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Mirror Images – Customer Experience versus Employee Experience

In my first Mirror Images post, I referred to Social CRM as a “A complex overlay” on top of customer service, customer relationships and the supporting strategy, technology and processes. If we can accept this, that Social CRM is an overlay, then we should be able to agree that it does mirror Social business (or Enterprise 2.0), as Social Business is also an overlay on top of many standard business practices and concepts. Diving deeper to a more definitive concept; is employee experience the mirror of customer experience? Unfortunately, most people who talk/write on the topic of ‘experience’ focus on the customer aspect and neglect the employee experience; the literature therefore is not as extensive.  In this area, topics typically include empowerment, engagement, and satisfaction. There is very little that directly talks to employee experience, after all it is just a job, right – no, wrong. Moving forward, this is going to have to change.

Your own Marketing team is working very hard to enhance the customer experience, hoping to take advantage of what mobile and tablet devices have to offer (Cool UI) to build stronger relationships with people (customers and prospective customers). But, let’s not forget that before you drove into work this morning, you were a consumer, using these devices and you were the target of these efforts, by some other company. The number of connected TV sales is expected to double in 2012, these same people are highly likely to have an Xbox, an iPod, Kindle, KindleFire or some other next generation device. Now, you are sitting in front of screen, your team is sitting in front of an even bigger screen, maybe with a headset connected and they are using circa 1990′s technology to help your customers. What gives?

Think about it, all of this effort which is customer facing and your internal teams are frankly having a lousy experience. Can we gamify work a bit, to make it more fun? Or is that pandering to misaligned expectations of a certain employee type or demographic? As a did in my previous post,  I turned to friend for some help and insight. I asked the question to Mark Tamis and we had a bit of an electronic conversation or Socratic debate. My going in position is the better employee experience will lead to a better customer experience, as this is the logical answer. But, as Mark points out, it is not that simple.

Does better user (employee) experience lead to better customer experience?

MT: First of all, I believe the question leads to trying to compare apples to pears.

ML: That is better than apples to oranges, no?

MT: French expression badly translated

MT: The customer has gone through a journey and his experience has been shaped by interactions at every touch point (dealing with your company, in-store experience, exchanging with friends, family and peers and so on), whereas the employee experience is shaped the interactions with colleagues, suppliers, systems and – only at very precise touch points – clients. So although the customer and the employee are intimately linked, they are not on the same journey.

ML: Valid point, but at that critical point where the journeys intersect will define many things and likely be more impactful to the customer. We have both been known to say that the experience perceived is more important than the intended design. Like most of life we spend most of the time learning and preparing for those moments where we have to act. While not on the same journey, the journey’s are linked and aligned.

MT: By the very nature of company-customer relations, the employee journey is sub altered to the customer journey which leads to the chicken and the egg problem of when a negative customer experience is taken out on an employee who is not able to or not empowered to do anything about it, which in turn leads to a negative employee experience that negatively influences the way the employee deals with the following customer et cetera.

ML: Very interesting, and I agree that the employee experience impacted by the customer experience and journey. I will suggest that the employee would only partially hold his own organization accountable for the treatment by the customer, unless it is a trend, and they are not empowered to do anything about it. While valid, employees should be able move beyond this type of reaction.

MT: Partially, but up to which point? Either stop trying to fight it and become demotivated, go on a crusade and risk being shot down, or simply…leave.

MT: Breaking this vicious circle consists of first by understanding the customer’s journey and coordinating efforts to improve it and second by providing the employees with the infrastructure (data, insight, tools and processes) and conditions (work conditions, a company culture that facilitates collaboration) to do so. Ultimately it comes down to reducing frictions (for the customer and for employees) to help the customer in his job to be done and reach the desired outcomes.

ML: Who is responsible and accountable for removing the fractions? It must be on the employee side, management etcetera, driving for a positive employee experience.

Mark, great stuff and I do appreciate your time and thoughts. I believe we are mostly aligned, though I will admit it is bigger and more complex than I had originally thought. The two journeys are different but it is those all important intersections where things happen. The key question is what will the state of mind (on each side) be at those points? Business units and IT departments will need to invest more in the design of services, for the internal customer. The expectations by everyone; not just the younger or Millenial crowd, are higher, and need to align with customer expectations. In order for a true person to person relationship to be established, experience must be aligned on both sides of the firewall. This is clearly not all about technology (yes, I do work for a technology vendor) but at the same time, technology is a huge part of the equation, there is no getting past that point. For contact center agents, their experience is critically important, and I believe there is a connection to customer experience – a big one.

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