Employees Are the New Customers



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This article was written by Rick Reilly and originally appeared in Advertising Week.

We’ve all felt the effects of the Great Resignation. From slashed store hours to longer waits in the checkout line, the ongoing labor shortage has shown us what is lost when the employee experience becomes disrupted.

Businesses are struggling to do more with less—and consumer patience is waning. Once forgiving of less-than-ideal experiences during the pandemic, consumers now expect brands to return to pre-COVID levels of service; that’s on top of their newfound expectations for easy and convenient digital options. But the real puzzle is how to cultivate an engaged workforce with fewer and less-tenured employees.

1 in 2 marketing professionals say improving customer experience is a goal for 2022; yet the piece that’s often overlooked in CX management is the employee. The truth is that ongoing churn isn’t just a Human Resources issue, but a threat to the integrity of your customer experience and, ultimately, your brand reputation. Here are four reasons why an investment in employee experience is imperative to the success your CX engagement strategy:

1. Tenured Employees Yield Better Experiences

The Great Reshuffle is happening before our eyes, and as a result we are now relying on less proficient employees to deliver higher-quality experiences. Coupled with the added complexity of new digital capabilities fast-tracked during the pandemic, the result is inconsistency and a diminished customer perception of value.

Seasoned employees are the best-skilled, most-informed stewards of your brand. Employees that stay with your company long-term strengthen your brand’s ability to deliver a consistent, high-quality customer experience. But when employees leave, they take that invaluable knowledge with them, diminishing the continuity of your experience. By proactively making a commitment to improve your employee experience now, you can motivate employees to stay, directly benefiting your CX later.

2. A Stable Culture Creates the Environment for High Performance and Innovation

While brands acknowledge the role cultural health plays in an organization, many miss the mark in understanding what it takes to maintain a culture around customer-centricity.  While you might map out your CX strategy in a document, culture is how that strategy is manifested by your people. The key to success involves intentionally managing expectations and consistently executing against them.

Companies that recognize and reward employees for their value as contributors to a shared mission benefit the most from the meaningful interactions that result. It is these organic connections between brands and their employees that nurture a fulfilled, productive workforce—one that chooses, time and time again, to passionately spark innovation and uphold an exceptional customer experience.

3. Employee Experience Drives Revenue

The time-tested Service-Profit Chain model reveals why: profit is stimulated by customer loyalty, which is a result of customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is influenced by the value provided to customers, generated by knowledgeable, satisfied employees. Employee satisfaction is derived from the presence of high-quality support services and policies that empower them to perform at their best.

Imagine the ROI if companies approached the employee experience with the same level of sophistication and rigor as the methodologies once only reserved for the customer experience. From mapping out the rational and emotional aspects of the employee journey to designing an intentional strategy that inspires and sustains a culture of shared values and trust, reimagining your employee experience proves a valid exercise for fueling performance.

4. People Seek Purpose-Led Companies That Treat Employees Well

Like culture, brand reputations are shaped by people. Employees know your brand best and can be its biggest advocates or harshest critics. Consumers and potential employees often look to employee sentiment around the brands for guidance. Whether it’s raising the minimum wage, speaking out against racial injustice, or taking measures to protect front-line workers, social consciousness has become the expectation. There is no longer room for neutrality, yet only 40% of marketers are “extremely confident” in their ability to cultivate a mission-driven brand. If brands hope to improve their CX and attract top talent, they must also commit to demonstrating humanity and empathy in their business—and that starts by walking the talk with employees.

It turns out that what’s good for employees is also good for companies, and it’s time to recognize your employee experience as a high-impact investment in your brand. Because it’s at these times—when things seem their most difficult and uncertain—when brands have the best opportunity to truly differentiate and create a meaningful impact for the people they serve…and that’s not just for customers anymore.