Frontline employees often know your customers best. And their ideas can lead to breakthrough moments – just ask Sony, Microsoft, and 3M who’ve all seen major breakthroughs in the past thanks to employee feedback. Find out how listening to employees could be the difference in delivering world-class customer experiences at your organization.

Let’s face it, the first place most of us look when it comes to customer experience is the customers themselves. But sometimes, employee feedback could just be the answer to finding your next breakthrough.

In fact there are plenty of examples of ‘intrapreneurship’ where frontline staff’s ideas have led to major product and customer breakthroughs.

Here are 3 of our favorites:

1. Sony PlayStation

Stand up Ken Kutaragi, a junior staff member at Sony who is credited with inventing the Sony PlayStation.

Frustrated by the pace of his daughter’s Nintendo, Ken began tinkering in his spare time with the machine and decided that the answer to a more powerful machine was to improve the product to have an independent sound card.

His bosses didn’t initially agree, but when Sony CEO saw what he’d been working on, he agreed the company should go into games consoles. Over 500 million console sales later, we can safely say Ken’s breakthrough paid off for his employer.

2. Post-it notes

Okay, not as high tech as a PlayStation, but Post-it notes would never have happened without employee feedback.

In 1980, one of 3M’s scientists had developed an adhesive that wasn’t as rock solid as traditional versions. But, he struggled to find a use for it.

That is until his colleague Art Frey had a problem of his own – his bookmarks kept falling out. And so the post-it note was born.

3. Microsoft Outlook

Our very own CXO Julie Larson Green tells the story of how Microsoft Outlook was created — by the company’s Excel team.

When the Excel team visited customers’ offices to gather feedback on the product, they got lots of feedback – ‘I wish it did this’, ‘I wish that worked a little better’ etc.

But most fascinating was something her team noticed that wasn’t talked about. There were sticky notes everywhere with deadlines, reminders, and workflow processes on them. It showed the team an unarticulated need around communications and scheduling, triggering the development of Outlook.

“It wasn’t until we visited their offices, went to where they were and where they were working and saw the environment that we could truly understand the gaps we had in the experience,” says Julie.

Watch more from Julie Larson Green

Breakthrough insights can come from anywhere

Think about your own experiences as a customer. When you last interacted with a company, who did you speak to?

Was it the marketing department?

The customer experience team?

Or the product design team even?

Probably not. Your primary interaction is almost always with frontline staff either in a store, over the phone or online.

So ask yourself, who knows your needs best?

It’s a simple analogy, and yes there are many caveats – after all, if your CX program is working well, the teams in the head office should hear the voice of every customer, across every channel.

But, however well you’re listening to customers, there’s no escaping the fact that employees are a rich source of feedback and insights which the vast majority of companies are leaving untapped.

Take an outside-in approach to customer feedback

Traditional customer feedback is almost entirely focused on a company’s HQ, in so far as that’s typically where customer surveys or feedback programs are designed.

It’s an outside-in approach to hearing the voice of your customers. And it’s a vital part of any program.

But new advances in technology have given us a richer view of what customers think, with the ability to pull feedback in from sources beyond traditional surveys such as social media, online chat or even phone conversations.

So we’re certainly heading in the right direction.

The next step however is to activate your employees to help close experience gaps. It’s particularly valuable when you have remote teams, physical stores or customer service centers where the people who engage with customers are not the people at HQ.

This outside-in approach puts your employees at the heart of your customer experience.

It gives a voice to shop assistants who can see that having the cash register at the front of the store is creating lines and preventing people from entering the store.

Their fix? Move the registers to the back to encourage customers to explore the whole store.

Or the car mechanics who hear first hand from customers that it’s incredibly frustrating when they aren’t given an exact time of arrival and miss their appointment slot.

Their fix? Live arrival time notifications and the option to reschedule appointments in your app.

Or the delivery driver who sees that when customers leave instructions to leave their package in a safe place, they can get through their deliveries much faster and reduce the number of late packages.

Their fix? Send customers a text the morning of their delivery to ask if they want the parcel delivered to a safe place. Simple.

3 breakthroughs that started with employees

Putting employees at the heart of the customer experience is not an entirely new approach – It’s more than just the customer experience, people love being heard

The customer is undoubtedly the winner when you empower your employees to be able to provide feedback and use their experience to help close the gaps.

It’s a winner for employee experience too.

We know from countless academic studies as well as the thousands of employee experience programs run on the Experience Management Platform™ that one of the key drivers of engagement and productivity is the customer outcome.

When people feel they’re making a difference, and that their feedback is acted upon, they’re much more likely to be engaged at work.

So it’s a win-win. Your customers are happy because you’re closing the experience gap. And your employees are happy because they’re making a tangible difference to customers.

Put your employees at the heart of your CX program with Frontline Feedback

We’ve just launched a new, scalable way to get feedback from your employees to help deliver rich insights to your customer experience program – Frontline Feedback.

Brands like Rogers Communications, New York Life Insurance and Alliance Healthcare are already using it to identify and prioritize employee insights and CX improvements.

It not only gives employees a way to provide feedback, but also play an active role in telling the team back at HQ what matters most. People can upvote, downvote and comment ideas to have their say too.

Back at HQ, you can see trending themes and organize the feedback with tags and categories to keep track of it all.

And because it’s on the Experience Management Platform™ you can follow the best suggestions all the way through the development process, with action-planning tools that make sure their insights drive real action.

See how Frontline Feedback works

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