Focus on employee experience first – it will reward you with happy customers
According to a recent study, 65% of the customer experience consists of how customer service agents make customers feel. Focusing on improving employee experience will improve customer experience, but it can also create business growth and enhance operational excellence.
Customer experience and customer-centric thinking have been important topics in many industries for a long time now. Companies have noticed how important it is to focus on customers and create long-lasting relationships with them – improving customer experience is the key to success. Even before the pandemic, companies were investing heavily in customer service digitalisation. The pandemic accelerated the need for improvement in all online services as customers are more and more inclined to search for information and purchase online when staying at home.
However, there are situations when self-service portals and websites cannot help the customer. There are bound to be situations where the customer wishes to discuss with the company’s representatives to ask more questions, gain recommendations, and ultimately be more confident about the product or service of their interest. The customer service agents can advise and guide the customers to decide and buy the best possible product or service.
These service agents will help customers, advise on challenges they might come up with next, and even offer extra services to improve the customer’s experience. According to a study conducted by Challenger, 35% of the customer experience consists of customers’ efforts when searching for information or using websites, etc. Still, the remaining 65% of their experience makes the difference. And it comes from how customer service agents make customers feel.
Focus on the employee experience
Even though companies should keep investing in technology and digitalisation, the above percentages directly indicate it is not enough. Companies need to focus more on improving employee experience, too. If service agents feel good about what they are doing and are happy at work, they are more likely to make the customers feel happy and satisfied. According to Forbes’ and Glassdoor’s studies, the key to customer-centricity is to first focus on the employee experience.
How do you improve employee experience, then? That is about inspiring leadership, employee-focused culture, and smooth processes supported by functional technology customised to fit your company’s needs.
Leadership and culture
I believe leadership is the most important factor when improving employee experience. If you get this right, you’re halfway done.
Everything always starts with excellent people-orientated leadership. Everyone needs someone to lead them, show the way forward, support them and listen to their ideas. The employees want to be inspired and motivated. They want to be heard, trusted and appreciated. They need to feel their work matters, that they belong and are part of something bigger they can influence. They need to feel they matter and that they made the success possible. These feelings can be created by focusing on people and leading them to success.
Creating an employee-focused culture is equally important. It is a culture that empowers employees and engages them in their work and the company. This kind of culture requires strong yet humane, inspirational, and innovative leaders that lead by example and support creating the culture across the company.
Employee-focused culture is creative and communicative, where ideas and innovations are encouraged throughout an organisation. Employees understand the company’s vision and can see themselves as a strategic part of reaching the company’s goals. Everyone in the organisation cultivates the company values.
Employee-focused company culture feels safe making suggestions and challenging the status quo possible – when both challenges and ideas are received positively, the employees feel valued and respected. Achievements and excellent service are celebrated together, and internal collaboration and knowledge sharing are recognised and rewarded. Skill development opportunities are available and encouraged, and learning is meaningful for each employee individually and as a part of the team.
When employees are cared for and supported throughout their journey, they can serve customers better. The employees also tend to contribute more, innovate new ways of doing things and generally improve the business by participating in discussions and sharing their development ideas. The employees have a sense of responsibility for the business’s success.
When processes work, less customer effort is needed, and employees know how to get things done faster while keeping quality in mind. Processes guide the way and give a sense of control which the hectic service business often needs.
Processes have a significant impact not only on a company’s operational performance. Companies should constantly improve their operations and evaluate whether the old way is still valid in this rapidly changing world. Old processes might slow the work, cause an unnecessary increase in workforce, increase customer efforts and cause frustration to the employees if not refined regularly. To gain a competitive edge, evaluate your customer’s needs, employees’ challenges and business requirements often enough.
Smooth processes are aligned with technology and increase the productivity and effectiveness of the employees. The employees feel better when they know what to do and have effortless access to information to solve problems quickly. Documented and updated processes also ease the onboarding of new employees, and they make sure everybody is on the same page working towards mutual objectives.
However, these processes should not be checklists or step by step instructions on how to serve the customer or talk to them. That is the expertise service agents already have, giving them the freedom to serve the customers as they see fit. The processes help the service agents to do their job and guide their way forward.
Then finally, modernising customer service with the right kind of technology that brings better visibility to operations and KPIs, and makes data-driven decisions possible, is a profitable business decision. Investing in technology that controls personnel costs by bringing automation, workflows, and personalised suggestions is vital for many service businesses, as personnel costs can get relatively high.
Technology is not a monster that will eat all the jobs in the world. It is a way to keep costs reasonable and allow employees to focus on what matters the most, serving customers the best way possible. Employees feel better at work when the right kind of technology helps them perform and allows them to spend more time communicating and interacting with the customer and solving all the problems at once. Technology also allows agents to up-sell and cross-sell more due to the broader visibility of the customer and more time to focus on their future needs. Technology brings additional value to all customer encounters and helps customer service agents achieve their goals and succeed at work, which creates more satisfaction and happiness.
Direct effects on customer satisfaction
Improving employee experience will have a direct effect on customer experience. When employees are happy, they are more committed to the company’s goals and want to do all possible to serve customers better. They will engage the customers and create customer retention.
Employee happiness also lowers attrition and costs of recruiting, hiring, and training new people. Statistics also show absenteeism rate is a lot lower when employees feel their responsibility and are supported at work. Therefore, I believe that focusing on improving employee experience will improve customer experience, but it can also create business growth and enhance operational excellence.
Service Cloud Practice Lead