Can You Have It All?

Making employees’ jobs easier makes customer experience better, by almost all accounts. Where do CIOs come in on this business imperative?

For a long time, customer and employee experiences have been considered separate things. But COVID-19 surfaced for many the interconnectedness of each. As we all move into a post COVID new normal, the question is how leaders transform both in lock step with each other.

According to the research of Andrew Chamberlain at Glassdoor Economic Research, “customer and employee satisfaction should be seen as two sides of the same coin. There is a strong statistical link between employee well-being reported on Glassdoor and customer satisfaction among a large sample of some of the largest companies today.”

And while employees can do heroics to deal with the silos and spaghetti experiences, I would contend that making employees jobs easier makes customer experience better.

But what do CIOs think?

Relationship Between Customer and Employee Experiences

Before delving into what drives customer and employee experiences, I want to first dig into the CIOs perspectives on relationship and causality. First CIO Deb Gildersleeve says, “A bad employee experience will find its way to the customer experience. You want to continually invest in and improve the employee experience so employees can focus on what is best for the customer instead of fighting systems and processes to get their work done.”

Given this, Michigan State CIO Melissa Woo astutely adds, “The experiences of customers and those who provide services must be aligned.” City of Asheville CIO Jonathan Feldman agrees with Woo and says, “EX absolutely drives CX. Employees have more power than ever before. Even before the pandemic, they had information symmetry — in the same way that we have an information advantage over yesterday’s car buyer and salesperson, today’s employees have an advantage over pre-digital employees and bosses.”

For this reason, author Isaac Sacolick claims, “Siloed experiences with no/subpar connection from sales, marketing, to customer support functions with customer journeys and product/service usage? That is a road to disruption.”

It seems clear that if a company’s digital transformation is focused on the customer, they need to understand the tie between employee experience and customer experience. They are intertwined. As such they need to be aligned. For this reason, it does not make sense to think of them separately.

How many CMOs think this way?

Related Article: Digital Trailblazer: Drive Consequential Digital Transformations

Listen to Voice of the Customer

Now that we have established a causal relationship, let us examine what is involved in transforming customer experience. According to Gildersleeve, everything should start by following the customer journey to find points of friction to work on. You need to find different ways of interacting with customers to learn where things could work better, she said.

This starts by talking to customers. And the definition of customers’ needs to change. In the new book, “Future Ready,” the authors tell the story of CEMEX. “While in the past, IT had relied on input from the business managers, they now developed systematic, continuous conversations with the customers of all new developments.” For this reason, Miami University CIO David Seidl, says CIOs need to, “Find ways to listen to the voice of the customer and not just the loud ones. How you listen varies from organization to organization and need. As a customer, my short list would be:

  1. Make it easy to interact with you.
  2. Try to follow through consistently, and identify when and where interactions fail.
  3. Find ways to get feedback from a diverse and broad range of customers.
  4. Use it yourself so you see where processes go wrong.”

Related Article: EX and CX Come Down to the Same Thing: Put the Person First

Transforming Customer Experience Starts With Employee Experience

With CIOs and IT leaders connected to customers, it is important to take a holistic view of the whole experience including all aspects of employee experience. That view if properly put together should provide a wealth of information on needed improvements. According to Feldman, “The biggest thing an organization can do to transform customer experience is to evaluate the organization’s employee experience and take steps to improve it. This creates a virtuous cycle that will retain the right employees and create a better company reputation to attract more good employees.”

With a supportive employee experience in place, Woo says, “walk the proverbial mile in the customer’s shoes. The example I often use in higher education is to walk — both physically and virtually — through the onboarding of a new student. It is usually a disjointed experience involving multiple offices.”

Wow, I remember going into a cage and getting a bunch of punch cards to sign up for classes. The question is how much easier is the experience today? In terms of how to complete the process, analyst Dion Hinchcliffe says, “It is important to put one CXO in charge of end-to-end customer experience. This will nearly guarantee dramatic improvement. Beyond this, it is critical to deeply empathize with the customer in the journey. Design thinking can help this process, as well as getting profoundly immersed in their needs. With this knowledge you have everything to design a digital customer experience.”

Removing the ‘Drudgery and Repetitiveness’ of Employee Experience

It is clear that CIOs think that employee experience is an antecedent to customer experience. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the percentage that thought this way was small. But the great resignation made the need to respond clear to every organization.

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