, we were called in to the appointment and the nurse took Naomi’s measurements as is normal for a baby check-up. However the nurse remarked what a huge change she saw in Naomi’s measurements. From the cross look on the nurse’s face something wasn’t making sense. Only then did the nurse realize the last name was not Morgan (ours), and Naomi Morgan was in the appointment for another baby named Naomi. The nurse had not checked after she called our name that we were the right patient.
Processing millions of people has required hospitals to focus on operational efficiency rather than patient experience. This focus on moving as many people through the same experience has actually caused more harm than good. We forget to act like human beings. Easily avoidable mistakes happen every day.
Today companies have the technology to be able to know customers, or at least recognize them when they come through the doors of the company (or channel), but most companies do not have governance or systems in place to ensure this happens. This impersonality takes its toll on the customer experience. The human element of the experience is lost. Perhaps the reason is the executives at the top have no idea what it’s actually like for the employees on the frontlines. But not at Amazon. At Amazon, Jeff Bezos is known for working in the contact center every year, and he requires senior executives to do the same. This experience provides them with better insights into what some of the day-to-day challenges faced by frontline people and customers truly are.
The technology side is also important and can be leveraged as a way to allow employees to learn and grow inside of your company. It might be hard for a manager to know the strengths and skills of many employees, but technology has no issue here. Organizations are now using AI to understand the strengths of their employees which allows them to offer up other relevant opportunities inside of the company. This is quite useful because instead of employees feeling burned out or bored with their job they can explore other paths within the same organization.
2. Create moments that matter
Moments that matter are exactly what they sound like – important moments in our lives that go unrecognized and unnoticed by the organizations we work for or transact with. For employees this oftentimes comes in the form of fitting into the employee life-cycle, the process that attempts to explain what stage you are in during the course of your tenure working for an organization. Attract, hire, nurture, retain, and so on and so forth. Every organization has an employee life cycle but the problem with this lifecycle is employees are treated like workers instead of individual people. What about the moments that matter? Examples of these moments include a birthday, a wedding, the birth of a baby or the death of a loved one. With the blurring of work and life it’s never been more important for us to look beyond the worker to truly see and understand the individual.
The worst customer experiences are often offered by the industries that handle customers in the most difficult times in the customer’s life. For example think of the reputation of insurance, healthcare or even the airlines. Many of these industries have terrible reputations because during the moments that matter for customers’ these industries disappoint.
However one company sees these moments as opportunities to step up and be there for the customer.
The credit card of a Capital One customer named Christina was declined due to suspicious activity. She called the contact center and reached an agent named Tonya. Tonya heard Christina’s voice shaking – Christina was despairing. Tonya told Christina she would easily fix the credit card issue for her – and also offered Christina 4,500 miles to go on vacation. Tonya took it one step further and sent a bouquet of flowers to Christina’s ex. The flowers had a note that read, “Please know you are in my thoughts and I hope these can brighten your day. Best wishes, Tonya, KYY905, Capital One.” This is not the traditional behavior of a bank. It earned a lot of press, reporting and landed Christina and Tonya on the Ellen show where they were reunited.
Doug Woodard, an SVP at the bank who plays a role in shaping the contact center culture programs, told Blake in a podcast interview, “Trust has to permeate your culture. You have to create guidelines and guardrails – but trust is a cornerstone of creating that kind of culture. The job I really have is to serve the thousands of associates that serve our customers. That ‘servant-leadership mentality’ is part of the culture we have at Capital One. From our founder and CEO on down, the customer is at the heart of everything we do.”
In 2013 Capital One’s stock price was $60 and today in 2018 it’s lingering around $100.
If we create experiences around the moments that matter for our employees and our customers, we would be making long-term investments in our most important relationships.
3. Consumer-Grade Technologies
Consumer-grade technologies are tools that are so beautiful, useful and valuable that you would consider using something similar in your personal life if it existed. Companies have a habit of creating guardrails and rules for the masses, but the individual’s needs are not considered. And as a result both employee and customer experiences can suffer greatly. Companies often make it harder on the employee or customer to make easier on their own brand.
Blake once worked remotely for a Fortune 100 company. Let us preface this by saying your name matters to corporate IT because most companies have a virtual private network for workers known as a VPN. This is how you login to the employee system or even check your email. When Blake and Jacob got married, Blake needed to change her last name on the virtual private network. It turned out a simple name change was not something she could fix remotely with IT. Trying to fix it remotely she was eventually locked out of her laptop. On an average Tuesday in Bay Area traffic she had to make the more than three-hour drive to the offices. IT then kept her laptop for almost a full day and she couldn’t do any work. She later regretted changing her name at work. This was a company that made life harder on employees to make it compliant with the inflexible governance structure held by the organization.
Today’s beloved customer experiences use technology to make customers’ lives easier and better. Examples include Spotify, Netflix, Amazon and Uber. People get these experiences in their personal lives but then go to work or do business with a company and the company provides outdated technology. This lack of “consumer-grade” technology ruins the experience. These leaders in tech are changing everyone’s expectations for brands. Brands need to start offering employees and customers the opportunity to use the channels and the devices of their choice. And they will need to figure out the security measures to accommodate that.
4. Metrics that matter
As a customer you might notice that companies often send you a post-purchase survey that asks, “How likely are you to recommend us on a scale of 0-10?” This is called Net Promoter Score and it’s one of the most-used metrics of customer satisfaction today. On this 0-10 scale, a customer who provides a 0-6 rating is considered a “detractor,” 7-8 is a “passive,” and 9-10 is a “promoter.” You want promoters. This score was created by Fred Reichheld and introduced in the HBR article “The One Number You Need To Grow” in 2003. Blake likes this customer experience metric because it’s simple. The question asks, “Did we do a good job or not?” If the company did not score well for the customer, it can immediately fix it for the customer. There are many other metrics that are important other than sales – because positive customer experiences translate to higher customer loyalty and advocacy. Today’s consumers find out about your product and services not through your marketing team but often through other consumers. It’s very important that your customers are advocates who will speak highly of you online. Their experience dictates whether they will recommend you or not.
In the corporate world, employee tenure is a staple metric that HR teams use to measure how successful they are with retaining talent. This is an outdated metric. Does it really matter how long an employee stays with you? What if an employee stays there for 10 years and does mediocre work the whole time? What if an employee stays there for two years and does an amazing job during those two years? It’s far more valuable to focus on what gets accomplished during the employee’s time with the company as opposed to obsessing over how long he or she stays with the company.
With digital technologies and the constant focus on big data and analytics, it can be a bit overwhelming to pore over countless pieces of data. Instead, focus on the key metrics that matter to you and your business, otherwise you will get stuck measuring everything but doing nothing.
Both the employee experience teams and the customer experience teams have much to learn from working together and collaborating. How people feel at work matters, and how people feel as a customer after doing business with you matters. We all deserve to work and transact with organizations that invest in our experience. Imagine what your organization would look like if it did this. Wouldn’t you want to work for and purchase from this type of an organization?
Blake and Jacob Morgan are both published authors and keynote speakers on the topic of experience. You can learn more about Blake here and Jacob here.