You’ll have seen from my previous articles that I’m keen to highlight the close relationship that exists between the Voice of the Employee (VoE) and the Voice of the Customer (VoC). In this article, I really want to demonstrate just how inextricably linked the two ‘voices’ are – in fact, in my view, they’re inseparable.
Many organisations continue to run separate VoE and VoC programmes. Often, they are conducted at different times and by different teams. What’s more, they’ll usually have entirely different objectives, and different KPIs against which outcomes are measured.
This is not necessarily a problem if such programmes are being run as a ‘point in time’ activity, where simple actions might be taken based on specific results. And it’s entirely understandable that many businesses take this approach, based on the historical reasoning that employees belong to HR and customers span other parts of the business such as sales, marketing and customer service.
Solution providers have done little to break down this ‘divide’ between employees and customers, offering specific software or consultancy services that address one area or the other. But times are rapidly changing, and businesses and solution providers alike are waking up to the fact that customers and employees are really two sides of the same coin.
In April, I talked about how leading-edge businesses are starting to realise the business benefits of linking their employee engagement programmes to their VoC activities. At a recent conference we ran, a number of customers presented true-life examples of why and how they’ve done just this.
Russell Gillespie, global head of customer experience and brand at global shipping line Safmarine, explained that “our behaviour is our brand” – the way employees think, act and treat customers reflects the company ethos as a whole, and as a result, affects the way customers perceive the brand and the people behind it.
He explained that during a business restructure designed to increase profitability and boost productivity, Safmarine didn’t simply look at ways to grow their sales pipeline, they took the approach to look internally first and identify the company’s core values. They then assessed how these values could affect – and be represented by – employees, and how this would filter to the customer level. By running a VoC programme as an intrinsic part of this process, Safmarine was able to see a clear correlation between the engagement of employees and the satisfaction of customers.
The result was a company-wide culture change from the inside out, which delivered more perceived value to customers, empowered employees to drive sales and service in their regions, and demonstrated consistency across this global brand.
Another customer, a leading travel provider, echoed Gillespie’s reasoning. The organisation’s presentation was focused on the customer, but what was interesting was the entire programme started with the employee.
In fact, the business followed a very similar restructure and brand overhaul to that of Safmarine – one that was aimed at engaging employees first, with the view that customer engagement would naturally follow. The results were clear: by ensuring employees bought into the company brand, values and attitude, treatment of customers improved and customer satisfaction and loyalty scores rose in correlation.
Of course, my summary of these complex programmes is very simplistic. Both programmes, and those of many other businesses I have worked with, are successful because of the time the organisations have taken to understand their objectives, work out areas of measurement, and carefully assess the needs and goals of their businesses.
What I’m trying to show, however, is that when we talk about the Voice of the Employee or the Voice of the Customer, we should look at them in a holistic way. We should try to delve into how each relates to the other, and assess how, by focusing on employees we can, almost naturally, increase customer engagement and satisfaction.
Once we’ve done this, we can also see how other key performance indicators are affected.
Of course, the main aim of any VoE, VoC or restructuring programme is ultimately to boost the bottom line. This is something that can be very clearly measured with the right approach to VoC and VoE. By incorporating factors such as revenue performance and churn rate, as in the illustration, it becomes clear just how significant the relationship between employee engagement and customer satisfaction is to business performance as a whole.
So, when you are thinking about your customer challenges, don’t think of them alone. And if you’re thinking about how to boost the engagement of your staff, the same applies. By looking at both sides of the coin at the same time, you’ll be able to undertake a richer, more detailed and ultimately more successful business transformation.
Tore Haggren holds the position of Senior Vice President, Voice of the Employee at Confirmit.
He initially joined Confirmit in 1998, two years after the company was founded in Norway. During his tenure, he established offices in London, New York and San Francisco with a focus on Market Research and Voice of the Customer. In 2006, Haggren shifted his focus to successfully building Confirmit’s presence in the Voice of the Employee (VoE) market. Today, many of the leading employee engagement consulting companies have standardized their production-delivery system on the Confirmit solution, making it a fundamental part of how their businesses operate. He is committed to helping companies take a strategic approach to understanding the employee lifecycle and harnessing the Voice of the Employee to drive business change.