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I've been talking about the importance of employees to the customer experience since my days at J.D. Power and Associates 20 years ago; sadly, in the heat of customer experience design efforts, employees are still forgotten. Company executives say: "We'll collect feedback from employees later. We'll incorporate employee input after we hear how our customers feel. We’ll do something for employees next year. We’ll think about our culture at another time. Let's start with customers." This is not in any way, shape, or form acceptable.
Without your employees, you have no customer experience. The linkage between employee engagement and customer experience has been proven. It's real, and your employees matter! If your employees aren't engaged with your improvement efforts or engaged overall with the organization, it will be very difficult for them to delight your customers; in very simple terms, this describes the spillover effect, defined as “the tendency of one person’s emotions to affect how other people around him feel.”
So, let's think about this for a second. Employees are critical to the customer experience, which is critical to the success of the business. But what tools do we give to employees to prepare them to deliver a great customer experience? I wrote previously about six tools to ensure employees have a clear line of sight to customers. I'm sure there are others.
Those tools are helpful, no doubt. But let's think back even further: there seems to be a step missing. Perhaps there's a precursor to all of those tools. Perhaps we need to understand our employees a bit better. Perhaps we need to find out what they know about customers and customer experience before we can offer up tools and training.
When consulting with a client, we typically perform a current state assessment of the organization to determine just that: where is the organization today in terms of its customer experience efforts and where are the gaps that need to be filled in order to (begin to) transform the experience and the organization. Having this information allows us to create a roadmap for the work that lies ahead.
What if we did an employee CX assessment at the same time? What if we asked employees what they know about customers and the customer experience? We then use the results to better frame our training efforts and to provide other (the right) tools needed to ensure employees have a clear line of sight to customers and are equipped to deliver the experience we need (and customers want) them to deliver.
I've used just such an assessment. It includes questions like:
- How do you define "customer?"
- Who are your customers?
- What are your customers trying to achieve when they interact with you?
- How do you deliver value to your customers?
- How do you define "customer experience?"
- Do you know what it means to deliver a great experience for your company?
- Do you know the difference between "customer service" and "customer experience?"
- Do you know the company's brand promise, vision, customer experience vision?
- And more...
By the way, this assessment doesn't necessarily just apply to frontline or back-office employees. It's an effective tool for understanding what executives know and don't know, as well. The key here is that this assessment allows us to develop tools and programs that help us ensure that everyone in the organization is on the same page and has the same level of knowledge and understanding about who the customer is and what it means to deliver a great experience.
I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing; and that is that I know nothing. -Plato