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PHOTO: Ryoji Iwata

How does the employee experience impact customer experience?

There is no simple answer. While many marketers and HR-related executives see a link, a survey West Monroe conducted of Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) members found near-half of respondents said a motivated and equipped workforce — two essential elements of employee experience and employee engagement — were most critical for their companies to achieve an improved CX (cited by 53 percent of respondents), business agility (50 percent) and digital transformation (49 percent). Yet when discussing their top 10 priorities, these same companies ranked employee engagement, employee experience and employee enablement (via technology) at the bottom of their companies’ top 10 priorities.

While many experts argue there is a linkage, again, the evidence is more anecdotal than anything else.

Direct Contact: Customer Service

“Engaged, empowered employees are a critical element to create engaged, happy customers,” said Kelly Koelliker, director of product marketing at Verint. She shared a few examples of how creating engaged employees could drive better customer experiences:

  • For customer service agents on the front-lines, tools that make it easier for employees to do their jobs and find answers empower them to deliver faster, better and more accurate service, for more satisfied customers.
  • Employee engagement and satisfaction is critical in the contact center, where churn can be a major challenge. Organizations must be concerned about the employee experience, Koelliker said. If employee experience is lacking, companies may lose those employees that they've invested training in — and a loss of good well-trained employees can degrade customer experience. Often, another contact center job is right down the street and today, employees also have other "Gig Economy" options such as Lyft/Uber.
  • Self-service options are preferred by a growing number of customers for their convenience, but self-serve channels also help with employee engagement, offloading mundane calls and tasks so agents can focus on more challenging and value-added customer interactions. Robotic process automation (RPA) can also play a role in this regard, in instances where an address change needs to be replicated in numerous systems, for example.

Related Article: How to Build an Employee Experience That Rivals Your Customer Experience

Improved Employee Experiences = Improved Customer Experiences

“When someone thinks about a great customer experience, they typically think about only the customer touchpoints. Although this is important it only covers one aspect. What is equally important is the experience of the person who is servicing the customer who will have to deal with the experience of the back-office systems they use to help service the customer and their needs,” says Rob Maille, co-founder and head of customer experience and strategy at CommerceCX. Maille argued that businesses should view the back office as part of the larger customer experience and give it the attention it deserves. By improving these back end processes for employees, "the reward is an overall customer experience with less friction and ease of use for all that are involved. The other benefit is that when the back-office employee has better tools, they feel better about their job and the value they provide which also translates into a better experience for the customer.”

Lisa Nicholas, president of Digital Banking Services, agreed: “When DBS is able to connect with the employee experience there is a 100 percent chance of creating a better customer experience. We have all felt the frustration of telling our story to a customer service agent only to get transferred to another agent who asks you to repeat the story once again. This experience does not make you want to leave a positive review.”

Nicholas pointed to Credit Union of Texas (CUTX), which started to revamp its business from a traditional disconnected experience to a more connected experience through digital processes, creating collaboration channels and established business intelligence that was not possible prior to taking on digital transformation.

For its leasing businesses, for example, CUTX employees can now see all the pertinent information about the member (what credit unions call customers) throughout the leasing process in one place instead of logging into multiple systems, seeing offers that have bene made. So employees no longer have to guess at which offers the member is currently responding.

“They can see every step of the process including any service-related issue. When a member calls about a lease, employees have a screen pop with all of the information about that member right in front of them,” Nicholas said. “This transparency has created a more engaged employee and a better overall member experience.”

Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist at Achievers, a company that provides an employee engagement platform, said there is a definite correlation between employee engagement and CX. Improved employee engagement, which includes elements such as an employee recognition program has resulted in jumps in customer satisfaction in many B2B and B2C companies as well as in many hospitals, with some customer satisfaction scores doubling.

“You have to take care of your employees if you want them to take care of your customers,” Baumgartner says. “I absolutely see a link between employee engagement and customer satisfaction.”

Related Article: Great Employee Experiences Beget Great Customer Experiences