customer experience connected to employee experience

It's time to debunk the myth that employee experience and customer experience are linked


The blanket statement "customer experience begins with employee experience" does not work. And many organisations are wasting time and money believing they are connected. 

19th Jul 2021

On the back of two "fight-nights" on LinkedIn on the topic of employee experience, and after reading comments and exchanging content with smart people, I had an epiphany and it has become clear to me that there are some big issues that need to be addressed in this area:

  1. Employee experience does not matter in the majority of interactions - and even then, it is not what you think it is.
  2. It's the culture, stupid!
  3. Every organisation will have a different response to this (at least, the ones with a holistic strategy will) and the rest will waste time and money listening to charlatans.
  4. Make sure the economics work before committing to investing in either employee experience, company culture or even customer experience.

Let's see what we can do / say about each of these...

Employee experience & customer experience are not linked

This will be a controversial statement, but employee experience and customer experience are not linked.

Should you invest in employee experience? Likely, yes - but that depends on many variables that you have to consider before making the decision:

  • Are people the first connection to your customers? Or the only?
  • Have you been investing in it?
  • Do you even know what 'employee experience' is and how to leverage it?
  • What parts should you invest in - salary, training, selection, retention, extension, promotion? None of those? 

The answers to those questions will give you a better idea. Most, if not, large-scale customer-facing organisations are more focused on automation than in direct interaction with the customer. If you do it right, 60% (and constantly growing, if you do it right) of your interactions can be automated or handled by systems without (or with minimal) human intervention. The question then becomes: Should you invest the money in extending and improving automation versus training people better?

If you focus on that last 40% or less of transactions: How crucial are those for your business? Is this where loyalty and engagement is decided? And if so, should you invest in training your people better? Give them better systems? Hire higher quality workers? Or a combination of some or all of the above?

As you can quickly see, the blanket statement "customer experience begins with employee experience" does not work! Sure, there may be a few places and situations where it perhaps plays. But, for the most part, unless you have a specific service solution that requires only connection between customers and employees, there is no sense to it. And even then, some of those situations have delivered utilitarian service (at best) for so long that customers truly don't EXPECT better, nor do they care. 

As I have said many times, and will continue to say, the value of CX is being able to balance customer expectations and organisation outcomes. Why would you overshoot?


This is part of my epiphany about this topic. When most of the "advice" (see next point for more) about investing in employee experience comes around - is it really about that? Or are we trying to say "build a better culture, then have that reflect better in the work they do with customers"?

I think it is the second one, and the employee experience - while linked to the company culture - is not driven by it. True, a good culture would yield happier employees, which in turn MAY impact customer interactions with those same employees - and maybe ultimately, after enough of those end up being good for customer experience - but there is no direct correlation between culture and employee experience.

When we talk about employee experience we are mostly talking about things like compensation and career path, or something like training and better systems. And all those are laudable goals and areas to invest in, but not areas that define culture. Culture is better defined by things like trust, empathy, empowerment, flexibility, better leadership, less management, more freedom and less requirements. And if you invest in building a good culture - your employees end up being happy.

If the company has a policy to pay above market wages, provide better benefits, deliver great options and flexibility and more like that, they are building an excellent culture. Celebrating life milestones with employees and sharing the good and bad times with them does not make for better customer experience - but makes for better culture. And better culture may affect customer experience. But we are hearing platitudes from charlatans such as "invest in employee experience for better customer experience" - and that's wrong.


One of my favorite things to do is to debunk charlatans of platitudes.

You know these people - they've never held a single job as practitioners (or they think they did, but didn't) and have spent their entire careers repeating soundbites and building themselves a platform to pontificate on how to do things "right" without data or knowledge or even use cases or case studies to back them up. Their knowledge is inch-deep, at best, and the only value they provide is the soundbites (platitudes) that become talking points for executives and boards to demand that "we must invest in employee experience".

We should try to ignore these people, and forget their soundbites, platitudes, and "advice". If there is no personal experience doing the work, why listen? If there is no case study that accompanies the advice - why listen?


This may not be all about culture, but partly it is. The bottom line of economics is about the best allocation of resources to reach a goal - whatever that goal may be (service people better; create and manage a sovereign fund; or make or save money in macro or micro terms). And to do that, you need to understand what are the economic implications of allocating people or money to a specific initiative - including customer and employee experience initiatives (yes, plural - we already said they are separate and different above).

If you see how an investment in culture, people, employee or customer experience affects the specific economic metrics your company uses as a KPI, then you can avoid reading the rest of my preaching!

However, if you cannot understand how investing in either of them is a benefit / detriment to the others, that's where you need to start before making decisions as to the best allocation of resources to achieve your goals. 

Some key points to consider:

  • Everything in business has a cost. You want happier employees? Pay them better. You want to understand the customer? Costs are time and focus. 
  • Everything is a tradeoff (cost and revenue). 
  • If the return is not there, even bad business people are not going to invest. Business and people are not the same. And a business and a person will never have a relationship or engagement... no matter how much we would like to! Anthropomorphising a business will never be what you expect. 
  • Smaller businesses are way more susceptible to these trade-offs and costs and don’t have the resources to pilfer on “nice to haves”.

So make sure the economics work before committing to investing in either employee experience, company culture or even customer experience.

OK, hopefully I can put this one to bed now - what do you think?

This article was adapted from a post originally published by Esteban Kolsky on LinkedIn. 


Replies (5)

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By JaneAir21
20th Jul 2021 11:09

Evidence does not agree. New research from Eagle Hill finds that sixty-four percent of U.S. workers surveyed say that the employee experience impacts their ability to serve customers. Dissatisfied employees were more than 2.5 times more likely to say they do not provide excellent customer service and twice as likely to say they do not deliver quality outcomes.

Thanks (2)
Nicky Hjerpe
By nicky.hjerpe
22nd Jul 2021 11:01

40% of transactions for any large scale customer service organisation is a significant amount to risk doing it badly or ignoring it.
Agree that most people want to self-serve through automation (largely sector dependent), but if they have a problem or clarification and need to talk with an adviser, their experience of that interaction will leave a lasting impression - so it needs to be a good one.
Just paying people more money doesn't necessarily make them happier in their job. Providing team members with the right tools, environment and technology to service customers efficiently and knowledgeably, has a substantial effect on morale, and ultimately, customer satisfaction.

Thanks (2)
By michael cooper
22nd Jul 2021 12:07

Esteban, I almost totally agree.
Companies should develop a good EX regardless of CX (if they are sensible). The economics/benefits of that are so obvious they don't need repeating.
Only a small % of staff are customer facing. Its they that need the empathy, the tools to understand the journey 'instance', NBA and so on. Competencies, not skills, are key - and blame HR if they aren't in place. Do customers care? They do, if it impacts their experience, but beyond that, highly doubtful for most. How many Amazon customer cease using them despite the avalanche of evidence A treat their employees badly and the internal culture is 'sub optimal'. Customer centricity is a trojan horse. Are we seriously saying FBook are centric? Everything they do is designed to nudge customer to giving up more data for free. Do they have a great EX? - probably, but it makes no difference to their business model. They are EX focused to attract the brightest data and behavioural scientists around, and not because they believe EX drives CX. I've yet to see real evidence of the link, other than 'if the car is designed to go fast, it goes fast, so fast is good' truism.

Thanks (1)
By Simon Trippier
22nd Jul 2021 14:20

"You want happier employees? Pay them better". If only it were that simple....

Thanks (2)
By jillian lee
04th Aug 2021 05:20

Wow-what an aggressive article! 'fight-night on LinkedIn - What??? His LinkedIn says
"if you don't know me, google me" says it all really.

Thanks (1)