A strategic approach to employee experience is fundamental to brands excelling at customer experience, new research by Marketing Week, Zone and Cognizant has found.
By Morag Cuddeford-Jones
It no longer comes as a surprise that companies which focus on customer experience (CX) enjoy tangible financial benefits, whether that be higher customer lifetime value, stronger return on marketing investment, enhanced advocacy or lower customer service costs.
But now, thanks to new research conducted by Marketing Week in partnership with Zone and Cognizant, brands are able to start building a similar business case for investing in employee experience (EX).
The new report, entitled ‘EX = CX²: Why employee experiences leaders excel at customer experience’, has found clear links between the two. Leading companies in the study are significantly more like to have a concerted focus on EX strategy, supported by investment, a clear roadmap and a focus on key priority areas.
Yet most companies have a long way to go to emulate their success. While the majority of respondents to the survey of over 200 CX professionals agree that EX positively impacts CX, only 23% can state emphatically that they have quantified that link. Furthermore, less than a third agree they have an EX-focused culture.
So, with customer expectations at an all-time high and their habits constantly shifting, what do these new findings mean for marketers trying to keep up?
© MMXXII X—LABS
Remote working has led to greater reliance on technology platforms
EX = CX²: The links between employee and customer experience revealed
CX50 — 2021
Activate the EX mindset
Once this mindset is embedded, however, clearly organisations must pin down the things that form a tangible EX approach. Here, developing market-leading EX follows many of the same principles as CX: communication, simplification, empathy and clear metrics are at the heart of an employee-centric approach. Demonstrating this, the research reveals that more than twice as many outperformers as mainstream executives claim they have a clear roadmap to improve EX (41% vs 20%).
That said, experts in the field recognise the difficulty of tying metrics to people, instead suggesting the focus should be on values. Those values, suggests Eve Sleep CEO Cheryl Calverley, help employees to make the right decisions – and the company to support when they don’t pan out.
“If you think things aren’t going wrong then you’re probably not doing it right. You need to ask if there’s really a culture of learning or are things swept under the carpet, and people hung out to dry. People always make the best decision with the information they have at the time. When things don’t go to plan, that’s when you need to support them. One of our values is, we don’t believe in being sheep. Being brave on your own is hard.”
This is, incidentally, another reason why Calverley recognises the value of hybrid working, but is firm that workers do need to come together regularly to be most effective.
download THE REPORT HERE: ‘EX = CX²: Why employee experience leaders excel at customer experience’.
While EX itself is not tactical – rather, it is holistic and cultural – there are tactics to activate it and they, in themselves, are measurable. For instance, Zone and Cognizant advise making sure that the tools and technologies employees use to get the job done should be prioritised and streamlined.
This means making sure employees have access to the most appropriate tech, that they are trained to use it (solutions with little coding required are a boon here), and that it has a measurable impact on their ability to do their job – in other words on time spent to serve customers, volume of activities performed and so on.
This also doesn’t necessarily mean splashing out on bleeding-edge technology, or replacing systems wholesale. Lara Burns, chief digital officer at The Scouts, is focusing on making sure that foundational technologies do their job well, before attaching any bells and whistles on top. “How many people are really doing AI and how many are just trying to upgrade their legacy infrastructure, move to the cloud and introduce new CRM? I feel like a lot of our work is putting the basics in place.”
The insights contained in the ‘EX = CX²’ report outline a range of approaches taken by leading companies to embed EX at the heart of the business, but a broad outline would suggest it comes down to three, key pillars:
“We need to understand the customer journey start to finish and which bits of which teams are in which place.”
Cheryl Calverley, Eve Sleep
Why focus on EX?
Specifically, the research shows EX contributes strongly to companies’ ability to innovate, as well as their capacity for digital transformation. This is essential because businesses are now in a process of continuous transformation – due to macroeconomic factors such as inflation, staff and supply shortages, and Brexit, as well as to underlying trends towards greater ecommerce adoption. Business as usual is unusual.
Organisations must now adopt a new mindset towards EX. “Typically, initiatives related to employees are considered cost centres which get low investment,” argues Roy Capon, CEO of Zone and head of digital experience for EMEA and APAC at Cognizant. “With the relentless pressure on share price and the focus on the customer, employees have been left behind.”
Clearly, companies need to find ways to bring employees along on the transformation journey that are cost effective, quantifiable in the contribution they make to the bottom line, scalable and repeatable.
“You have to get the right senior individuals around the table, bringing a decision-making forum together.”
— Chris Carter, Specsavers
Mindsets: Make the purpose and vision clear and outline ‘what good looks like’.
Methods: Create policies that help employees perform their job to the best of their ability, and build in continuous monitoring and the flexibility to adapt them if outcomes are not as expected.
Measures: Actively state EX as a measure of success and implement goals or guardrails that show how actions are feeding into an EX-focused culture.
Embedding EX is not about making employees ‘happy’, although contentment and fulfilment at work are also strong signifiers that staff are supported. The difference between market leaders and the rest of the pack is in making sure there is a structure, a direction and an understanding of what actions and mindsets lead to success, and how to achieve them.■
To learn more about what these actions are, and how leaders are implementing them today,
download ‘EX = CX²: Why employee experience leaders excel at customer experience’.
One of the biggest challenges to making EX a formalised part of a business’s customer strategy is that it seems a hard concept to pin down. More than a fifth of respondents to the research (22%) say CX as a whole is still decentralised, while a quarter take a committee approach with representatives from different functions having shared ownership. Consequently, it can be tough to develop EX practices that have positive impact in CX in a co-ordinated fashion.
“We have talked about accountability,” reveals Chris Carter, Specsavers marketing and ecommerce director. “It is unrealistic for that entire omnichannel experience - both retail and clinical in our case - to sit with one person. You have to get the right senior individuals you need around the table, bringing a decision-making forum together.”
Capon agrees: “CX should not sit in silos. It should be an enterprise-wide strategy.” As an illustration of this, the CX50 list of top CX professionals – compiled each year by Marketing Week, Zone and Cognizant – perennially features executives from a range of disciplines and departments.
Viewing either CX or EX as tactical matters within the remit of a single department is therefore short-sighted. They’re less a set of actions, more a state of mind.
“CX should not sit in silos. It should
be an enterprise-wide strategy.”
— Roy Capon, Zone