The convergence of customer and employee experience

It’s amazing how the injection of competition can transform customer service. As soon as there’s choice, loyalty can no longer be taken for granted. As soon as people can take their custom elsewhere, brands must take stock. Suddenly, creating loyalty matters.

This perhaps explains why in these times of relative full employment, when employees can follow the very customer services notion of taking themselves elsewhere, employers are seeing a parallel expectation to provide a great employee experience (EX) as well as great customer experience (CX).

We believe HR leaders can embrace this convergence by:

  1. Rethinking what employee experience is
  2. Getting the onboarding process right
  3. Using technology to hyper-personalise experiences

Rethinking the employee experience

“It’s just so obvious,” says Jo Causon, chief executive of the Customer Services Institute. “People don’t just stop being customers because they go to work. If anything, the experience employees want from their workplace is all the more important to them because of the time they spend there. So, if employers get it wrong, the sense of being let down is just as disappointing, if not more so.”

According to Ms Causon, because employees are more aware of skills shortages, it means it is they who have the upper hand and are more prepared to up sticks to find a company that will appeal to them.

The experience employees want from their workplace is all the more important to them because of the time they spend there.

Data shows 55 per cent of consumers will consider a company’s values when making purchases, but this is now being mirrored in terms of how people join companies, with 71 per cent of jobseekers saying they’d take a pay cut to secure their ideal job – one that combines the right blend of responsibilities, benefits, company culture and growth opportunities.

This perhaps explains why a growing number of organisations have a created a global head of EX role – or similar – in the last five years. After Airbnb created one such role, it quickly went on to top Glassdoor’s 50 Best Places to Work list.

Innovations Airbnb has introduced include offering so-called landing stations that enable employees to work where they want, asking what food employees want provided and creating a group called Ground Control, which is responsible for bringing the company’s culture to life through its workspace environment, internal communications, employee events, celebrations and recognition programmes. In 2016, Airbnb received 180,000 CVs for just 900 positions.

Robert Ordever, managing director of O.C. Tanner Europe, a HR consultancy, says: “The employee experience, which 92 per cent of employees describe as their ‘everyday’ experience, is all about the micro-experiences that shape life at work, day after day. It used to be commonplace for organisations to want to deepen their connection with customers; the next frontier is deepening their connection with employees because it’s what employees want.”

the hive employee experience

The impact of a great onboarding experience

A new employee’s experience with a company starts before they even join, from the pre-joining material they receive, to the on-the-day process of setting up their new computer. According to a recent survey, employees who experienced effective onboarding returned customer satisfaction-style loyalty; they were 18 times more likely to feel highly committed to their organisation and were 30 times more likely to have high job satisfaction.

More and more organisations are now understanding this link. At Fuller’s Brewery in the UK, onboarding was recently overhauled by introducing new employees to e-learning prior to officially joining and then continuing it once they arrive. Despite setting a tough 70 per cent pass rate, the new learning it has introduced has achieved a 64 per cent completion rate of five different modules.

Erol Mustafov, e-learning content manager at Fuller, Smith & Turner, says: “The plan going forward is to provide content tailored for each individual job role as part of us saying here’s a structured career pathway. We started this because we found the experience of providing real personal development was something people perceived as very important, up there with spending time with family and having a good work-life balance.

We found the experience of providing real personal development was something people perceived as very important

“We did a lot of initial research to identify what courses suited each job role and will be looking at the backend analytics to understand exactly how the courses are beneficial, what subjects are most popular, so we can continue improving what we offer.”

The role onboarding plays in shaping how people perceive their employer cannot be underestimated. Data from Glassdoor shows organisations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82 per cent and see productivity gains of more than 70 per cent as a result of creating happier employees.

Hyper-personalisation and use of technology

“Creating experiences for employees should be seen equally as that of creating them for consumers and should simply be part of an enterprise’s main role,” argues Liz Fealy, principal, people advisory services at EY.

But it’s certainly the case that technology deployed poorly can create a bad experience and even before employees actually join, with career site Zety’s recent Ideal Candidate Experience research finding 60 per cent of candidates abandon the recruitment process because of prolonged online processes.

Creating experiences for employees should be seen equally as that of creating them for consumers

“Organisations need to look at the end to end employee experience (not just the HR lifecycle) to really evaluate if they are enabling employees to serve clients and empowering them to help themselves. CHROs can be the cross functional sherpa of the employee experience leveraging personas to map the experience.” says Ms Fealy.

Not enough firms look at their organisations’ “white spaces”, the little-known aspects about working in organisations that contribute to or detract from the experience. “Our own PX360 (People Experience 360) platform captures X and O data to visualize the highlights and pain points,” she says.

The whole point of being hyper-personal is that “workplace design needs to morph into experiential design, where you increase delight and decrease the number of barriers or difficulties employees might have doing their job”, says Ms Fealy.

Get hyper-personalisation right and it makes a big difference. Although the 2019 Employee Experience Imperative report finds fewer than half (48 per cent) of employees felt their company was investing in making their experience on the job better, when they improved this, their feelings also changed. It concludes: “By creating beautiful and meaningful experiences and an environment where work gets done efficiently, employers will benefit from a more engaged and productive workforce.”

Putting employee experience first

It’s clear there’s a growing consensus forming that if firms first value the EX they give, then the experience employees give to customers follows.

Lindsay Willott, chief executive of Customer Thermometer, concludes: “Customer and employee experiences are intrinsically linked, and businesses need to care fanatically about both to maximise growth and success. With the arrival of Generation Z in the workplace – those that have grown up in a connected world – the need for better employee experience is only heightened.

“Not only do these people have an innate understanding of personal branding and marketing that comes from publishing news about themselves on Facebook and Instagram, they are also the feedback generation. They are used to liking people’s Facebook posts, retweeting, even leaving feedback about businesses.

“The key is this: employees who feel listened to and supported are nearly five times more likely to feel engaged at work. If their satisfaction isn’t regularly measured, then every employee will be fighting internal battles just to be productive.”