The Evolution (or Revolution) of the Customer Experience Starts with the Employee

Much like the theory of evolution, businesses must adapt or become extinct. While many organizations now acknowledge the importance of customer experience and employee engagement programs, it can seem like a nearly impossible task to evolve. While it's true that these programs have historically sat in separate parts of the organization never crossing paths, the key to successful customer experience and employee engagement programs now lies in actually uniting them into one, harmoniously aligned package.

To make the leap to the next level in customer experience, organizations must adopt a twofold mission, delivering consistent, superior customer service while ensuring smarter employee engagement. This entails combining the efforts of voice of the customer (VoC) and voice of the employee (VoE) programs.

So, how can this be done? Use the following steps as a navigational tool to converge the two programs for an enhanced, streamlined customer experience.

Step 1. Transition from VoC research to a true business tool.

This transition has involved lots of changes, including the move away from infrequent, unnecessarily long surveys that ask the same question five different ways, to short, sharp relevant opportunities to give feedback when it's convenient for the customer.

In today's day and age, data can be presented back to the business in a functional format that allows people to actually use it. However, when it comes to VoE, many organizations have taken longer to evolve from a once-a-year (or longer) survey process. This drawn-out survey process is too often inefficient, as it is often followed by three months of analysis, three months of arguing about the results, and then confusion about what to do with the results.

VoE programs now provide a wide range of other methods to capture employee feedback that can be accessed and acted upon in real time. This includes the use of employee engagement programs. Interestingly, some of the misconceptions of employee engagement programs are the same with customer engagement, including the one about the more data the better!or that the mere act of using data is strategic.

The truth is, it's not about having more data, it&'s about having the right data to make a positive change. Additionally, using data should go further than the strategic bunker. It boils down to the importance of capturing critical employee feedback and using it to spring to action accordingly, in real time.

Step 2. Move toward the chief customer officer.

Historically with employee engagement, the ownership belonged with the HR department. This meant some people saw it as nothing to do with them, which now couldn't be further from the truth, as ongoing research has revealed.

To drive improvement, businesses must reflect from a different perspective—that of its people and its employees. In the new world of multichannel commerce, there are more transactional surveys of not just customers but also employees, asking them what they think of the customer experience they deliver. All of these sources can be brought together for a more integrated approach to how the analysis is used and what is included; it is possible to include everything from customer relations and social media through to CRM, HR, and operational data. The secret is to find a way to integrate this data across silos, analyzing and finding meaning from the comprehensive, real-time view it creates.

Step 3. Have the right technology at your fingertips.

It's critical to have the right technology to underpin a successfully automated VoC program, particularly in a large organization. Being able to listen across multiple channels, geographies, and touchpoints will become increasingly important. Feedback needs to be captured in a way that makes the most sense to the business and its customers. All that data must then be integrated with other sources of information, such as financial and HR data or other business system information, that are key to a strong analysis. The purpose here is to drive action at every level throughout the organization.

With technology, organizations can automate the process of sharing knowledge and insight to different stakeholders across the organization in a format that makes sense to them and helps them to understand what they need to do to address problems. A successful VoC program links to the organization's priorities to positively impact its business by driving up revenue, helping with process improvements and compliance that drive down operational costs, and improving company culture.

Step 4. Build engagement across teams.

At this point, organizations might ask: How do we begin the process of bringing these platforms together and developing a joint program? As we know, engaged individuals drive more profitable companies because employee engagement and customer advocacy tend to go hand in hand. So, seek the customer experience from an employee perspective and ask your team what it thinks customers would say about your service? The results are often fascinating and can go one of two ways. Organizations can either see complete alignment, which adds a layer of confidence to the data with everyone seeing it the same way inside and out; or they can see divergence. Either "we're not as bad as we think we are" (which is good), or "we've totally misjudged how good we are" (which is bad).

Either of these outcomes helps organizations unveil early warning signs of future customer feedback. This process can and should be a collaborative effort, where those closest to the customer (front line) and those closest to the boardroom get to work together.

Why is this important? Used to its full potential, this evolutionary process can become an organization's navigational system, revealing opportunities for improvement and innovation and becoming a strategic tool to ensure every interaction with the customer is as positive as it can be.

Phil Durand is director of customer experience management at Confirmit.