Employee Experience

What customer feedback can reveal about employee experience gaps

Aimee Lucas, CCXP // July 31, 2019 // 8 min read

Monitoring customer feedback can be immensely valuable to organizations, especially those that invest in the capabilities and processes to analyze and respond to that feedback. It surfaces a spectrum of opportunities, from addressing individual customer issues to uncovering strategic organizational improvements. Yet one opportunity is often overlooked, especially early in an organization’s experience management journey: uncovering gaps in the employee experience (EX).

A fundamental truth of customer experience (CX) is that it flows from the employee experience of an organization. That’s why one of our six laws of customer experience is “Unengaged employees don’t create engaged customers.”

That is the fundamental premise of the service-profit chain, which highlights the connection between employee experience elements (like job design, employee development processes, and employee enablement) and employee satisfaction with the results delivered to customers.

This virtuous cycle leads to more loyal customers and positive business outcomes for organizations. So when parts of the employee experience are not where they need to be, not only is employee engagement negatively impacted, but customer experience can be as well.

While employee insights can certainly help identify opportunities to improve the front end of the service-profit chain, customer feedback is in a unique position to reveal gaps in the employee experience that also impact CX, including:

Ineffective Processes and Policies

An organization’s processes and policies often form the bridge between what a customer wants to do and how an employee helps the customer be successful.

So when customers can’t accomplish what they seek to do with a company, their feedback can identify places where current processes are getting in the way. This might show up in feedback that highlights a customer’s frustration in having to be handed off from an employee to manager, or from department to department to get a transaction approved, or low scores regarding how easy a customer perceives an interaction to be.

Frustrating or difficult processes and policies are not only apparent to customers, but employees usually recognize them as well. Having to administer these with customers on a day-to-day basis can be equally frustrating to employees, especially when they have ideas and suggestions on how to make improvements that would benefit customers and employees alike.

Outdated Systems and Tools

Few experiences can be delivered without an employee using a system or tool to access information or complete a transaction. They are the engine that runs organizations, yet their capabilities often lag behind what’s needed to fully deliver on the desired CX strategy. Both experience and operational data from customer interactions can highlight outdated systems and tools that negatively impact CX by hampering employees.

Look for experience data (X-data) from customers citing the need to repeat information to employees or the apparent lack of their customer history being available when speaking to an agent, for example.

Operational data (O-data) could reveal longer call times caused by employees having to navigate through multiple screens or systems in order to see customer information or document interaction details, or an uptick in repeat calls on the same issue because the information in the agent’s system was incorrect or out of date.

Employees meanwhile may feel they are “stuck with” these outmoded systems and tools but that doesn’t mitigate their own irritation at having to use sub-optimal resources while on the job.

Misaligned Metrics and Incentives.

A common area of misalignment between CX goals and people processes are employee metrics and incentives. Because employees do what is measured, incentivized and celebrated, it’s important not to send mixed messages about the rewards employees can earn and the desired behaviors the organization expects from employees to deliver on its customer promises.

While feedback about high-pressure sales tactics or misplaced cross-selling offers is the obvious starting point to seek out in customer insights, organizations should also watch for feedback indicating customer dissatisfaction related to other key performance metrics and targets that employees strive to meet during customer interactions.

A better approach is for organizations to identify the specific behaviors that drive positive CX outcomes and redirect measures and recognition to encourage employees to align with those.

Missing Skills

While an organization may think it’s been clear with employees about how it wants them to treat customers, they can’t just magically be expected to do it. Despite an organization’s best efforts, skill gaps will exist that negatively impact CX.

While customer survey scores and comments may make these obvious, in other instances the gaps are identified during a deeper diagnosis of customer issues and root cause analysis. In whatever way they are discovered, if CX is important to the company then it needs to be agile in delivering the right training to employees in order to develop any missing skills.

Keep in mind this gap isn’t closed only through training interventions. Managers and supervisors need to be engaged to provide the necessary coaching and feedback as employees put these new skills in practice, making them a habitual part of how employees do their work.

How to get started using customer feedback to improve EX

Here are 3 steps to get you started on the road to employee experience improvements off the back of customer feedback:

  1. Start with what you have

    Chances are the customer feedback you’ve already collected has insights waiting to be discovered when it comes to employee experience gaps. Use your X-data to uncover operational situations that need addressing.You can do this by re-examining quantitative and qualitative data from surveys. Another option is to take advantage of speech analytics on contact center interactions and review key findings from QA processes involving customer interactions to look for any of the experience gaps identified above.In the reverse direction, look for negative trends and anomalies in operational data focused on employee-customer interaction points and dig into your customer feedback to determine if there are negative impacts on the experience.

  2. Involve employees in diagnosis

    When you identify quantitative or qualitative findings that indicate a possible gap, it’s a great time to involve employees in a deeper diagnosis about what is going on. Convene an employee council or workgroup to review customer feedback and share their observations about root causes and contributing factors.Often they can point to the systems, processes, or other items that are contributing to the negative customer experience. And don’t let their involvement end there. Employees should stay involved in helping to identify interim steps and more permanent solutions to closing their experience gaps that are contributing to a negative CX. An additional benefit of this step is that employee engagement is positively impacted when employees feel their feedback is asked for and acted upon by the organization.

  3. Adapt listening posts at key moments

    It’s impossible to monitor and measure every moment of a customer’s journey with your company, nor is it desirable. However, it is important to make sure you are gathering feedback at the key moments of those journeys - including those with heavy involvement by employees.Within those key moments, design your listening post to ensure that key drivers explore the impact employees have and help the organization uncover any employee experience gaps that are impeding customers’ success.

If you want to deliver a great customer experience, you also need to ensure you’re delivering a great employee experience. While often those two experiences are managed separately, there’s power in examining them together - including when leveraging feedback from one experience to improve the other.

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Aimee Lucas, CCXP

Aimee Lucas, CCXP is a contributor to the Qualtrics blog.

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