Most business leaders agree that the key to success in the modern economy is to deliver a great customer experience. Consumers have more choices than ever, and they engage with businesses using a variety of channels. When they have positive interactions with company representatives, that translates into a positive experience with the company — and higher sales and customer loyalty.
Because of that dynamic, it makes sense for companies that want to improve the customer experience to invest in a great employee experience. But the pandemic has changed workplaces, shifting the balance from legacy employee loyalty norms and overturning established expectations. There’s been a shift in how employees think about their careers and personal lives.
Today, employees expect more from employers, and they are ready to move on if they don’t get what they want and need. Leaders planning for a post-pandemic workplace must learn to improve the employee experience in a changing environment to ensure employees continue to deliver a great experience for customers.
The Link Between the Employee and Customer Experience
Navigating an altered workplace can be challenging for employers, who need to keep experienced people on board in a tight labor market. If you’re facing that challenge, an important first step is recognizing that workplace expectations have changed and realizing that cultivating employee loyalty is a continuous process. It can’t be addressed with a one-off gesture like adding a new perk or benefit.
Instead, think about offering incentives that address employees’ personal, professional and financial well-being. The incentives will vary depending on your company, industry and employee population. In cases where it’s possible, it might mean maximizing flexibility so employees can work from home when needed. It may mean offering training opportunities so employees can advance in their preferred career path. And it might mean offering bonuses and rewards for outstanding performance.
But in all cases, keep in mind that when customers encounter employees, whether on the phone, in person or via a chat window, a happy, productive and efficient employee will have the best chance to turn that encounter into a satisfied customer. In addition to thinking about how to address employee needs, keep in mind that all roles are interconnected. An appointment-setter in a call center has a direct effect on how a sales meeting goes. The sales meeting affects how an installation proceeds.
For that reason, integrating everyone into the company culture and making sure that all employees understand how colleagues fit into the big picture is crucial. To address this, consider creating a formal onboarding process for new employees that gives them a behind-the-scenes look at how other departments function. When people understand how their role intersects with jobs outside of their department, they’re better equipped to be team players.
Cultivating a “People First” Mentality — And Measuring Progress
While most leaders understand that the workplace dynamic has changed, many are unsure about how to address that in practical terms. What do employees want now? The simplest way to find out is to ask them. There are many ways to sound employees out, including surveys, all-hands meetings, and informal methods like stopping by workstations, asking questions and listening closely to responses.
Once you’ve taken a representative sample, you can divide feedback into categories, so you’ll have a better idea of the consensus opinion of your workforce. Benefits packages tend to be similar, so you may have to be more creative about what to change to improve employee satisfaction. One way to approach this is to ask employees what frustrates them on the job and then provide tools that solve the problem. Consider investing in tools and technologies that make their jobs easier.
Measurement is also an important component of understanding the employee experience at your workplace. At my company, we conduct net promoter score (NPS) surveys to get an overview of employee sentiment at the macro level. These surveys help us understand general employee satisfaction. We also survey new employees at the 14-, 90- and 365-day mark to see how time changes perceptions.
Survey questions for new hires include queries about technology access, satisfaction with benefits, whether they feel their skills are used effectively, how they feel about growth opportunities, whether they plan to stay with us, and whether they feel their values align with the company. The survey cadence lets us know where we need to address issues to improve the employee journey instead of waiting for exit interviews after it’s too late to fix.
Don’t Forget the People Behind the Numbers
HR is more metrics-driven these days, and data can help people leaders be more intentional and effective about developing policies and programs. That said, it’s critical not to lose sight of people while crunching the numbers. In the simplest terms, a people-first organization treats its people right. If you keep that in mind and consistently do the right thing, you’ll demonstrate people-first values.
At the end of the day, treating people with consideration and respect creates a happier workplace and a better experience for employees. And employees who have a positive experience at work are more likely to consistently deliver a positive experience to customers. So, the best way to improve your customer experience is to focus on employees and find out how their experience has changed. If you can respond to the changes effectively, you’ll create a real advantage for your company.