Richard Branson is famously quoted as saying: “I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised.”
Although Mr Branson’s well-used pearls of wisdom might not have the caché that they once did, I would suggest that this view is as valid now as it ever was. A more on-trend leadership guru also agrees with this perspective, Simon Sinek says: “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”
Customer Experience has increasingly been touted as the battleground for modern business success. In a world where great product or lowest price are simply not enough for sustainable growth, it’s the CX of a brand or business, at every touchpoint, that is shaping success.
While we’ve been focussed on an outward looking perspective, there are far fewer businesses that have taken all this strategic thinking, creative passion and financial investment through 180 degrees, directing it within their own organisations.
Whatever the North Star ambitions for the Customer Experience, it’s the workforce, the colleagues, and the employees that will either deliver it or derail it. A modern, connected business is only as good as its weakest touchpoint, meaning greatest success will come from a holistic approach that includes a good deal of effort given to communicating with, enabling and empowering staff.
It is also critically important to recognise that the people who will be delivering the total experience are not some generic horde. It’s essential to understand the different needs and motivations of employees.
When communicating with staff, think about how you can effectively adapt communications in order to engage – that includes both the message and the medium. The all-hands email on a Monday morning really doesn’t cut it. It’s also important to consider and develop tools and technologies that recognise context of use and are genuinely empowering.
So many systems and solutions in businesses today are there because of decisions made a very long way away from the people required to use them.
Don’t underestimate what a sense of purpose can do for employee morale. Again, a well-used tale that talks about the power of having a sense of purpose in an organisation. When US president John F. Kennedy visited the NASA space centre during the height of the space race, he saw a janitor working a broom and walked over and asked him what he was doing.
The janitor responded: “Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.” When optimising the Employee Experience look for tools that connect staff, make them really feel part of something bigger and enable the business to leverage their collective power. This might well be through technology, but could equally be driven by a radical change in the format of business meetings. Additionally, consider how all that data you’re gathering (You got the memo about Data, right?) can translate into actionable, valuable insights which will empower the whole workforce to understand what they are a part of and how they can better connect with customers.
“Do not be afraid to empower your employees. Empowerment results in happy employees and happy customers,” says John Cashion, Corporate Director of Culture Transformation at the Ritz-Carlton.
They take employee empowerment to the next level by enabling every employee, irrespective of their level, to spend $2000 on meeting a guest’s unmet needs. This doesn’t require the approval of a senior member of staff, it is absolutely at the discretion of each employee.
Cashion goes on to say that, although that is a lot of money, it’s actually the symbolism of the act that’s really huge. Don’t be distracted by the amount, what’s really important is the trust that this shows. The trust in them to resolve a guest issue brilliantly, and to think of creative and memorable ways to elevate the experience.
This activity ladders back up to the top, to the leadership of a business and how it talks and behaves. Getting Employee Experience right is not a project or a one-off event. It is dependent upon persistent and consistent behaviours. It is also heavily dependent upon the accessibility and visibility of leadership. Just as your employees need tools to help them, look for organisational enablers that support leadership in sustaining a highly engaged and high performing workforce delivering a successful total experience.