Customer Experience Begins with Employee Experience

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Enabling the customer experience

A recent Customer Experience study by Accenture showed that only 20% of companies are succeeding in delivering good customer experience (CX). This low number exists despite the fact that Walker deemed 2020 the year that consumers would place the highest of premiums on CX, over price and product. It is worth noting that the prediction by Walker was made long before the word COVID was commonplace, but the sentiment remains the same for companies of all sizes; customer experience is valued and will be the difference between the winners and the losers.

While many organisations strive to deliver an exceptional experience with their customers, they often fail by ignoring one foundational element…their employees.

Customer experience begins with an organisation’s people. If employees are not mobilised around this initiative, no amount of technology, appointing a Chief Customer Officer, content, or increase in spending will deliver the desired results. In order for organisations to find customer experience success they first need to enable, equip and empower their employees.

By enabling, equipping, and empowering employees for customer experience, companies will develop a competitive advantage with customer experience and see growth as an outcome. Click To Tweet

Enabling your employees

I speak with countless professionals who serve in an array of roles from marketing, sales, support, professional services, IT, etc, and very few are able to articulate their role in the delivery of customer experience. 

To be able to truly deliver CX, employees need to be educated on the role they play in the strategy and the value they can provide. True customer experience has an impact on every role in the organisation whether or not they are customer-facing or internal. Educating personnel on the role they play or how their responsibilities may change is foundational for customer experience success.

I was speaking with a prospect recently whose company is focused on a customer experience initiative. In the conversation, he told me, “We have been told we are now maniacally focused on the customer, but we have yet to understand what that means in terms of our day-to-day roles and some people are starting to panic.” 

Without a clear directive from executives and education on the changes that may be needed at certain levels, employees are left to guess, which is no strategy at all and will lead to a failed initiative.

Enabling employees by defining the who, what and how of customer experience is necessary for organisations that want to take hold of this competitive advantage.

Equipping your employees 

As you enable your employees, the next step is equipping them to deliver customer experience. According to Merriam-Websters dictionary, the word equip means the following:

To furnish for service or action by appropriate provisioning

 To make ready

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Equipping your employees is a must if you want to stand out in the area of customer experience. 

A number of years ago I was in a meeting with a mid-market technology firm. The focus of the meeting was how to better communicate and engage with their customers. Before the meeting had hardly begun, one of the members of the operations team stated, “We will be lucky if we can identify our customers. Our data is so bad and we have not invested in the necessary systems to help.”

Clearly, this was a pain point in the organisation and while this team was being asked to provide better engagement and experience for their customers, they were hamstrung by the fact that no investment had been made in the right tools to help them accomplish their tasks.

While I will be the first to say that technology is not a silver bullet that will solve strategic problems, it is important that employees are equipped with the right enabling technologies, access to data, information and training to perform their roles at the highest levels. 

Empowering your employees?

What does it mean to “empower employees” and why is it so important to deliver customer experience? Why should organisations go beyond enabling and equipping their employees, but also take the steps necessary to empower their employees to deliver on the promise of customer experience?

It is because our employees are on the front lines when it comes to delivering customer experience. It is those employees in marketing, sales, support, customer service, professional services, etc who are interacting with our customers on a daily basis and they will make the difference in the experience that is delivered.

On his “Start With Why” blog, Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, states the following:

Empowered employees have the power to make decisions without a supervisor. They are entitled to go off script, bend the rules, do what they see fit if they believe it is the right thing to do for the customer. More than any other kind of employee, the empowered employee is able to create a feeling of true customer service that ultimately yields much greater customer loyalty.”

So what can an organisation do to empower their employees? Here are a few things that leadership needs to consider.

Empower them to make the right decisions 

Ever engaged with a sales rep or a customer service agent who stated, “I will have to go and check with my manager before I can do that”? Nothing speaks louder about a lack of empowerment than that one phrase.

Organisations that have set customer experience as a goal will empower their employees to make the right decisions on behalf of their customers. This involves trust (which comes with proper training) in your employees to do what is right and know that they have the customer’s best interests in mind. 

Empower them to create

Some of the most innovative ideas I have seen come from employees who are empowered to think creatively. Employees who are given rigid guidelines and structure within their roles will be severely limited and this lack of flexibility will trickle down to the customers.

Giving employees the ability to be creative in their roles will yield great benefits to your customers. It may be brought forth in how a rep structures a deal, how customer service responds to a call, or in how marketing delivers content and value to your customers.

Empower them to fail

Early in my career, I had the opportunity to manage a product launch for our company into a new market segment. I met with the president of our division to present the marketing strategy, as he sensed my hesitance he asked, “What’s the problem?” I told him, while I believed we were taking the right approach, in the back of my head I was worried if we failed.” His response told me all I needed to know when he said, “We all fail from time to time. What will be important is if we learn from it, correct the failure, and use it to drive further success.” I was empowered!

By enabling, equipping, and empowering employees for customer experience, companies will develop a competitive advantage with customer experience and see growth as an outcome.

Better customer service starts here: give your agents the all-in-one contact centre platform they need.

Originally published Mar 23, 2021, updated Mar 26, 2021


Carlos Hidalgo is a 25-year business veteran. Over the span of the last two plus decades, Hidalgo has held corporate roles, started his own entrepreneurial ventures and served in non-profits.

In addition to his various roles and business pursuits, Hidalgo is the author of two books Driving Demand, one of the Top 5 Marketing Books of all time according to Book Authority which was published in 2015 and The UnAmerican Dream which was published in 2019.

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