Have you ever had an absolutely terrible experience? “What goes around, comes around,” people warn.
Maybe you had a great experience, in which case you felt compelled to pay it forward.
In either instance, a single action has caused a reaction; the experience has a ripple effect.
Watching technology and business channels evolve, this ripple effect concept is alive and well. And there seems to be a key differentiator that separates the good from the great: customer experience.
Traditionally, companies focused their teams on the quality of their product / services and their pricing strategy. But priorities have shifted. Now that customers have access to more information when making purchasing decisions, and can easily switch between brands, brand loyalty is a phenomenon. The experience that a customer has with a brand is a new dynamic that is becoming increasingly important.
Remember what happened on that awful United Airlines flight last year? A passenger had a terrible experience – filmed by other passengers – and the video went viral; the company lost $1.4 billion in value overnight.
In contrast, Southwest Airlines is often referenced as a prime example of having an excellent customer experience. They even cleverly tout themselves as being a, “Customer Service company that happens to fly airplanes.”
What is Customer Experience?
The customer experience (CX) encompasses all interactions during the lifetime of the customer relationship. According to Forrester, Customer Experience is defined as “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.”
As a customer, think about how many interactions you’ve had with your favorite brand…
Depending on your shopping patterns, you could have hundreds or even thousands of interactions with a single brand. Each interaction shapes your opinion of that brand.
If even one of those interactions is amazing, you start building a relationship with the brand, and may even become a loyal customer who recommends the brand to friends and family (the brand will be thrilled!). If each interaction with the brand exceeds your expectations, the brand’s employees have met their goal of creating an exceptional customer experience.
A lot of components will make or break the customer experience. But have you considered how employees impact CX?
When employees are truly aligned and invested in the ideal customer experience, the team will undoubtedly deliver an exceptional customer experience and build a loyal customer base.
The best way to do this is to mirror your customer experience internally whenever possible.
What is Employee Experience?
Similar to the way Forrester defines the Customer Experience, the employee experience is how employees perceive their interactions with the company. From their candidate experience to their employment and eventually their continued relationship with the company as alumni – every interaction creates a perception of the company.
The employee experience is comprised of three main factors:
- Company culture
- Physical workspace
All of these factors need to be aligned to the ideal customer experience in order to be successful because employees’ behaviors and decisions are largely influenced by the priorities and values that are experienced internally.
For example, maybe a company’s value is to make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with you. This should be a mirrored experience internally as well:
The job application should be easy to submit The onboarding process should be streamlined and simple It should be easy to find the right documentation It should be easy for an employee to request time off.
“Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” – Richard Branson
It’s not enough to simply tell your employees about the employee experience. You need to show them. When they experience it first-hand, they will be more motivated to replicate that value to make your customers’ jobs easier too.
Over the past few years, B2C companies have started to align their employee experiences to their customer experiences and have seen notable results. According to a study by TheFutureOrganization published on SHRM, experiential organizations (those that scored highest on the employee experience in relation to culture, technology, and physical workspace) “have four times higher average profits, two times higher average revenues, 40 percent lower turnover, and 24 percent smaller headcount. Their stock prices also outperformed the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq.”
B2B companies can see similar results if they get ahead of the shift in competitive dynamics.
Where do we begin?
Analyze the data and any feedback that you have from your customers to gain a deep understanding of your customers’ interactions with your brand, their preferences, habits, and pain points. With that data in mind, map out your ideal customer experience including every aspect of the customer journey. Start with the major interactions that the customer has with your brand during the customer journey.
From there, make sure your company’s internal values are aligned with the ideal customer experience. For example, if your ideal CX includes a quick checkout, timely responses from customer service, and fast shipping, then you better have a company value related to speed! Or if your ideal experience makes the customer feel important, then your values should include something about putting your customer on a pedestal.
Now it’s time to evaluate your employee experience. Your employee experience should be closely aligned to your customer experience. In most cases, this requires the leadership team to communicate updated priorities, modify processes and policies, adapt the overall culture, and create exceptional employee experiences that mirror the ideal CX. In the second example above (putting your customer on a pedestal), the company culture should make every employee feel like a top priority and know that they’re valued. This should start in the interview process with a high level of attention to the candidate and continue throughout their employment.
Give your employees the opportunity to experience your brand as a customer. Amazon does this by requiring every employee of every level to spend two days every two years in the customer service role responding to customers. This gives everyone a “front-lines” view of the customer to bring back to their teams and drive more customer-centric decisions.
Measure your employee experience and customer experience. Share the results transparently and continue raising the bar to create better experiences over time.
Finally, empower your employees with the information and tools to exceed customer expectations. With a deep understanding of the ideal CX, employees can take the autonomy to go above and beyond to deliver exceptional experiences.
Wondering how else you can improve your customer experience? Join this webinar to learn how you can better scale reacting to customer demands.