The saying ‘happy employees equal happy customers’ is one of the biggest corporate cliches out there. And if you’ve ever been left helpless in a store while staff hung out in the backroom, you’ll know there’s a little more to it. But, there remains a lot of truth in the saying – so why is it that brands with the best customer experience (CX) start by mastering employee experience (EX), and what’s their trick?

They know frontline buy-in is as hard to get as senior buy-in

A lot of companies live with the notion that getting senior buy-in is the final and hardest step in launching a CX program. In reality, it’s neither. That may be disheartening to hear for CX teams fighting for budget approval and structural changes, but getting execs on board is just the start of the fun.

Your frontline staff are the ones that’ll be bringing your CX vision to life. And it’s they who’ll need to understand what’s expected of them, day in and day out.

You may be battling against a whole host of reservations, from reluctance to change, fear of getting things wrong, or apathy towards HQ directives.

But frontline staff need to believe they’re able to make unilateral decisions to step in and improve the experience for your customers on behalf of the organization. And that can be daunting for them and the organization as a whole. Which is why CX relies on making employees feel happy and engaged.

They recognize customers want to buy from a happy company

Or to put it another way: consumers do care if your employees hate working for you. We’ve all seen the big newspaper exposes on toxic working cultures – and while many brands ride out the initial negative PR, it has a lasting impact on your brand equity.

However, worse than one massive EX disaster is when a customer meets unhappy employees, again and again, and your organization doesn’t even know about it. It may not be overt unhappiness either – it might be its close relatives apathy, disinterest or anger.

 It’d be naive to discount price, convenience and all kinds of product preferences – but there’s no doubting that if your customers know your employees hate working for you, it will have an effect on overall CX. And it’ll certainly affect your chances of creating brand fanatics.

As Simon Sinek once tweeted, “Customers will never love a company unless employees love it first”.

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They know that happy employees =/= happy customers, but it’s close

Just like good CX doesn’t equal a successful company, the same is true when it comes to the connection with EX.

Employees may be happy for any number of reasons – but it doesn’t mean they know how to serve customers, or care about doing it. It’s more nuanced that, and comes down to solidifying the link between the employee and company mission. To an engaged employee, the company’s success is theirs as well.

On the flipside, a maniacal commitment to CX above all else might work for a while, but it won’t last. High staff turnover means you have fewer people who know how your company works and how to best serve customers; it might mean your key clients lose their favorite contacts at your company. And it won’t be long till skyrocketing hiring costs put a halt to your work.

Or, that veneer of perfect, seamless CX will be shattered when an employee of yours posts a video of the terrible working conditions.

They understand good CX requires HR to be onside

Ensuring that your commitment to CX doesn’t come at the detriment of EX means you can get HR bought in – and then things can really start to hum.

You can then incorporate CX questions into existing employee satisfaction surveys – finding out to what extent employees understand CX initiatives and feel confident enough to deliver on them. You can also pinpoint areas where going the extra mile for customers is putting too great a strain on employees and take steps to remedy it.

HR can help you embed CX in others ways, too:

  • Employee comms drive home the idea of serving the customer
  • Onboarding and training include sessions on customer-centricity
  • Performance appraisals include CX metrics
  • Awards and employee incentives are built around serving customers
  • Recruitment teams make sure new employees are up to the CX task

 They know the value of their employees’ ideas

Making CX a part of any employee engagement survey means you get rich insight into what your employees think would help customers. And the companies that have mastered CX listen to those ideas – after all, they’re based on first-hand experience.

Listening to your employees’ ideas and putting them into action creates a virtuous circle. That’s because when employee feel listened to, they’re more likely to take initiative. Which is key when you’re trying to create incredible ‘wow’ moments for customers. The inverse is also true – according to our latest employee engagement trends research survey, employees are 2x as likely to be actively disengaged if they think their manager ignores them.

And viewing employee feedback next to customer feedback can throw up incredible insights. For example, customers might complain about your website crashing all the time, but your employees will tell you it’s because your old systems are unfixable.

They know there’s an employee in almost every customer journey

In our digital age, some brands might be tempted to think they’ve solved the problem of unhappy employees hurting CX: remove the employees. Make everything automated and online, and remove the pesky human element.

But the brands that are winning at CX know that in every journey there’s a person involved. It could be when things go right, it could be when things go wrong.

They also recognize that humans have the ability to generate incredible experiences at the moments that matter, even overriding automated processes to go above and beyond customer expectations.

A CX team that’s purely focused on processes and tools won’t get far if they ignore people in the equation.

 They recognize how EX is a lot like CX

 One of the foundational elements of good CX is customer journey mapping.

Brands that have mastered CX take a similar approach to EX, moving away from siloed moments in someone’s career to looking at their full employee lifecycle. From recruitment and onboarding through to exit.

By doing this, you can identify those moments that matter most to employees and work out how you can drive CX behaviors at those points. For example, at the onboarding stage, maybe every new employee get the chance to meet a customer. Or customer feedback should be part of your quarterly appraisals, and be a key metric in promotion decisions.

Read more: 4 ways CX & EX have more in common than you think

 They’ve sussed that engaged workers will go further for the customer

 EX=CX? We know it’s not that simple, but it’s true that truly engaged employees work harder – and isn’t CX basically about going the extra mile for customers?

According to Temkin Group research, a staggering “91% of highly engaged employees always or almost always try their hardest at work, compared with 67% of disengaged employees”.

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