unfinished jigsaw puzzle with a person's finger holding down one piece
PHOTO: Ross Sneddon

Welcome to the experience economy, where experience is the product. Brand perception and longevity take a backseat as customers make purchasing decisions based on their most recent brand experiences. And often, those experiences are digital.

Keeping up with customer expectations as well as digital-first competitors is hard. There is no other way to say it. Most business leaders recognize that delivering customer experiences requires constant innovation. But what they do not realize is to make that happen — effectively and sustainably — they need to connect the dots between customer experiences and employee experiences.

Certainly, you need to ensure employees feel well-taken care of. This has a quantifiable impact on customer satisfaction, retention and customer lifetime value (CLV). Yet, most companies are still falling short of meeting employee expectations. In fact, according to a recent Gartner survey, only 13% of employees feel their company is fully meeting their needs. Let’s consider why that matters and examine the interconnectedness of customer and employee experiences and what businesses can do to improve them both.

Widening the Experience Lens: A Cautionary Tale

It is relatively simple to launch a new front-end digital experience such as a webpage, mobile app or product improvement. The challenge is anticipating how that initiative will impact every facet of your organization. Often, the people making CX decisions are siloed from operations and customer service teams. They are encouraged to think creatively and leverage emerging technologies to help the brand stand out.

Imagine an entertainment technology company updates its app to improve the user experience. The change causes questions for some viewers, and they contact the service team for answers. But the service reps aren’t fully briefed on the feature. They struggle to resolve complaints, leaving customers dissatisfied, even though the product update is well-designed.

To avoid this, companies need to reframe the discussion and emphasize human experiences, not just customer experiences. This will encourage those charged with CX innovation to consider the employee impact, too, so they can roll out sustainable change. When working on CX initiatives, challenge yourself and the team to connect the dots between the front-end and back-end operations. Ask yourself: 

  • How will this affect each and every department, from sales to service, to billing and accounting, to in-store workers?
  • Does every member of our workforce understand what and why we are changing, and what it means for their role?

Related Article: Why Employee Experience Is the New Customer Experience

A Cultural Pillar: Everything Is in Service of Experience

Companies, particularly enterprises, often approach CX piecemeal, focusing on one front-end experience at a time. But to be truly experience-led, you need to think about every human interaction, including those of your staff. You need to declare experience a company-wide priority and it won’t feel like an authentic core value unless you communicate your intention to create an exceptional employee experience, too.

Providing technology and processes to make employees’ jobs easier is one way to make them feel taken care of. For a large retailer, that might mean developing a cloud-based system for swapping hours with colleagues or making it easier to go online to review their benefits — anything that will improve and simplify their day-to-day. This will help cultivate an experience-driven culture and create satisfied employees who are willing to go above and beyond to satisfy the end customer.

Related Article: Frontline Workers Still Point the Way Forward for the Digital Workplace

Quantifying Experience Outcomes

Historically, organizations have viewed technology as the enabler of the experience and data as an afterthought — a piece you bring in after the experience is launched to see if it is working. But with the emergence of more sophisticated technologies and the increasing complexity of CX concepts, it's not feasible to treat data, technology and experience as separate entities. All three are enablers of the experience and should be considered in tandem.

To do so, assemble cross-discipline teams, in which people of different backgrounds work together toward a shared goal. Make every teammate accountable for results. For example, if the design falls flat, the engineers feel as responsible as the front-end designer.

Reimagining the role of data scientists and leveraging those skillsets early on can have far-reaching implications. Rather than using data strictly as a measurement tool, innovative companies are running models to predict how an experience will perform before they even build it. Data is not a rearview mirror; it is a crystal ball.

Analytics is critical to measuring employee experiences, too, and tying them to business metrics. It is common sense that when an employee is well taken care of, they are more invested in the business and likely to work harder for the company mission. But what does that mean for the bottom line? Companies should seek frameworks to quantify the impact of employee initiatives so they can determine the impact on KPIs, including retention, sales and LTV.

Experience-led companies will thrive in the future. But, to become one, you need more than CX expertise. You need to invest in your internal processes and connect every front-end initiative to your back and middle office. You also need to cultivate an authentic culture of human-focused innovation, in which everything is in service of the experience, for everyone — from clients and prospects to employees.

Related Article: How to Leverage Data Science to Capture the Fickle Consumer