CX Insight Magazine

January 2023

The Critical Link Between EX and CX

After years of adapting to pandemic-spurred changes, 2023 is the time for brands to be deliberate and deliver the best possible experiences to customers and employees alike.

When employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX) work together, they can deliver incredible results. The reason for this is simple — employees who are happy, fulfilled, engaged, and challenged translates to better results as they care more about the experience they deliver to customers.

By now, you know that happier employees are willing to go the extra mile for customers. This is particularly true in industries where there’s close contact between employees and customers, such as health care, tourism and travel, retail, and financial services. In contrast, a negative employee experience results in disengaged employees simply going through the motions.

When viewed historically, brands have treated EX and CX as separate initiatives, and despite efforts to align the two, current approaches often remain siloed and piecemeal. Forward-thinking brands will focus on closing this gap to design people-centric experiences that give their employees the space they need to tap into their full potential and deliver transformative results.

As brands continue to look at the ways they could show up and be supportive of the people they rely on every day to operate the business, they’re discovering the critical link that can no longer be overlooked.

It’s time to find out why happy employees are good for business.

What Employees Want

Your employees are more than just their jobs. They have challenges, passions, needs, and skills that don’t always fit neatly into traditional categories of life and work. The post-pandemic world we’re living in has caused a lot of reflection about what’s important for people. Now, more than ever, employees are thinking long and hard about where and why they work. The best employee experience is not meant to be yet another organizational process.

So, what is the workforce of 2023 prioritizing? While there are some constants when it comes to what employees are looking for, contrary to conventional wisdom, the answer is rarely just to be paid more. A fair wage and being treated respectfully never go out of style, though an internal focus on employee engagement, satisfaction, and well-being tops the charts. Workers expect their personal sense of purpose to align with the organization they work for.

Today’s workers are hungry for a sense of agency, trust, belonging, and social unity. They desire clear responsibilities and opportunities to learn and grow. A work-life balance, mental health benefits, and flexibility, as you might suspect, are also now givens. In fact, according to a recent Gallup survey, 61% said they put a high value on improving their work-life balance and personal well-being, compared to just 53% in 2015. Furthermore, if a brand could support remote work during the pandemic, employees want to at least have the option to continue working remotely part of the time.

Some of the factors that impact employee experience are:

  • Transparency, trust, and communication from employers
  • The availability of a frictionless, collaborative work environment with digital experiences embedded in the workflow
  • An organizational culture of belonging and inclusion
  • Employee listening, engagement, and recognition from management and peers
  • Career development and upskilling opportunities
  • Demonstrated corporate social responsibility

Brands can offer excellent EX by exploring and understanding the moments that matter throughout the employee journey. How employees interact with customers, their overall level of engagement, and what empowers them to do the best job possible. The journey could also include moments like their first day on the job, performance reviews, or even how they feel supported through a personal life event, such as a birth or death in the family.

Engaged Teams Deliver Better Results

Placing employee engagement first can be the clearest path toward improving CX. Employees with positive experiences often feel motivated and are driven to achieve better results. In fact, in an analysis of Gartner clients, engaged employees made an 81% difference in absenteeism and a 14% difference in productivity compared to less engaged employees.

An engaged workforce can significantly improve a variety of key performance indicators, including, but not limited to, customer ratings, profitability, productivity, shrinkage, safety incidents, and quality.

At SmileDirectClub, the brand places a strong emphasis on giving their people more engagement opportunities in the workplace, empowering them to be engaged and passionate about the customer experience.

“I really love how our company focuses on our values. We hold a lot of virtual events and monthly engagement sessions. Additionally, we celebrate our top performers with rewards and recognition. We make a really big deal about our people and celebrate all the wins that improve our customer experience through the employee experience,” said Alvin Stokes, Chief Customer Contact Officer at SmileDirectClub.

“We also listen to our team members. Our company culture is like no place I’ve ever been. We hold sessions where we do call listening and we watch videos of shops with our team members across all levels with our C-Suite several times a week to get feedback on every interaction. Our front-line team members having the opportunity to be on calls with the CEO and get direct feedback is a neat thing we do to boost employee engagement. As a brand, we benefit from seeing what’s really happening and learning from the team members who are speaking directly with our customers. And that’s how we continuously improve.”

Moreover, research from Qualtrics has found that brands with a high level of employee engagement have a 24% higher Net Promoter Score (NPS) than less-engaged competitors, with 12% higher customer advocacy.

A caring, engaged, empowered employee can make all the difference. As the saying goes, “happy employees make for happy customers.”

Challenges Facing Organizations

It’s clear that the key to a world-class customer experience is nailing the employee experience first. But what are the biggest challenges currently facing organizations as it relates to employee experience?

“Having worked at many different levels within organizations as I’ve built my career, I think brands need to make sure that they’re explaining the priorities to all levels, because everybody is just as important,” explains Stokes.

“Every person needs to understand the ecosystem and the roadmap of how all the different EX strategies are going to get fixed over time. And then, as you fix each one, you must celebrate it. Everyone needs to see the progress so they can trust you’re going to continue to improve their experiences. Sometimes, the biggest things to fix with EX can cost a lot of money. When you begin talking about CRM systems, depending on your company, you may have an old infrastructure, and it can be hard to find an ROI big enough to make an investment in the things that could make a massive difference. And, sometimes, that intangible value of improving the way team members feel about themselves is difficult to measure and put into ROI, right?”

Other challenges employers may face when delivering great EX include:

1. Implementing the Right Tech Tools

Technology can either enable your employees to work efficiently and effectively or hinder them from doing their best work. That said, it’s important for brands to explore what they expect from the tools they are using to ensure they are user-friendly and help facilitate employees’ workflow.

2. Comprehensive Performance Analysis

Performance analysis remains one of the key challenges for many businesses. The poor implementation of performance analysis tools or lack of 360-degree feedback can lead to employee dissatisfaction, loss of productivity and motivation, and unwanted attrition. Navigating today’s workplace climate may require more personalized touchpoints throughout the employee journey and the promotion of a ‘feedback’ culture to create career road maps and assess performance effectively.

3. Prioritizing Reskilling and Upskilling

With rapid digital transformation in our working world, brands are facing increasing pressures to help employees build new talents to fulfill changing job functions and take on new responsibilities.

Many CX leaders are concerned about closing skills gaps, especially at the leadership level,are looking for solutions to break down the barriers to establish a reskilling and upskilling strategy that serves both employees and overall business goals. Unilever, for example, is committing to spend $2.8 billion per year to upskill its entire global workforce by 2025.

“We have a lot of cross-pollination going on at SmileDirectClub to help build a more holistic team with a log of experience in various departments,” added Stokes.

4. Do What Works, Not What’s Trending

Businesses everywhere are beginning to expand the employee experience conversation. With that said, while trying to improve your EX, it’s important not to simply follow the crowd.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to strategy. For instance, just because one brand may offer free employee yoga classes or unlimited vacation policies doesn’t mean these things are right for your organization and the type of talent you’re looking to attract and retain. When building out your EX program, you can allow room for variety and personalization to accommodate your diverse workforce.

Measure Your Results

Improving your employee experience can only come with consistent measurement of key metrics. Without measuring your results, improvement becomes a guessing game about what’s working and what isn’t.

Additionally, you may want to try tracking how employees feel about the overall experience of working for the brand. A simple NPS survey sent out at regular intervals could be a great source of continuous feedback. After collecting and analyzing this data, that’s when you can begin developing insights into where and how to make improvements.

EX and CX: Two Sides of the Same Coin

The EX and CX landscape are changing quickly, and the critical link between the two has become apparent. The bottom line: they both greatly influence each other. If there’s one thing that’s true and constant about today’s ever-changing market, it’s that the companies that deliver the best experiences win.

While EX may look different for every brand, your employees are often your most untapped resource when it comes to building powerful customer experiences. When employees feel connected to and valued by the brand, they want to bring customers into the fold. Especially in today’s technology-driven world, consumers want to buy from brands that show appreciation for the people who keep the business running day-to-day.

By looking at EX and CX holistically as one entity rather than two, you can maximize satisfaction, performance, and productivity, retain employees, foster tighter team connections, and drive better business outcomes. The relationship between EX and CX is sure to be a trending topic and major focus, not only in 2023, but for years to come.

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