Why Voice of the Employee has never been more important to CX programmes
With periodic relationship surveys needing to be paused, the frontline employee's role in sharing insights about the customer experience will be crucial.
If ever there was a good time for customer experience and employee experience to work in unison, it is now. Whether employees are returning to work from furlough, are encountering an altered working environment or are continuing to work from home, they continue to be the first point of contact for customers striving to connect with organisations.
Maintaining relationships with customers and employees alike has been more important than ever during the lockdown, so that as everyday life and businesses strive to move forward, these relationships are able to re-establish themselves. Effective and empathetic communication has obviously been essential, as has been the determination to listen and understand differing and potentially divergent needs.
However, how can you be sure that your employees feel supported, enabled to work in different circumstances and therefore engaged and prepared to go the extra mile on behalf of customers?
The answer is that this is a time for true introspection. If you have a great culture, you have to work even harder to sustain it. If your culture is less healthy, you need to remedy that, even if you are experiencing the most challenging of circumstances. The key thing to remember is that if employees are faced with a vacuum or an unsupportive culture, they will create their own narrative – and it’s unlikely to be very flattering.
It’s essential therefore that employees do not bear the scars when they return to a work of a corporate culture that abandoned them in their time of greatest need.
Ensuring that you have built and sustained clear dialogue with employees during this time will enable you to ask those at the frontline to act as a gateway between customers and the business. It will mean that they are more willing to seek and share insights about the customer experience which could make a critical contribution to strategic business planning as restrictions start to ease. The result should be a virtuous circle whereby employees are more willing to share their views – and pass on those of customers - because they see them being used to drive positive change.
Time to pause relationship surveys
What about the customer perspective? They naturally expect organisations to understand the challenges they are facing and to support them, without sounding insensitive or opportunistic. In which case the question is are we listening to them with real understanding and true empathy? And if customers do provide their feedback, do we have the resources to act on it?
Now more than ever, it’s imperative that we differentiate between transactions and relationships, between CX action and CX listening. There are clearly times when surveys may be appropriate and when continuous listening might be more welcomed and effective.
Ongoing transactional surveys, especially in the B2B space where companies are trying to keep ‘business as usual’ and where B2B respondents are still connected/online/working from home, will continue to be useful. However, you must consider the customer perspective and appropriateness of your action which could be a huge differentiator, especially from B2B customers and employees.
On the other hand, it’s probably wise to pause periodic relationship surveys as they may result in atypical feedback that may not be useful. Respondents are likely to be distracted and surveys may get lost amongst more pressing priorities. If you do retain these surveys, interpret findings in the context of global events. Any declines in opinions could be due to current circumstances.
This is perhaps where harnessing engaged employees at the frontline to enhance customer experience may have the greatest impact. Remember:
- Even if you have contact details and past purchase data for every customer, a well-defined VoC programme can be a challenge to build. Employees are often better able to capture insight from hard-to-reach customers through shop front interaction such as short mobile (and socially distanced) surveys, for example.
- Despite the multitude of channels available, customers often don’t volunteer their feedback: either because they don’t think of it, or the appropriate channel isn’t available at a convenient moment. By giving employees a mechanism to capture and integrate customer feedback, you can increase your ability to gather more insight.
- Employees on the front line typically speak to many customers every day (particularly those in contact centres) and are perfectly placed to recognise patterns in what customers say to them directly. Not only can they identify that the same issues may be arising time and again, but they can help to understand which underlying processes are failing and causing issues.
At the moment organisations are obviously being massively tested. Every industry and every vertical market is facing monumental challenges. However, it is those that have a customer-centric culture in place that will be at an advantage, able to respond and put actions in place faster, supporting both customers and employees until new ways of working and living are established.
CX professionals striving to help their organisations drive the change that is needed to help meet rapidly evolving needs of employees and customers alike may find the following useful:
- Create a SWAT team with executive buy-in/involvement – marketing, customer service/support, operations. Everyone who has a role to play.
- Think about how you have triaged during tough times in the past. What worked? What lessons did you learn?
- Be transparent and communicate to your employees and customers. Your CEO should be the face of your comms.
- Set a metric for everyone to rally around in this new reality. Go beyond typical metrics like NPS and use something that is more meaningful at this time.
- Share stories that can be celebrated internally – trust is not just about customers, making employees proud to work for you is hugely valuable.
Chris Brown is VP Global CX Consulting at Confirmit.
He is a highly experienced CEM practitioner, with a proven track record of delivering operational, financial and organisational achievement on behalf of some of the world’s leading research and corporate organisations.
His current role is to provide support and guidance to...