Without employees, you have no customer experience.
The link between employee engagement and the customer experience has been proven. If your employees aren’t engaged with your customer efforts—or engaged overall with the organization—it will be very difficult for them to delight your customers and deliver the positive experience customers expect.
As customer experience professionals, we talk a lot about gaining buy-in and commitment from executives, but we talk a lot less about getting buy-in and commitment from employees. This is crucial to the success of your customer experience strategy.
Employees are central to the customer experience, which is vital to the success of any business. But what tools do we give to employees to prepare them to deliver a great customer experience? What training do we give them to help them understand why being customer-focused is paramount? How do we sell the concept to them?
The following points summarize several tools and approaches you can use to get—and keep— employees engaged. It should be no surprise: You really need to start from the beginning. When you’re recruiting, you can set expectations so that candidates and new employees understand what they’re signing up for, what kind of organization they’ll be working for, and what the brand represents.
Here’s what to focus on:
• Job descriptions. Any organization that is focused on the customer and expects employees to deliver a great experience will mention this in its job descriptions. Set expectations early. Let candidates decide whether your organization is the kind they want to work for.
• Interviews. Be clear in spelling out to candidates that your organization is customer-focused and how the job they are interviewing for affects customers and their experience. The customer experience is everyone’s job. Once the candidate is on board, frame interview questions around how the employee would take ownership of the customer experience.
• Vision. Your organization’s vision is an inspirational and aspirational statement that outlines what you’re trying to achieve both today and in the long term; it also guides decision processes and subsequent courses of action. Your vision should spell out what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for, and create alignment within the organization. Your customer-experience vision and organizational vision are always linked, and often they’re one and the same. Without this North Star, employees can easily go off track and focus on projects or ideas that aren’t crucial to what the business is trying to do.
• Core values. Your core values are beliefs that guide the organization in identifying which behaviors and actions are right and which are wrong, both for your employees and toward your customers. Everything you do should be aligned with your core values. When in doubt, ask, “Is this the right thing to do? Does it fit with our core values?” Consider involving employees in the development of those core values.
• Brand promise. A brand promise is the expectation you set with your customers. It’s a combination of your brand’s purpose and the reality of what your brand can deliver. It defines the benefits a customer can expect to receive when experiencing your brand at every touch point. It’s meant for both customers and employees, because employees on the front lines and behind the scenes must live—and deliver on—the promise.
• Customer feedback. Listening to customers and ensuring that their feedback is shared (and acted upon) throughout the organization helps connect the dots for employees—they hear how what they do relates to, and translates into, what the customer experiences. Organizations don’t do enough of this; feedback often remains with those who are listening or with those who need to act on it, but fails to make it into the hands of those who need to hear it most: the employees who delivered the evaluated experience.
• Rewards and recognition. These are often tied closely with customer feedback. When we recognize and reward employees for doing the right thing or for delivering a great experience, we reinforce the behaviors we expect. We also continue to make that connection between the employee and the outcome, i.e., to how they contribute to the customer experience and ultimately to the success of the business.
• Role play. When we role play, we model behaviors that we expect from our employees. We teach them what it looks like to deliver a great experience. When employees are in the know, they can commit and take ownership. Knowledge is power!
• Journey maps. A customer journey map is the ultimate tool to help connect employees with how they contribute to—and influence—the customer experience. It’s important to describe when, where, and how employees contribute at each step along the way. This is powerful. When employees see how they influence the experience and how their contributions matter, they can take ownership of those moments.
• Communication. This is really a precursor to all of the items listed above. It’s important on its own, but it must also be used in conjunction with each of the tools above. What gets shared and communicated is viewed as important to your employees. Communication lends clarity, which is vital to engagement and to providing a clear line of sight to the target—your customers and the customer experience.
• Customer ambassador program. An ambassador program cements employees’ commitment to the customer and to the overall customer experience strategy. It not only celebrates those who deliver (or support those who deliver) exceptional experiences, but it also shows the organization’s commitment to customers and their experience. Ambassadors carry the message of the great work the team is doing throughout the entire organization. Think of it as a grass-roots effort to drive culture change and execute on process improvements. Ambassadors will help to get all employees engaged in your customer experience strategy.
One final thought: You’ll be much more successful in gaining employee commitment and executing your strategy if you include employees in the decisions and the design along the way, rather than forcing initiatives and changes on them. Employees get engaged when they are involved in the decision process, when they feel like they can add value, and when they feel that they matter.