Bibi Sofowote, CCXP
Sir Richard Branson. A name that has made a cameo on this blog already. Here’s a quote attributed to him that you’ve probably heard: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
Let’s talk about it.
As founder of the Virgin Group, Branson's had a lot of success in his life. But perhaps more importantly, he’s seen a lot, and learned a lot too. Here’s another thing he’s been credited with saying: “By putting the employee first, the customer effectively comes first by default, and in the end, the shareholder comes first by default as well.”
If that sounds a little confusing, don’t worry. We’ll unpack it right here, right now.
Let’s go all the way back to something I said in the very first post on this blog: The reason you care about Customer Experience is “because in an increasingly-competitive business landscape, you want to be the best at delivering value for your customer, so you can retain, renew and grow their business with you.” So we’ve established that while you may choose to go all-out for your customers, putting in the significant investments to build a company that has the means, structure and culture required to collect, interpret and action customer insights, because you’re a wonderful person who wants to see everyone happy, it is more likely that you do all of this because you care about profitability and growth. Was that a long sentence? I feel like that was a long sentence.
Employee Experience or EX, is the sum of all interactions and experiences an employee has with their employer, from Recruitment to Exit. In between those two points, you have Onboarding, Development and Retention. So why exactly, does EX matter to CX?
The truth is, unless yours is a one-person business, your organization relies on a number of people, working in different parts of your structure to ultimately deliver a service or product to your customers. What this means is that you essentially are trusting that each one of these people is doing their part within their function and sphere of influence and responsibility, to take care of your customers’ JTBD - Jobs-To-Be-Done.
You therefore need employees who genuinely buy into your organization’s purpose and find real correlation between helping to achieve that purpose, and specific aspects of their personal sense of fulfillment. And if you’ve ever encountered Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you know that there are a few steps that need to be taken care of before we get to fulfillment or self-actualization.
What I’m saying is that even if you’re a naturally-trusting person, you certainly aren’t expecting your employees to find fulfillment in their work, and produce outputs for your company and customers at their highest possible levels, if their needs aren’t being taken care of.
Happy employees can lead to happy customers. It is simply human nature, that engaged and satisfied employees are more likely to go the extra mile for customers, leading to better Customer Experience. According to a study by Gallup, organizations with engaged employees outperform their competition by a tremendous 147%. This means that these organizations are better at delivering on their promise to customers, and are therefore able, to reap the benefits of greater customer loyalty and revenue growth. However, engaged and satisfied employees don’t just happen. You need an intentional EX strategy that drives the employee outcomes you’re after.
Jacob Morgan is the author of multiple bestselling books including The Employee Experience Advantage, The Future of Work and The Collaborative Organization. In The Employee Experience Advantage, he notes that every organization has three environments that impact EX: the Company Culture, the Technology Environment and the Workplace Environment. We could double-click on each one of these and have ourselves multiple episodes for this series… and maybe we will in the future. However, to keep things concise today, let me assume that you’re familiar with the terms Company Culture and Workplace Environment.
A company’s technology environment is the collection of tools that it makes available to its employees in order for them to perform their tasks. Antiquated and ill-suited tools lead to frustrations and inefficiencies that invariably negatively impact the Employee Experience and leak into the Customer Experience.
More companies could stand to do the math on the cost of providing efficiency-maximizing tools to their employees versus the cost of irritated and uninspired employees, and their impact on customer retention/churn.
Something else you’ll need to keep in mind, is the cost of employee turnover to your company’s development. If you’re not able to retain employees long enough to build an army of institutional experts, you’ll find that you’re constantly having to recruit and onboard new employees to fill the vacancies that constantly seem to pop up, as more and more employees exit due to poor EX. As a consequence, you’ll see that your growth is stunted, as it seems you’re always having to return to the starting line, with no chance to consistently build upon the company-specific experience, knowledge and expertise of existing employees to deliver constantly improving solutions for your customers’ JTBD.
It’s just like I always say: “You can’t give what you don’t have”. Your employees, back-end or customer-facing, cannot come up with inspired solutions to customer needs, make customer touch-points positive and memorable, and do all the other things you and customers would like them to do, if they themselves don’t feel inspired or positive. And just as we started, let’s end with another Branson quote… he’s got quite a few:
“An exceptional company is the one that gets all the little details right. And the people out on the front line, they know when things are not going right, and they know when things need to be improved. And if you listen to them, you can soon improve all those niggly things which turn an average company into an exceptional company.”
And I’ll just add to that quote, that every employee, even one with the most indirect or smallest impact on your Customer Experience, is your company’s front line. If you empower employees to make decisions that improve CX, and create an environment that encourages them to come up with, and share innovation, they are more likely to go the extra mile for customers.
It is therefore clear that as a matter of good, basic strategy, you must take care of your employees, so that they can take care of your customers.
Thanks for reading this article. How will you use this information to make your customer experience better today? What have you observed in your environment Reach out. Connect. I’ll be reading and responding. And learning.