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Thursday, May 11, 2023

Total Experience: Top 6 Considerations When Investing in CX and EX

Co-authored by Jesse Murray and Tom Quish

In this three-part blog series, we will explore the importance of ensuring that your customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) fully align and contribute to the Total Experience of your brand.

This first installation offers a broad overview of what it means to make holistic investments that will return dividends to your customers and employees alike.

Sign up for Part 2 of this series.
Three people working at a long table looking at computer screens
Total Experience: Top 6 Considerations When Investing in CX and EXSVP, Employee Experience — Jesse Murray
Three people working at a long table looking at computer screens

Customer and Employee Experience are Connected even if your Org is Not

Inherently, employee and customer experiences connect and overlap as one does not exist without the other. The connection between engaged employees and satisfied customers has been shown to be true time and time again; HBR research on the connection between happy employees customers, again for companies with strong employee metrics and positive customer outcomes (e.g. NPS and CSAT) and most recently Microsoft showing a S&P performance connection for companies with the most engaged employees.

Why then do companies struggle to realize the value of business transformation investments? Too often, transformation programs focus on making improvements within an existing org structure which are siloed (e.g., CPO, CMO, CIO). This structure can create disconnected and sometimes competing incentives and interests which fail to create better experiences.

Employees, customers, and product experiences are intricately entwined and optimizing any one in absence of the others fails to realize the desired outcomes. Successful transformation requires each experience, employee (EX), customer (CX) and product (PX), to be holistically aligned.

Here are six considerations to help business leaders be smarter about their investments and ensure they contribute to a better Total Experience.

Get Buy-In from the Top

Achieving Total Experience transformation may require significant organizational change, which in turn requires direction from executive leadership. Expecting employees to make structural change without direction from the CEO and executive team is unrealistic. Employees are constrained by the operations and incentives of their department or function, and struggle to enact real change without a top-down directive.

Although many businesses strive to become customer-centric, they remain highly compartmentalized. Sales, marketing, operations, customer care, and product teams all have their own granular goals and metrics that can sometimes be at odds with the broader business objectives and company vision. To break free from these departmental constraints, teams need permission from leadership to think and act outside their designated areas. This requires a company vision that aligns with the CX vision and resonates with all employees. The vision, or broader purpose, must be something that everyone can relate to and work towards.

Securing leadership buy-in is essential for businesses to break free from departmental constraints and achieve a Total Experience transformation that aligns with the company's broader purpose and resonates with all employees.

Connecting Your Employees to the Customer Journey

While frontline workers such as sales, implementation, and customer care are viewed as the main drivers of the customer journey, we must recognize that every employee plays a critical role in shaping the customer experience. Employees who are involved in creating, manufacturing, shipping, and invoicing of the product must possess a deep understanding of how their products are used by customers, the problems they solve, and the extent to which they are used.

When employees lack this understanding, it represents a missed opportunity to create an optimized customer experience that truly meets the needs and expectations of customers. Therefore, it's essential to ensure that every employee is fully aware of how their work impacts the customer journey, from ideation to production to delivery.

Work Better, But Better than What?

At its core, employee experience involves empowering employees to adopt new ways of thinking and working, with the goal of improving their performance, increasing engagement, and improving retention. When it comes to enhancing the employee experience, many business leaders assign that responsibility to Human Resources. While clearly a critical role in the employee journey, it's important to recognize that EX encompasses the entire experience, not just HR.

Working better is a great aspiration but the question is better than what? What is often lacking is an understanding of the day to day working experience for an employee. What do employees do in a day? What works well and what does not? To truly optimize the employee experience, it's crucial to understand the discrete tasks and processes that make up the work life for employees to best align which interventions will provide value and when. What specific tasks will it improve, and to what extent will it enhance their efficiency? Understanding that adopting a new way of working is challenging, what is a realistic timeframe for realizing the higher efficiency and how will we adapt to feedback along the way?

The mature employee experience is a measured experience. Measuring the impact of technology and tools on employee tasks and efficiency is an essential aspect of EX transformation. By evaluating the impact of these investments, companies can ensure that they are making the right changes that truly benefit their employees and drive productivity.

Technology, the cause of and solution to, all employee problems

A bit of humor but underlying is a real challenge. When it comes to technology purchases in the workplace, many employees feel that they have had a largely negative impact on their overall experience. The reality is that the plethora of tools take a lot of work.

Employees are forced to access as many as a dozen separate point solutions, leading to a phenomenon that Harvard Business Review refers to as a toggle tax. Switching from app to app is exhausting. On average, workers toggle between different apps and websites nearly 1,200 times each day. Over the course of a year, that adds up to five working weeks, or 9% of their annual time at work. “People who are engaged in work where they are constantly switching between applications are more likely to be bored and distracted,” writes HBR.

Far too often, decisions are made to invest in new technologies without a full understanding how they will be integrated into the end user’s flow of work and daily tasks. This results in employees who are left to figure out how to use these tools on their own, with little training. Without a mechanism for measuring the effectiveness of these tools, the result is often a forced adoption of new technology, regardless of whether it helps employees work better. Roll this up ten years, and we see that the employee experience is the sum of every previous failed technology rollout where employees have become the glue that binds it all together.

Technology holds so much promise to power transformations but without an employee centered strategy even the most impactful technologies will fail.

Understand How Product Experience Impacts your Customers and Employees

A digital product experience isn’t the same as a customer experience. Rather, PX is a touchpoint along the customer and employee journey that can make or break a positive customer experience.

You can’t deliver a positive customer experience unless you first complete a comprehensive evaluation of the end-to-end CX and an audit of your current employee experience. Such an exercise is pivotal in identifying the essential product experiences required.

Here’s an example: our team collaborated with a major retailer to help consolidate and create efficiency within their digital properties. Over time, this company had launched numerous mobile apps, each serving a distinct function. While rolling out new applications that helped engage, reward and support customers was aligned to their vision of customer-centricity the fragmented approach to deploying these features hindered a customer’s experience with the brand. Customers had to figure out which app provided a desired function and toggle between multiple apps (sometimes within a single store visit), creating a customer experience that lacked cohesion and value. It was evident that these apps were built in siloes without considering the customer's perspective.

Our responsibility was to make business leaders understand that customers would never relinquish a significant portion of their mobile device's screen real estate to numerous apps from the same brand. Moreover, the app strategy had been driven by the company's corporate structure, rather than the actual customer needs and wants.

Through reframing around the customer's journey and mapping the crucial touchpoints where a digital product experience could improve their experience, we were able to not only improve the overall customer satisfaction, but significantly streamlined the cost to maintain and manage their digital products. In essence, a meaningful PX should concentrate on enhancing the customer's journey and identifying how a specific product experience can augment it.

Prioritize Measurable Moments to Maximize Your Tech Investments

Technology impact cannot be adequately measured by uptime and usage absent the impact to actual tasks, yet this is the state for most new technologies. Making matters worse, organizational structure can often put well intentioned technologies at odds with each other. Consider the simple scenario of competing employee portals (HRIS, Service, Communications) all striving to show value through usage, and all equally required to do so to show the value of that investment. What’s lost is the impact to the actual experience, where confusion reigns and employees struggle to be effective. Where each stand-alone technology may be measured and successful, the total experience return is negative.

To make effective technology investments, companies must understand the essential moments that matter ensuring digital interventions deliver the most impact. Equipped with the total experience journey and ways of working tasks analysis, create a measurement framework to connect impact on these moments to key business outcomes (e.g., revenue, attrition, NPS, …).

Consider those moments at key intersection points, where a customer and employee interact (e.g., sales, service, product), for deeper inspection and measurement. Identify tasks of low efficiency and high scale to have the broadest impact. By prioritizing these moments, you will ensure that your investments provide tangible benefits to your employees and customers.

To achieve total experience transformation, it's essential to get buy-in from executive leadership, as significant organizational changes may be necessary. Without top-down directives, employees are often constrained by the operations and incentives of their department or function, hindering the ability to enact real change. It's also critical to align the company's vision with the CX vision and ensure that all employees understand how their work impacts the customer journey.

Streamlining workflows with automation, integrating key systems and tools, and optimizing the employee experience with technology are all essential aspects of total experience transformation. However, it's important to measure the impact of these interventions, especially at key intersection points where customers and employees interact. By prioritizing these moments and understanding their impact on key business outcomes, companies can make effective technology investments that provide tangible benefits to employees and customers. Ultimately, a meaningful product experience should concentrate on enhancing the customer journey and identifying how a specific product experience can augment it.

Up Next

In part 2 of this series, we will discuss how to watch out for the common reasons that cause customer and employee experience investments to fail. Finally, in part 3, we’ll discuss an important, but all too often overlooked component in delivering holistic brand experiences – how to identify and measure the moments that have the most impact on both your CX and EX.

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