CX education for staff: Why it's important and how to develop an education programmeby
Customer experience management requires a thorough approach to training and education for all employees. Jeannie Walters examines how companies typically introduce CX at organisations, why this often fails, and how to develop a CX employee education programme that actually works.
Why does customer experience training matter?
It’s common for customer experience (CX) to be misunderstood as reactive customer service, support, or even ‘just being nice to customers.’
CX is much more than these, though. I like to define customer experience as:
- A mindset
- A strategy
- A business discipline
Customer experience is more than one area, product, service or person. Customer experience success requires everyone in an organisation to understand what CX success is at this organisation, what expectations customers have, and how best to deliver on them.
And customer experience management requires a thorough approach to training and education for all employees.
Yet in some organisations, customer experience training is reserved for those who are in customer service roles only. And that training can feel tactical and task-driven, like explaining how to track customer records in a customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
Your organisation will benefit more from committing to an ongoing, organisation-wide CX education programme, maybe working with your learning and development (L&D) team.
One of the traits of successful organisational culture is how that intangible but important aspect of culture – how we want all employees to see who we are and where we fit in the world – needs to be “pervasive,” according to research published in the Harvard Business Review .
I tend to agree. If a culture is touted as “customer first” or “customer-centric,” that mindset and strategy need to be pervasive in the way employees communicate and learn throughout their entire tenure, no matter their role.
The common method of customer experience training
Let’s consider how customer experience is often introduced at many organisations using an imaginary employee — we’ll call them Pat.
- Pat is hired and congratulated. They attend onboarding training and hear about their company’s big customer experience focus and goals. The training leader enthusiastically explains why customer experience is so important. Pat feels great about working at such a place.
- Several months later, Pat attends an all-hands meeting. The CEO gets on stage and announces a new mantra: We love customers! There are posters and screensavers repeating this mantra.
- After a year at the company, Pat has settled into a nice, predictable routine. Day to day life consists of small challenges, regular meetings and the usual work stuff we all encounter. But when Pat thinks back on the year since their onboarding training, they reflect that…
- They’ve never seen actual customer feedback. Some reports and numbers are reported company-wide, but since Pat doesn’t interact directly with customers, they’ve never actually heard the customer’s “voice” or followed their stories.
- Training has been focused on what tools to use, processes and procedures. Pat remembers their first training including education about how each employee makes a difference to customers, but subsequent training hasn’t touched on that at all.
- The importance of customer experience has rarely come up in conversations about product development, marketing, or project management.
After a while, it’s easy for Pat to think a culture focused on customer experience was an aspirational idea at best. Those early onboarding experiences are pushed further and further from reality.
Let’s consider a different approach.
Five things to consider when developing your customer experience employee education programme
1. Set customer-centric expectations from the first interview.
That’s right, before they even become an employee, it’s important to share that putting the customer first is expected.
This is especially true if your new hire isn’t in a customer-facing role. It’s far too easy for “behind-the-scenes” employees to feel like their work does not or cannot impact the customer experience, which makes it easy to be demotivated or even careless.
As early as the interview process, make it clear that employees are expected to…
- Consider the customer in the decisions that they make.
- Dedicate themselves to ongoing learning — both about how to improve the customer experience and in listening and incorporating customer feedback.
- Recognise the impact they have on the customer experience, even if indirect.
Establishing this expectation from the start will help you find new hires who feel aligned personally with the vision and values of the company, as well as the explicitly stated customer experience mission.
2. Make sure onboarding programmes include customer experience training specifically.
Every employee, regardless of their role, should feel empowered to focus on the customer experience. Onboarding training needs to call this out specifically.
- Give employees tools to share feedback about the customer journey.
- Provide any background you can around the current understanding of your customers.
- Make sure your definition of customer experience (and related terms) is clearly communicated and agreed upon.
Onboarding training is important to lay the foundation, but if CX training is only shared once it’s easy for employees to move on and assume customer experience is not really their job.
We recommend training on the basics, like:
- What the heck is CX and why does it matter?
- What actions are taken at the organisational level to gather feedback, understand insights, and take action to continuously improve the customer experience?
- What is the employee’s role in the larger CX picture?
It’s also important to highlight what successful customer experiences provide for the organisation. Customer experience doesn’t exist in a vacuum — Help employees understand the power of referrals, retention, renewals, and reducing service costs on the bigger picture.
Looking for a tool to help you define this? Our CX Success Statement Workbook can help.
3. Break out the themes.
All employees can benefit from repeated, ongoing training on ways to deliver a successful customer experience, and ongoing education cadences can be achieved and optimised by understanding the employee’s journey.
Consistency in education sends a message. CX is not a “fad” or something to just mention in passing. CX is a true part of the culture of the organisation, and it’s a business strategy to achieve organisational success for everyone.
We recommend partnering with your internal communications team if possible to incorporate consistent messaging throughout the organisation.
One approach to take is tackling a small part of customer experience each month. Help everyone in the organisation connect how their role contributes to the customer experience.
For example, you might create an educational and communications calendar cycle to reinforce themes:
- Dashboards – what they mean, how to understand them.
- How we gather feedback.
- Empathy – how we show up for each other and our customers.
- Our customer’s journey today.
- Our customer’s journey tomorrow.
- How to use CX best practices like journey mapping and service blueprints to develop better experiences.
- CX calculations – how great CX reduces costs and improves profitability.
- Our CX mission and how it applies to every role.
The list can go on and on. The point is to reinforce specific overall ideas (this is how we do business) with individual learning opportunities.
4. Get into individual roles and responsibilities
While the themes above can apply to everyone, each role has unique opportunities to influence the customer experience.
Work with departmental leaders to zero in on what’s needed for each group. Customer-facing teams are the most obvious here, but challenge others to develop specific education around their roles.
For example, customer service and customer success might have training plans around service-specific situations, like dealing with unhappy customers or having renewal conversations. These should fit into the bigger themes and still be seen as connected to the CX training, not just generic “service training.”
But what about your technology team? What do they need to know about the customer experience, and what education needs to be ongoing?
They would benefit from education around the customer journey, as well as how customer expectations are shifting based on the overall marketplace. They often welcome conversations about aspirational customer journeys and how to better align technology goals with that.
The restaurant delivery service DoorDash uses a “WeDash” corporate programme to help everyone in the organisation understand their impact on the customer. This programme requires each employee, regardless of their department or role, to make one customer delivery per month or shadow a customer service representative.
The goal is to ensure there is understanding throughout the organisation of the driver and customer experience.
Other organisations have similar programmes by asking employees to “walk in the shoes” of the service delivery part of the organisation. These can be very successful training programmes — just make sure you’re also supplying a way to act on the learnings as part of the strategy.
5. Offer a customer day more than once a year.
Some organisations are committed to CX Day or other important days to provide events, trainings, or celebrations on behalf of their customers. Turning these into more consistent and ongoing events can be a very positive way to encourage CX education.
There are many ways to do this, and they can be combined or rotated to make things fresh for the learners:
- Create a book club focused on CX and invite authors to discuss customer-focused ideas.
- Develop a “customer room” either in-person or virtually. This room is where employees can literally walk through the journey and see the communications, experience the challenges and receive delivery of the product or service just as a customer would.
- Ask leaders who are committed to the customer experience to present to the entire organisation and share what they’re doing.
- Provide customer experience coaching for leaders throughout the organisation to support their professional development.
- Offer “lunch and learns” where different employees can share their experiences and showcase successes.
There is always so much to learn when it comes to customer experience! Let’s not relegate the education about and for our customers to just those employees who have the “right” roles in the organisation.
Customer experience is a mindset, strategy and business discipline. By treating it that way throughout the organisation and providing the resources and support employees need to be as educated and empowered we all reap the benefits — our customers, our employees, and our organisation.
This article adapted from a post that originally appeared on the Experience Investigators blog.