Our favorite local diner has had a significant changeover in staff over the last few months. During the early days of the pandemic shutdown, many of the long-term servers found new jobs in other industries. Once things reopened, only a few staff members returned. What I found most interesting is that some returned not as staff, but as customers.

Our favorite pre-pandemic waiter falls into this category. Instead of us seeing him every weekend standing at our table chatting and taking our order, we now often find him sitting at a nearby table.

While catching up the other weekend he mentioned he had in fact gone back to waiting tables, but at a different restaurant. He had come to enjoy the diner as a customer, but had no wish to revisit it as an employee. I found his perspective and experience interesting. When I pushed a bit further he explained that he has always enjoyed the food and the ambiance of the diner. Coming back as a customer allows him to experience those things and other aspects that he enjoys about the diner, such as catching up with his former regular customers. Being a customer also means he no longer has to “put up with the behind-the-scenes hassles.” He could now separate his employee experience from his customer experience.

Customer Experience vs. Employee Experience: The Technology Perspective

This got me thinking about the customer and employee dynamic from a technology perspective. What if that “behind-the-scenes hassle” wasn’t about kitchen politics, but rather the hassle of using outdated technology and systems. Many companies have struggled with the shift to supporting a remote workforce, or flexible options that support both remote and onsite employees. Part of this struggle has been in adapting technology and systems that were originally built around the fact that most people worked in functional silos from a fixed location that was hardwired into a corporate network and could be closely monitored and controlled. But our new business reality and employee expectations have changed drastically.

Consumer technology has continued to outpace most business applications, especially internal ones. The ongoing improvements in consumer technology have caused major behavioral changes. We now have higher expectations around work-life balance and the flexibility to get our work done — from anywhere. And as we compare the experience of older institutionalized technology with what we are used to as consumers, we have also adjusted our expectations regarding our interactions with technology and information. We no longer tolerate poor user experiences. We expect our interactions with the digital world to be intuitive, engaging, provide value and deliver the right content quickly, easily and consistently across the various channels we use.

Learning Opportunities

In our connected new work environments, which support employees in the way they work best — be that an office environment or from home — it’s difficult to disconnect our experience as employees from our experience as someone’s customer. And if we are having to deal with the “behind-the-scenes hassles” how is that being translated to the way we interact with our own customers?

If we are looking at new ways to interact with our customers, such as employing web content management, digital asset management, customer communications, social relationship management, search, analytics and even artificial intelligence to improve their experiences, shouldn’t we be using the same technologies to do the behind-the-scenes work?

The employee experience and the customer experience should be part of a connected shared continuum that allows us to enjoy both sides of the table.