There is a lot being written on the topic of customer experience these days. And why not? After all, customers are the very reason why many of us continue to be in business. So, what could be more important than the customer experience?

Many would agree that it has never been more critical for companies to understand the need to enhance their end customer experience, increase customer loyalty, increase revenue per customer and acquire new customers.

The millennial era has introduced massive technology change driven by the advent of mobility, social networking, cloud computing and big data, forcing companies to abandon Business As Usual (BAU) thinking. Companies need to re-think their business growth strategy, how they optimize their core business processes and how they improve the engagement and experience of their end customers and employees.

Look to Your Employees First

But if the customer experience is so obvious and critically important, then why are so many companies getting it wrong?

Maybe it’s because they start in the wrong the place. Many companies embark on this journey by first starting at the periphery -- at the end customer -- which seems logical enough. However, our belief is that to offer really compelling end customer experiences, it has to involve more than just a few people who interact with the end customer.

All employees must play a role in improving the end customer experience. It is critical to create a client centric organization at all levels. So instead of first starting to measure the loyalty metrics of your end customer, maybe you should start by first measuring loyalty, delight and experience at the employee level.

The Path from Employee Experience to Customer Experience

Over the past several months we have been heavily focused on identifying the key trends in Customer Experience Management (CXM) from both an internal (employee) perspective and an external (end customer). Our goal was to begin to link these initiatives more tightly since we have historically not seen convergence.

While on the surface these might seem like disconnected initiatives, there are a lot of parallels in the changing demographic of both the end customer and employee, making it logical for companies to look at these experiences in concert with each other. Changing the end customer experience very much starts with changing the employee experience.

In this first of two articles, we will look at improving the customer experience from an internal perspective, through better employee engagement, and in part two we’ll look at it from an external perspective (through better end-user/customer engagement).

Focusing on CXM from an internal perspective, in other words, the employee experience, we have come up with a few key observations and pieces of advice for those looking to improve their strategy (or come up with one altogether).

First things first: it’s important to know how to best choose the right platform and approach for improving employee engagement.

Employee Engagement Today Makes New Demands

Paramount to instituting a massive change in customer experience is to start from within and improve employee engagement. It is now more crucial than ever that employees are tightly engaged with their employers. It is critical that they are aligned to the corporate vision and strategy and feel empowered and motivated to influence change and key business outcomes.

As we enter this new era where millions of millennial workers will now begin to enter the workforce, the methods that companies have historically used to engage their workers will need to drastically change. So how do companies engage these workers for the long haul? How do companies get employees to accelerate their innovation, create new business models, better engage end consumers and be more agile and responsive?

Workforce personas are rapidly changing from the highly mobile professional to the deskbound contributor and companies will need to meet the wide spectrum of applications and access that is expected by today’s millennial workers.

It is important that companies understand the various roles within their organization and adapt tools and technologies accordingly to ensure maximum effectiveness and productivity. And it is also important to recognize how these personas need to adapt over time as end users’ needs become more sophisticated. It is no longer acceptable to employees to have more access, technology and tools outside of work than within the walls of the enterprise.

The future of work is a world in which work is something you do, not a place you go. Gone are the days of the traditional office and cubicle environments. Office spaces today need to promote collaboration and knowledge sharing and not be closed door communities. Current enterprise infrastructures, policies and application stacks need to drastically change to meet these new demands and paradigms.

This new workforce requires information transparency. Companies need to create an “information workforce” that unites tools, content and context. Social and mobile layers will need to be created to provide access to business data, creating unified communications tools to enable workers to perform. Information is overloading systems and people need better ways to access content and deliver context online.

Employees are moving away from portals to social intranet solutions. Finding relevant information quickly is a key mantra in the new millennial. Employees are demanding integrated open platforms that are social and mobile-enabled.

Information workers are continuing to expand their use of external social platforms for crowdsourcing and other innovative collaboration techniques. This is creating a virtualized workplace where influences and ideas are exchanged outside the boundaries of the traditional workplace. Social accelerates the creation of business value by allowing innovation beyond the four walls of the enterprise. Mobility ensures I, as an employee, have the access I need on my device of choice.

The State of Employee Engagement Management

To understand where companies are at with their Employee Engagement Management (EEM) initiatives, we recently spoke with a number of companies. It was shocking to see that out of the folks we talked to, only 21 percent actually had an EEM strategy in place. And, only 20 percent indicated that there was one in progress. That means more than half of the companies we spoke with have not even started on this journey. Astonishing!

Many companies are still struggling with the basics of how to respond to the employee demands for different policies (BYOD), Information exchange, social access at work, and many others). It is critical for companies to act now to become a millennial enterprise or they may become just as extinct as the dinosaurs before us.

We asked those companies that indicated they had started on their EEM journey what challenges they faced or are facing in implementing the EEM program. The majority -- 64 percent -- cited governance as a key inhibitor. This is predominately about governing the information flow and handling security concerns associated with more transparent access to information. Another 18 percent indicated that user adoption was a key factor – getting users to embrace new methods and technologies which increase collaboration and transparency.

Companies are increasingly beginning to realize how important employee engagement is in not only maintaining but improving customer loyalty. In this day and age the customer experience and customer loyalty is king and implementing EEM initiatives will be crucial moving forward. Stay tuned for part two of this article which explores the importance of improving the customer experience from an external perspective.

Editor's Note: Check back in tomorrow to see the other side of Frank's CXM/Employee Engagement equation. In the mean time, check out Engaged, Collaborative Employees Require CXM Style Thinking by @iantruscott