Why putting employees first leads to a profitable customer experience


Imagine you just came back from an unplanned trip to your aging parents and have a package you want to return, but it’s been over 30 days. You try to resolve the issue yourself and spend 10 minutes on the company’s website; you even try the automated chatbot, the dreaded last resort. Nothing. You search for a phone number, and after some digging, you finally uncover it. You’re definitely a little irritated, and to top it off, the recorded message announces, “For faster service, go to our website, where you can quickly find everything you need.” After being on hold for 15 minutes, you finally connect with an agent…

Now let’s flip this scenario and see it all from the agent’s side. You’ve been taking back-to-back calls. Your calls are longer than usual because requests are more complicated, requiring you to toggle between several back-end systems. When you find the answer, your company policy doesn’t allow you to do what you know is right for the customer. You start to get irritated with customers that don’t understand that you have no alternative and that it’s not up to you. You get a little curt, stop trying to explain and rush off the call because staying on longer just to keep repeating that there’s nothing you can do will negatively impact your performance.

Do you think that employee has influenced your customer’s experience on the phone? The answer is yes. And the ramifications are that they are significantly less likely (58 percent) to purchase again and, if they were soured enough by their experience (62 percent) more likely to tell others to avoid buying from you, too.

Creating happy work environments

But what may not be as obvious is that the product team responsible for the digital experience, the finance team responsible for the 30-day return policy and the marketing team that didn’t make the policy clear also impacted the customer’s experience. All of your employees impact the customer experience; even when an employee isn’t on the front lines and in direct contact with a customer.

Not only do they impact customers through the business decisions they make, but they also impact the customer by creating work environments in which people are excited or unexcited. Happier, more engaged employees not only deliver better customer experiences, they also build better customer experiences. And these result in tangible benefits to your business. Research by PwC reveals that companies that put their employees first are four times more profitable, and, because of their engaged employees, outperform their competition by a whopping 147 percent in earnings per share, according to Gallup.

The principles of great employee experience

Why do companies with great EX result in greater profitability? Great EX is founded on a handful of principles, which, when combined, result in the perfect environment for collaboration, innovation, and differentiation, which are core to sustainable growth.

Purpose and alignment

A sense of purpose and alignment lies at the heart of a captivating employee experience. You need to inspire employees. And announcing the next financial goal is not inspirational. Think of how what your company does directly impacts its customer. Ideally, this comes from the CEO with a strong mission, vision and purpose, but if that’s not in place and you can’t influence that (yet), start on your team and build that for them.

Trust and empowerment

When you build a foundation of trust in your teams, employees feel psychologically safe – they can be their genuine selves and challenge with no fear of retribution. They feel comfortable bringing their diverse perspectives to the conversation, which enriches the outcome of the problem-solving. And when employees are trusted, they are empowered to make decisions. Empowered employees are catalysts for innovation and growth. They fearlessly try because they know that “failure” is an opportunity to learn and will be received as such.

Give a crap

It used to be that employees were advised to leave their personal lives at home, but if you want a team that’s dedicated to making a difference, then they need to know that someone cares about them beyond their performance. Start by sharing more personal aspects of your life and being vulnerable. Your vulnerability will have a cascading effect, and others will do the same.

After establishing these core elements, your team will feel psychologically safe enough to freely challenge, debate and bring forth unconventional ideas, which is the environment that enables exponential growth. How do I know if my employees are engaged and happy? And how can you know what to change and prioritize what needs to change?

The simple answer is, ask. If your company is small enough, this can be a survey asking:

  1. Do you feel you can be your authentic self at work?

  2. Do you feel you’re empowered to make decisions?

  3. Do you feel that someone at work cares about you?

Just make sure you have the infrastructure and resources to absorb and action the information you gather from this surveying. There’s little worse than asking people for their feedback and then doing nothing about it.

If you’re a larger company, you’ll likely benefit from more robust tools that help decipher your employees’ responses, prioritize which issues to tackle and even suggest what action to take. These types of tools, like Apex, use AI to derive the true emotional drivers of employee engagement or lack thereof and provide a score that senior executives can easily track.

Great customer experiences depend upon employees who are happy and truly engaged in their workplace. Every employee, whether interacting directly with customers or shaping behind-the-scenes decisions, contributes to the customer experience. By cultivating an environment where purpose is woven into daily tasks, trust serves as the bedrock for healthy debate, and genuine connections are nurtured, companies can reap profound rewards with an impressive impact on profitability.

Michelle Martinez is a CCNG Academy member, experienced leader with a strategic and logical approach, emphasizing servant-led leadership and fostering collaboration. Michelle brings her extensive background in B2B/B2C/D2C organizations, including ownership of customer experience, client success and contact center operations to the benefit of fellow CCNG members and industry colleagues.

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