Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Treat Employees Better Than Customers

Image courtesy of interestedbystandr
I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem. It appeared on their blog on March 19, 2015.

"Treat employees better than customers."

What? Isn't that sacrilegious?

There's a huge debate in life: what came first, the chicken or the egg? In business, the debate is: who comes first, the customer or the employee?

The answer is more obvious than it might seem: it must be the employee, even if it's just slightly more first than customers.


There is a clear and solid linkage between the employee experience and the customer experience that is solidly supported by data and statistics. The problem is, many companies still refuse to make the employee experience a priority, focusing instead on shareholder value, the bottom line, and/or the customer experience (first) without considering the implications of a poor employee experience on all of the above.

What gives?

Perhaps we don't want to just "treat employees better;" maybe it's more about doing right by employees and putting just as much, if not slightly more, effort into the employee experience. Right now, that's not happening nearly often enough, if at all.

Too many executives have the mindset that they'll focus on the employees and their experience "later." This isn't healthy. Without your employees, you have no customer experience. Remember, people buy from people. The linkage between customer experience and employee engagement has been proven. It's real, and your employees matter! If your employees aren't engaged, 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 where do you begin? How do you ensure that the employee experience within your organization is optimal?

When it comes to designing a great employee experience, the steps are really not much different from designing a great customer experience: we must first understand - because we cannot transform something we don't understand. So we start with employee understanding. I would recommend that you start that understanding phase/exercise with the candidate experience and then understand how that bleeds into the employee experience, should the candidate choose to accept your offer.

How do we do that? There are three steps that become the foundation for designing a great employee experience.

1. Develop employee personas.
Personas are fictional characters and create realistic representations of the most significant employee groups. They are derived through both qualitative and quantitative primary research and include vivid narratives, images, and other details that help companies understand the needs of their employees; they also outline motivations, goals, behaviors, challenges, likes, dislikes, objections, and interests of the employees. To humanize and to bring the persona to life, so people can clearly relate, give each one a human face and name.

The personas will likely include details about department, tenure, career goals, age, interests outside of the immediate job at hand, and more.

2. Map the employee journey for a variety of tasks that employees do every day

Journey mapping creates awareness for the steps that an employee takes to do whatever it is that he's trying to do within the organization. Take a look at major tasks, likely identified as a result of employee feedback (from surveys, suggestions boxes, conversations with managers, stay interviews, exit interviews, etc.), that you want to map, conduct mapping workshops, talk to employees about the steps they go through to do each task, and identify key moments of truth. These maps must be created in the employee voice and validated by employees.

Maps really brings the employee experience to life, allowing company leadership to understand what employees are going through as they complete some task, as well as to create that empathy that is equally important to creating a great employee experience as it is to creating a great customer experience. Maps will facilitate a culture transformation - to employee-centric and customer-centric.

Check out the webinar I did with Intradiem's VP of Marketing, Kyle Antcliff, for more details about employee journey mapping.

3. Listen to employees and incorporate their feedback into experience and process improvements
There are a lot of ways to listen to employees, as I noted above: from surveys to suggestion boxes to conversations to stay interviews.  The important thing is, when you capture their feedback, you must act on it - you must do something with it. Nothing frustrates employees more than when they tell their managers that something is wrong or takes too much effort, and managers don't really listen and certainly don't act on what they've been told.

With those three foundational steps in place, you're equipped with the information you need to design and deliver a great experience for your employees.

That's important because, when employees have a great experience with their employers, not only does it translate to a great customer experience but also leads to employees become raving fans of the brand and of the organization. Raving (employee) fans...

  • want to see the company succeed and grow
  • do whatever it takes to make that happen
  • provide feedback, good or bad, to support the business success
  • are more likely to stay
  • openly and actively recruit new employees
  • recommend their friends and family work for the company
  • share their joy and passion with customers (and other employees)
  • are more able to sell something they believe in
  • are company evangelists and spread the word about the brand
  • wear the brand and want to show that they are part of something bigger than themselves

Because of that enthusiasm and passion for the brand, for the business, employees are eager to contribute to its success. And when we're all working together for the success of the business, I believe that, ultimately, customers will win, too. As will your shareholders.

Treat fellow employees the way you want the customer to be treated - maybe even better. -Shep Hyken


  1. If you have ever worked somewhere where customers are treated better than employees then you know how important this is. Thanks for sharing this topic Annette.

  2. As you say Annette you can’t have a good customer experience without engaged frontline staff. As well as focusing on their experience and listening to them, you need to ensure they have what they need to deliver great CX to customers. Forrester has set out three capabilities you need to empower staff – access to information, ability to interact with others and the ability to change context. There’s more on the subject in this Eptica blog post http://www.eptica.com/blog/3-capabilities-needed-empower-customer-service-employees

    1. Thanks, Pauline, for sharing that blog post. I agree with your point that the experience combined with the tools to deliver a great CX are important.

  3. So true Annette, without a doubt the best company I ever worked for was Mars Inc. They treated their employees exceptionally well.

    It didn't appear to do the Mars family any harm.

  4. Hi Annette,
    I'm sure there is a link between how developed the employee experience is and the customer experience.


  5. Sorry Annette, but I have to disagree on this one. I'm not disagreeing that employee experiences are important and that they are not deserving of our attention to improvement, yet value co-creation doesn't happen if customer needs are secondary. Customers have choice of vendors with proposed value, and employees of said vendors have responsibility and resources to deliver on the proposed value. To emphasize the value employees offer over the value customers bring to co-create is getting the cart before the horse. You can have the hap-hap-happiest employee experience in the world, but if the value proposition doesn't deliver a really good customer experience (either from an emotionless, unpaid, unfeeling, automated software system or an engaged and invested employee) then the customer is likely to take their value co-creation elsewhere; and how does that help our beloved employee who was counting on receiving some share of the value that wasn't created?

    IF your assertion is really the case, then you need to change your website to be EX-Journey for the Employee Experience Journey. That will certainly garner a following...

    1. I always love and appreciate when someone challenges my thinking, but I have to disagree. It's definitely a chicken-and-egg scenario, but without employees, we have no one to create the products or to deliver the service that meets the needs of the customer and that create value.

      I'll have to stick with CX Journey as the site name, too. :-) I like to write about all things that lead to - and result from - delivering a great customer experience.

  6. This is really an important and controversial question that who comes first the customer or the employees. For an organization, it is quite better to make a balance in between employees and customers, so that they can easily tackle problems. Here from this article, we learn some basic things about employees and customer and who comes first. Thanks for describing such important issues.
    Business Coach