Originally Published in CMSWire
Written by Mark Smith
Employee engagement pays off, and not just figuratively. According to Gallup, organizations with the highest levels of employee engagement see earnings-per-share grow at a rate four times greater than that of their competitors. What’s more, these companies enjoy higher profitability, better retention and, notably, higher levels of customer engagement.
It’s not particularly surprising to discover customers have a better experience when interacting with a company where the employees are highly engaged. What is surprising is how few companies view employee engagement as a customer experience imperative.
Employee engagement and customer experience have traditionally existed in separate silos organizationally, with human resources focusing on the former, and marketing taking care of the latter. Forward-looking companies, however, recognize how employee experience impacts the customer experience and strive to align their efforts on both fronts.
Specifically, these companies realize that a voice of the employee program can yield several benefits.
First of course, it can help increase employee engagement. Second, customer-facing employees can provide insight into the customer experience, from the front lines. Finally, when you combine voice of employee programs with other customer experience initiatives, you can provide frontline employees with the information they need to better serve customers, which itself creates a virtuous circle by increasing employee engagement.
Improving Employee Experience Builds Ownership Across the Organization
Forrester defines “voice of employee” data as “any feedback from employees or partners that pertains to their ability to deliver great customer experiences.” This data represents a veritable treasure trove of valuable information about customers. And having an established voice of employee program means you can systematically collect and leverage this information.
The person-to-person interactions customers have with your brand are vital to the customer experience. At the same time, these interactions often allow you to collect data you couldn’t collect through other channels. From flagging flight risks or bubbling up UX issues to understanding common pricing concerns or pain points, your employees can capture more nuanced customer feedback than could be revealed through surveys or behavioral data.
An effective voice of employee program needs to collect data systematically. Traditional methods include fairly structured data collection, employee surveys and “upward feedback” related to performance reviews, while non-traditional methods can include social media monitoring or open comment forms on your intranet. In addition, with today’s journey orchestration solutions, you can pull data directly from tablets, chat windows and CRM screens that employees use every day to interact with customers.
While the number of methods for collecting voice of employee data will only continue to grow and become more sophisticated (by including things like sentiment analysis), such data collection is not an end in itself. That critical information needs to, first and foremost, help you improve the employee experience. But it also needs to flow into your customer experience orchestration program, where you can use it to deliver the next best experience to your customers.
Data Is a Two-Way Street
This last point is worth emphasizing. Employees are not simply sources of customer data. They need to be recipients of it as well. By providing employees with the data they need to enhance one-on-one interactions with customers, you create a data-driven culture that empowers front-line employees to create the best experience possible during customer interactions.
If you’ve undertaken any level of journey orchestration, you’ve stitched together information across channels — automating an email after a shopping cart is abandoned, for example, or mapping social media mentions to your customer database. Many brands, however, see interactions with customer support, for example, more as a way to collect customer data, not as a touchpoint in which contextual data can be used to enhance the experience.
This is a seriously missed opportunity because customers expect personalization, even or especially during the human touchpoints in their journeys. Consider this: Forrester found in 2017 that 75% of financial service customers calling into a help center expected the company to know the reason for the call before even picking up the phone!
When a retail worker or call center employee has access to relevant customer data — the transcript of a recent chatbot session or voice sentiment analysis of the initial call — when actually interacting with a customer, they can use that information to make the interaction count. Indeed, if your solution is sophisticated enough, it can even recommend next best actions to the employee based on data collected from multiple customer interactions.
Your employees, same as your customers, are on journeys with your organization. By understanding all of the respective customer and employee journeys, you can orchestrate and intertwine the two, ensuring that not only are customers being served the right experience at the right time, but that the employee is in the right channel at the right time, with the right message.
What Happens When it Works
When you focus on employee experience in the context of customer experience, you create a mutually reinforcing positive feedback loop. Voice of employee data provides rich customer insights that informs ongoing customer experience efforts and opens new lines of analysis, and orchestrating employee behavior to line up to the customer drives success.
Putting relevant data in the hands of front-line employees empowers them to create meaningful experiences for customers. It’s also significant in terms of contributing to the bottom line. Employees who feel autonomous and who can solve problems effectively can provide better experiences and drive more revenue for the brand. When customer and employee experiences align in this way, it makes the interaction satisfying for both parties, increasing both customer and employee engagement.
The feeling of relevance and purpose is one of the strongest drivers of motivation for job seekers today. The feeling of contributing to a larger goal, and the ability to participate lends itself to happier employees and a better overall experience. It’s win-win all around.
Tying EX and CX Together
Voice of employee data is incredibly valuable. And it can help you address both employee experience and customer experience issues. Still, it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
Deep understanding of not only your customer journeys but employee journeys allows for even greater levels of orchestration. When you are able to weave the two together based on sharing data between them, they amount to greater than the sum of their parts — you’re able to enhance both experiences, aligning the right employee action with the right point in the customer journey.
To create a truly comprehensive customer experience powerhouse and provide employees the information they need to do their jobs better, voice of employee data, as well as employee experience, needs to be tied together with customer experience and voice of customer data, as well as what we call “voice of process” data, i.e., the trail of digital data that customers leave on their buying journey.
Voice of customer data collects direct customer feedback — everything your customers tell you, directly or indirectly, about your brand — but, depending on the collection methods, is not always reliable. The same can be said of voice of employee data, particularly when it is survey-based.
Voice of process data, on the other hand, allows you to analyze customer sentiment and experience based on actual customer behavior, not just self-reported feedback. You can use this data to validate or question customer and employee feedback. Likewise, you can use customer and employee feedback to provide context and meaning to voice of process data, giving you a complete, end-to-end view of customer experience.
Once you have that comprehensive view, though, the real work of influencing and orchestrating the customer journey begins.