Forgetting about your customers, even for a second, may seem unthinkable to anyone with a CX responsibility, especially in today's life and times. However, customer experience powerhouses like Disney, Zappos, Vanguard and TD Bank have built their success—and in some cases, their empires—on figuring out the employee experience first. They know that the route to better CX starts with making sure your employees are taken care of, which includes empowering them to make better decisions, providing the tools and training they need to make those decisions, and fostering the mindset and behaviors that spark loyalty and trust among customers.
So, instead of worrying about what people outside of the organization think, you must first look internally. Do employees believe in your CX vision? Do your colleagues have a voice? Do your employees love your brand? Spoiler: No one else will until that happens.
In The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek unpacks this concept and examines how most leaders have a knee-jerk reaction to their priorities. Of course, they think, revenues should be first, followed by customers and then employees. Sinek argues that this is exactly backward: Revenues and customers may be the fuel that keeps the engine running, but your employees should always be your priority in good times and in bad. That’s perhaps more important now than it has ever been as we figure out a new normal around the pandemic.
At Navigate, we’ve been lucky to work with and guide several global leaders who just “get it” when it comes to the critical role their employees play in the customer experience. Here are examples of how and where they focused on employees to drive better CX.
What do you do when you’re a pioneer in the biotech industry facing stiff competition from startups and biosimilar drugs? You embrace new ways of working that elevate employees, which is how we helped Genentech on their journey from top-down decision-making approach to small, empowered employee teams focused on innovation. We dug in deep with one of their divisions to help them adapt to an Agile-inspired, flexible, scalable and adaptable framework—at a time when change fatigue was a very real concern for their associates.
In the words of one executive, this new approach “stopped people in their tracks”—in a very good way.
Why did it work?
- It was employee-driven: The brain trust behind the new way of working was a hybrid group of respected employees from across the organization. Their diversity led to a richer vision for the future based on frontline experience, which was a far cry from the typical top-down strategy.
- The patient stayed in focus: Although these new ways of working were “of the employee and by the employee,” it allowed all participants to keep patients and health outcomes in focus. They were not done independently; rather, these employee programs were done in concert with company goals and operating principles to change patients’ lives for the better.
- It had employee buy-in: So many change initiatives fail because they lack buy-in, but this program was different. Since employees helped to structure the program, they naturally supported its vision. In fact, more than 50% of staff across the division participated in implementation
Focusing on Employees in the CX Feedback Loop
A global healthcare solutions company powered by tens of thousands of employees completed a series of major acquisitions that increased the complexity of their organization. Many customers interact with more than one entity within their constellation of sister companies. While CX has always been their priority, they realized there had to be a better way to onboard customers. We helped them revamp their onboarding to align with their CEO’s vision for more cohesive operations across their divisions.
Together, we decreased customer onboarding time by 24% and streamlined workflow and communications to reduce work effort by 37%. As a result, customer satisfaction measures improved by 36%.
Why did it work?
- Employees gained a new vision: We conducted 40+ interviews to dive deeper into the customer onboarding experience, the results of which gave employees a fresh perspective and broader vision. It helped them evolve from customer-focused to customer-centric.
- Employees gained new appreciation for the customer voice: As in our last example, employee buy-in was integral to success. Once employees understood how to prioritize the customer voice in everything they did, they got on board. As one executive encapsulated it, “Once people understood that the customer perspective and experience would be our guiding light, it unlocked an openness to change at all levels of the organization.”
- Changes were “bite-sized” and efficient: We piloted and rolled out new solutions through “Agile pods,” which enabled the organization to pressure test new approaches in a controlled way before they were implemented more broadly. This reduced the time it took to get points on the board and minimized disruption—both keys to keep employees engaged and supportive of transformation initiatives.
Prioritizing employees in the customer experience is not always intuitive, and many organizations deal with legacy approaches that make it downright hard. We'd like to help. Reach out to me if you'd like to discuss how your employee experience can help bolster your customer experience.