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Heard in Nashville: Customer Experience, Employee Experience, Everything in Between

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CMSWire Managing Editor Dom Nicastro has the customer experience tales from Nashville this week at Forrester's CX North America conference.

NASHVILLE – Customer experience practitioners think a lot.

The connection between employee experience and customer experience. Enabling contact center managers with the right tools and processes for successful outcomes. Contact center agent retention. Making remote work, well, work, for customer support staff. How to convince organizational leaders to soften and allow changes in digital customer experiences despite old, old ways of doing things.

That’s only a slice of the feedback from these practitioners who shared insights with CMSWire this week at the Forrester CX North America conference here at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

Oh, and they also think about this — how can they be true revenue drivers that tie CX back to organizational outcomes and convince senior leaders their existence matters beyond a slide with improving NPS.

“NPS, CSAT OSAT … any of those beacon metrics, they can be really, really helpful for providing at least one sense of the perception that customers have of their experience,” Judy Weader, Forrester senior analyst for CX, told CMSWire in a video interview. “But if you can't do the analysis to connect that to the things that matter like whether customers are going to stay with you or whether they're going to churn, whether they're going to buy more from you, whether they're going to advocate for you, then it's just a number. And the numbers that speak the loudest, especially to executives who are gold on this, and to shareholders who are making their purchase decisions based on it, it’s revenue, it's cost.

"So you have to focus on the things that matter to the organization. It doesn't mean that you sacrifice your customers’ experience. It means that you think about how those things are connected, and then you tell that story."

So what’s on the minds of these customer experience practitioners and those who work with CX practitioners in the trenches, helping them craft these experiences? Here’s our “heard in Nashville” roundup from this week:

Supporting CX Operations of the Future

headshot of April Viola at Forrester CX North America 2022 conference at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.
April Viola
April Viola, manager of business strategy who supports customer experience across the Discover financial services organization, is focusing lately on operations: how internally CX stakeholders are enabled to produce great customer experiences, no matter where they do the work.

“There are so many foundational pieces that you should...think about when thinking about operations for the future,” Viola said. “It's no longer bound by the walls of the call center anymore. So what I'm hoping to gain out of this conference is the intelligence to understand what those important factors are. That expands…culture, technology, employee retention, all of those components, so that we can ideate on and what do we need to do in order to get us...there.”

Viola said she’s got her eyes on the next five to 10 years and what that’s going to look like from a customer experience agent perspective. What will operations look like then?

“How we interact with our customers and our employees is different," Viola said. “So what's the technology we need to have? What is important to our customers and...to our employees now that we don't get to see them and interact with them the same way that we used to? How do we make employees feel like they're part of our culture without physically being in the space where we once held our culture?”

Customer experience professionals enjoy the work-from-home freedoms, Viola said. That, however, also means they’re balancing more being at home than they did when they were in the office. It's more than just helping an employee understand how to do the work, she added. It's now helping employees understand how to balance their work with home priorities, how to stay mentally equipped to deal with the more challenging conversations that they're having with customers, when they call in or go into digital channels.

“Our employees have a more relaxed work environment while at the same time our customers are expecting more,” Viola said. “So how do we help them? How do we help them balance that?”

Related Article: Providing Customer Experience In Times of Crisis — Again

Data, Insights Fuel Better Patient Experiences

Headshot of Bennett Lee at Forrester CX North America 2022 conference at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.
Bennett Lee

The challenges never end for healthcare professionals. These challenges were there prior to 2020. Toss on a global health pandemic — and forces like major physician shortages — and you’ve got an extraordinary set of challenges around providing patient care and patient experience.

Bennett Lee takes those challenges head-on as director of insights and analytics at Piedmont Healthcare, an Atlanta-based healthcare system that employs about 37,000 and cares for 3.4 million patients across 1,400 locations.

Lee leads a team that is laser-focused on gathering patient insights to better improve in-person and digital experiences at Piedmont healthcare properties. They want to measure things like: how comfortable do you feel coming into our practice? What is your confidence level with COVID-19 vaccinations? What is your source of truth when it comes to vaccines? What do you want to get out of your digital patient portal? 

And that’s the formula: gather data and insights, inform internal clinical and other staff and improve experience. For instance, insights from customers told them they wanted to be able to schedule appointments directly from their patient portal.

And if it were only that easy to make these changes. Challenges persist with convincing staff to make changes even when data collected directly from patients supports those changes. 

Welcome to a CX practitioner’s world: data, insights, customer experience, employee experience and, yes, change management. A customer experience professional has to have some HR chops these days. Lee’s team, for instance, helps internal communications design employee experience surveys. 

When it comes to customer experience and employee experience: “If it's not aligned, well then you can not better serve your customers,” Lee said. “That's exactly what's happening in the healthcare industry. Everybody has heard about the staffing issue. It’s really really hard to get nurses and turnover...got worse during the pandemic.”

Learning Opportunities

Next big task for Piedmont and customer experience? Renovate its website.

“You can not now separate the digital experience from the offline experience,” Lee said. “Piedmont‘s core strength is definitely not in our website. So we want to improve our web experience because we see a lot of bounce-back. Many people get kind of lost in our website, and...we need more conversions on our website. That's another key project that we are focusing on.”

Empowering Creative Juices in New Working World

Headshot of Krupa Shah at Forrester CX North America 2022 conference at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.
Krupa Shah

Krupa Shah, senior managing consultant for digital experience consultancy IBM iX, discussed with CMSWire this week the very real challenges of continuing to do the best work in a work-from-home environment. The pandemic forced CX and marketing professionals into a “non-creative environment,” she said, which meant they had to use technology to manage their priorities, optimize their workflows and align with the work they needed to do. 

“So you're no longer in a studio, you're no longer creating that brochure or taking that photo the way you used to prior to the pandemic,” Shah said. “So a lot, I think, centers around inefficient processes kind of coming to the surface, inefficient workflows and just a disconnect generally between how work is done at an organization and how work is being managed at an organization.”

Marketing and CX professionals are still trying to ensure they are working on the right things with the right priorities for their organizations to stay on track.

“So I think a lot of the challenges deal with, do we have the processes in place to make us successful, productive and happy?” Shah said. “How do you keep that work productivity in place? How do you increase employee satisfaction? Because experience can be personalized across customers, employees and partners alike.

"So I think that's one of the main challenges that we have right now: identifying the right balance of workflows and products and platforms, you know, to enable work management or enable any organization to be productive and effective.”

Related Article: If Bad Customer Experience Were a Hit Country Song...

Can Customer Experience and Employee Experience Work Together?

Headshot of Patrick Gibbons at Forrester CX North America 2022 conference at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.
Patrick Gibbons

Patrick Gibbons, principal, senior VP of marketing and experience management for Walker, an experience management consultancy, said it’s no longer possible to think about customer experience without employee experience. It’s about proactively designing a good employee experience and a good customer experience and recognizing they affect each other. “No customer experience will be successful without the right employee cooperation,” he said.

“CX and employee experience leaders should at least meet together, say, on a quarterly basis," he added. "They can still have their own activities. When they compare their data, they're going to find areas where they’re going to find a customer issue that is related to employee issues, and that's where it really becomes valuable because it tells you here are the things we should be doing.”

That doesn’t mean there won’t be obstacles on the path to truly connecting customer and employee experiences. One of the biggest obstacles, according to Gibbons, is these are two traditionally very split departments within organizations. You’ve got CX and marketing on one side and human resources on the other.

“Sometimes they're not in the same building or same city…and also they can be stuck in their ways,” Gibbons said. “...But there's a reason they should align some of their efforts.” CX may want to lead these efforts, Gibbons added, because they live by the mantra that creating strong employee experiences means "my customers will have a good experience.”