u-turn sign on the side of the road
PHOTO: Jim Wilson

Over the last 10 years we have seen customer experience (CX) programs mature from small impromptu customer feedback initiatives into scalable, omnichannel, multi-lingual engagement programs that are the life force of change and improvement.

Many organizations are far from nailing this down, but a large portion have programs that easily identify areas of customer pain and understand the impact to their business as a result. The boardroom will always look for new ways to pivot the business for a competitive advantage, or to stay ahead of market disruption. Customer voice is a strong influencer in business decision-making, so what else can a business to do to make sure things run smoothly? Enter: The voice of the employee (VoE).

Bringing the Employee Voice to the Foreground

Voice of the employee is set for a meteoric rise from the boardroom down to the frontline. Once a poster child of a strong HR department, the employee feedback program has evolved a long way from annual performance reviews, six-month relationship surveys, or even that suggestion box sitting in the staff room.

Similar to a CX program, full employee engagement programs start when an employee first engages with the brand and continues alongside the entire employee lifecycle through recruitment, onboarding and training. It also includes events both professional and personal, understands those key pain points along the way and even extends beyond the day they leave.

You can expect a solid VoE program to engage with an employee between five and 20 times per-year with a combination of pulse, event-driven and relationship engagements. Add this to other key employee metadata — like ongoing performance reviews, self-assessment and other hard key performance indicators (KPIs) such as length of service and attendance — and you have a comprehensive overview of your employees.

Related Article: Want to Hear the Voice of Customers? Listen to Your Employees

Bringing Employee Voice and Customer Voice Together

But you can’t stop there. You will then start to analyze this data to understand what attributes drive success. That is exactly where bringing the customer voice together with that of the employee starts to look highly attractive. If you want to learn why some employees are more successful than others, this combined data will tell you either on an individual basis or segmented by job role, team or other employee segment.

On an individual basis, the customer voice has long been used in frontline employee development. In contact centers it is brought into performance and quality management systems and can generate self-learning topics, drive next-best action prompts as call guidance or used to populate gamification solutions — just to name a few. In retail stores and consumer branch banking, one-to-one customer feedback is often used in daily or weekly huddles to give shout-outs to staff who have delivered great experiences. These activities serve to show what examples of greatness look like and often these examples are used to encourage similar behavior in other employees.

But this practice really comes into its own when customer and employee voices are brought together at scale. Understanding what successful attributes and behaviors drive the most success across business units, departments or contact centers, and teaching those to other employees is the practice that really moves the needle for operational improvement. That, in turn, increases lifetime value and profit.

But what about the benefits? Businesses that are combining the two elements are already seeing some impressive results. A large enterprise organization has increased customer net promoter score (cNPS) by 14 points and employee net promoter score (eNPS) by 20 points, which is significant given that a score of 30 points is classed as an average performance. Many large enterprises will intrinsically link their NPS to sales turnover or profit and know how much a one-point shift is worth to their business.

Related Article: The Intersection of Employee Experience and Customer Experience

Find the Success Stories

A few things to know before starting a program like this: First, VoE is no longer just a human resources-owned discipline. It’s operational, commercial and is a cornerstone for customer experience teams too. In fact, the CX team will likely be best-placed to lead program design since the design is very similar to a strong CX program. Operations will likely want to own the business impact piece and HR will still lead the way in terms of employee enablement, lifecycle management and performance.

It’s a real stakeholder-driven program, but you shouldn’t be afraid to start an employee engagement program if you don’t have other stakeholder support from day-one. Even when these programs start small, as soon as the analytics start telling stories, everyone wants in on the action. Just like CX, it’s about finding opportunities and creating stories that show success. From there, your program will grow.