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Editorial

The Secret for Any Customer Experience Strategy: Listen to Frontline Employees

5 minute read
Fabrice Martin avatar
Customers care about how brands treat their employees. And how you treat your employees relates directly back to customer experience.

The pandemic and recent global economic challenges made clear that employee experiences (EX) are inextricably linked to the experience of the customers they serve. Customers care about how brands treat their employees, and they also feel the impact of employee shortages and service cutbacks further up the supply chain.

Take air travel as an example. Many people expected commercial aviation to flourish after two years of travel restrictions left the industry in disarray. Instead, we’ve seen the most hectic travel season in years, marred by flight cancellations, extensive delays, lost baggage and long waits for check-in and security checkpoints; a shortage of baggage handlers and security agents or malfunctioning, outdated airline tech prevents passengers from checking in quickly, leading to flight delays.

Short-staffed immigration and customs divisions at hub airports cause passengers to wait on planes, which means pilots and flight attendants work longer days and that there is less time for overnight maintenance. Each EX issue impacts another link in the chain of the overall customer experience (CX).

Empowered Employees Deliver Good CX

Creating a well-orchestrated CX is directly correlated with how well employees are empowered to do their jobs and respond to customer needs. This reality requires companies to adopt a new comprehensive approach to experience management. Forrester Research defines this concept as Total Experience: “understanding customers’ lived reality, and adjusting your people, processes and technology to deliver a coherent brand experience across all touchpoints and silos that make sense from a customer point of view.”

By considering CX and EX data and programs together, organizations can uncover specific actions and changes that create and sustain exceptional customer experiences. Many of our customers see that when their employees feel recognized for their good work and trust that their manager supports their well-being, those positive employee experiences ultimately influence customer attitudes and behaviors like repurchase, churn, referrals or expansion.

Related Article: Why It's Time to Embrace Employee Experience

How Call Centers Impact CX and EX

Nowhere is this more evident than in call centers. Call centers usually have a combination of key performance indicators based on operational employee metrics such as average handle time or first call resolution, and customer experience metrics like overall customer satisfaction and agent effectiveness scores. In a scenario where customer satisfaction or agent effectiveness scores suddenly plummet, a company with a cohesive experience management approach might survey call center employees and reveal the issue much more efficiently than a business that looks only at customer data. Surveyed agents could share they feel the need to rush resolutions because of a newly implemented target for handle time, and the company could track a correlated spike in customers saying they are feeling rushed on calls.

In addition to call centers, this CX+EX approach is particularly important for any business with front-line employees, such as banks, retailers, or hospitality and travel businesses. Frontline worker customer service recognition can directly connect to customers getting their problems solved more often, thus improving their overall CSAT score. 

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: The 2022 Golden Rule of CX: Treat Employees How You Treat Your Customers

How to Develop a CX+EX Strategy

For many companies, implementing this approach would require a total organizational transformation. So where to start? There are three things business leaders should think about when developing their CX+EX strategy:

Keep a Continuous Pulse on Employee Feedback

Do you provide open opportunities to collect detailed, real-time commentary from the customers and employees involved in daily interactions with or for your company? While many businesses collect customer feedback, they don’t keep a continuous pulse on their employees’ feedback. A once-per-year employee survey doesn't cut it. More frequent listening ensures that you are capturing the voice of the employee on an ongoing basis, enabling you to take action quickly. Approach your business with the mindset to listen and learn from BOTH your employees and your customers.

Establish Joint Governance Team for CX and EX

Create an environment where insights are shared across the organization, including your people on the ground servicing customers every day. This could be accomplished by setting up a joint governance team for your CX and EX programs or a personalized newsletter for each storefront. Allow leaders and teams from both sides to collaborate on shared objectives and practices. Discuss what kind of impact can be made with a specific EX program initiative and how that can directly impact their customer success in their stores, teams or regions.

Take Data from People in the Trenches

Listen to the early warnings on new or worsening issues, update specific processes and actually implement suggestions on fixes from the people directly involved in interactions. This is key to helping employees feel empowered and engaged. Engaged employees understand what the customer wants — in fact, research has shown that 70% of engaged employees indicate a good understanding of how to meet customer needs, compared to just 17% of disengaged employees.

Conclusion: Don't Throw Spaghetti at CX and EX Wall

To make business decisions without understanding the elements of the employee experience that impact CX outcomes is akin to throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks. By developing a comprehensive CX+EX strategy, businesses can create better customer and employee experiences and stay ahead of the competition.

About the author

Fabrice Martin

Fabrice is the head of product for Qualtrics XM discover and customer care, and is responsible for the vision, roadmap and go-to-market strategy for Qualtrics XM discover and customer care and frontline solutions. Prior to Qualtrics, he was the Chief Product Officer at Clarabridge.