A good customer experience means different things to all of us, but I’d suggest that there is one thing in common – a customer service agent that really delivered, whether that’s going the extra mile to resolve a problem or just resolving something with a minimum of fuss and maximum efficiency. Consumers’ time is precious and they want issues resolved smartly and effectively, irrespective of the channel they use to communicate.

There are many factors that contribute to a brand being able to deliver this, falling under three broad areas – people, processes and technology. They are all important, but trying to deliver a first-class customer experience without committed, happy, satisfied and engaged employees is always going to be hard. Why is employee satisfaction so important when addressing customer experience and how can brands best go about ensuring this?

A satisfied employee is a motivated employee

There are many reasons for an organisation to maintain a happy and contented workforce. It makes it easier to retain staff, to recruit new members of the team and it helps make the overall workplace a happier and more vibrant place to be.

It also has a significant impact on that organisation’s ability to really deliver when it comes to the customer experience. Whether it is an agent in a call centre, someone working in a shop or indeed any role that interacts with customers, if the employee is happy and motivated that will come over in those interactions.

But the opposite is equally true. If a member of staff is feeling under-valued, over-worked and generally dissatisfied with their lot, then it is easy to see how this could affect their dealings with customers. It only takes one bad customer experience for a consumer to form a negative opinion of a brand and potentially take their custom elsewhere, so a satisfied and motivated workforce is essential for a good customer experience.

Be aware of the changing workforce demographic

We are living in a world of very diverse demographics and different groups in our workforce will want different things. For example, millennials are digital natives and will expect technology akin to what they are used to in their everyday lives, and a digitally enabled customer/employee experience. Gen X/Y employees may be at a time in their life where they require a flexible approach to their work life, so delivering on this becomes important in ensuring job satisfaction.

In saying that, generalisations are to be approached with caution. With such a complex group of employees, it is key for managers to really know what motivates their people and helps them to be the best they can be when they are working. This will help them to feel valued and engaged.

Involve customer-focused employees in the business and get them to know and understand your values

Making the links between what an employee does and the success of the overall business is also critical for employee satisfaction. For example, there was a very visible change in the way Sky was doing things in the early 2000s – moving from a ‘utility’ type transactional organisation to an entertainment organisation with customer satisfaction at its heart. There was a focus on the actual content provided rather than dishes on a wall, and a major part of this change was completed via getting the employees to understand and believe in it.

The supply chain engineers were given new vans with channel content as the livery, which made them proud to drive them and demonstrated the new focus on content and entertainment. This was made more pronounced by basing any learning or training activity on the role they played in delivering entertainment to customers.

Some of the Sky TV celebrities visited their contact centres as a symbolic reminder of the company they work for. This made it feel like people really were working for a different company, were immersed in it and that they knew what this new company expected from them.

Furthermore, asking your employees’ opinion on what direction they think the business should be going in or how to improve the customer experience will make people feel included, trusted and that they work at a company that values both their work and their opinion.

Random acts of kindness

But often, it’s the little gestures that can go a long way into ensuring employee satisfaction. In a call centre for a utility I once worked with, being an agent was a tough role at times. Tariff confusion, unhappiness with bill size and a frustration with general service received were rife, which meant that agents had a tough time during interactions with customers.

After one particularly lengthy and challenging call, the call centre manager gave the agent an impromptu 10 minute break to recharge. This may not seem like a big deal, but gestures like this are hugely appreciated and make all the difference to people and the way they perceive you and the company.

Employee satisfaction is arguably the most important factor in delivering a good customer experience, and brands will ignore this at their peril.

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