Can CX and EX Be Separate Any Longer?

Given the strong link between employees and customers, should customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) programs be managed together?

I have become somewhat of a collector of bad customer experiences. I’m often intrigued by the stories of friends and colleagues who have endured struggles with airlines, restaurants, internet providers and vendors they deal with in their jobs, and it’s interesting to consider why experiences turn bad.

Without a doubt, I’ve found that most involve an employee who is frustrated, not engaged, or not empowered in their job. Of course the opposite is true. A caring, engaged, empowered employee can make all the difference. As the saying goes, “happy employees make for happy customers.”

Given the strong link between employees and customers, should customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) programs be managed together? This has emerged as a popular topic among customer experience leaders, and this article examines why it makes sense, considers obstacles to anticipate and offers ways to get started.

The Clear Link Between Employees and Customers

It’s amazing how much employee and customer experiences have evolved. It used to be that an employee was simply happy to have a job that paid a decent wage. Today, employees demand much more. They want to work in a fulfilling environment that supports their beliefs, ambitions and work/life balance.

For customers, it’s no longer simply about low prices or good quality. They’ll favor one company over another if the experience is better. This evolution of the experience has changed the way CX and EX programs are managed. It’s not enough to focus on measuring satisfaction of employees and customers. Instead, CX and EX programs are much more proactive, focused on intentionally designing the optimal experiences for customers and employees.

It’s also important to recognize that employees have many of the answers to customer experience issues. In particular, frontline employees — clerks, cashiers, account managers, contact center reps, and others — interact with customers every day. They know their thoughts, their feelings and their frustrations.

And yet, most companies don’t do enough to take advantage of this rich resource in a regular, reliable way. Asking employees what really matters to customers can be one of the most practical and efficient ways to identify issues that need the most attention.

Finally, it’s important to realize that every customer issue involves employees, and every employee issue affects customers. For instance, if your company decided to change the way they take orders, deliver goods, offer support, or any other part of the experience, the role of employees will change. Conversely, if your company puts new policies in place or reorganizes departments, it will affect the way customers are served.

By looking at CX and EX holistically as one entity rather than two, it is more likely the interests of both customers and employees will be considered.

Related Article: Why It’s Time to Embrace Employee Experience

Combining CX and EX — Obstacles to Anticipate

Clearly, customer and employee experiences have a tightly woven relationship. But does that mean you should combine your CX and EX programs? At a minimum, I believe they should be closely aligned, designed with each other in mind, and in close communication.

However, there are some practical factors to consider. The most obvious is that most organizations currently have separate and distinct programs for CX and EX that are run by completely different people. Employee experience programs are almost always administered by human resources, while customer experience is typically managed by a group that reports into marketing, quality or strategic planning.

To get started, the two groups need to connect, to understand their respective programs, and to consider how they can collaborate together.

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