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The Connection Between Employee Experience & Customer Experience

Susanne Axelsson
Susanne Axelsson
September 28, 2021
The Connection Between Employee Experience & Customer Experience

Customer experience. Employee experience. They’re completely different things, right? Going to Disneyland, and working at Disneyland aren’t quite the same... We all know where we would rather be. But how are employee experience and customer experience related?  Mike Carden, guest at The Global Frontline Experience Summit 2020 explores.

Before we can understand the connection between EX and CX — we must first understand the key differences. The first difference Mike highlights is the balance of power. Think about the good old saying “The customer is always right”. When you apply that to the employee, it doesn’t have the same ring. In business, the customer is paramount. They have the power of discretionary spending and can provide feedback with entitlement and impunity. If they aren’t satisfied with the experience, they simply find another solution. Yet if an employee isn’t satisfied with their experience, finding another solution, or another job isn’t as simple.

Secondly, the expectation is different. “It’s called work, it’s not called awesome” Mike jokes. We all know that jobs come with good days and bad days, it’s just how life goes. But as a customer, we expect every day to be a good day. We want to be served, fulfilled and ultimately have a satisfying experience every time.

Then there’s the notion of what Mike describes as ‘the middle’. When we look at customer experience, we often categorize it as really great, or absolutely terrible. When was the last time you saw a Yelp review that said “Yeah, it was okay :)”? Middleground reviews are few and far between. On the other hand, as employees, there’s a lot of sitting in the middle. “How was your day at work, honey?”... “Yeah, it was okay :).” Now that sounds more familiar.

Finally, the nature of the relationship between the person and the company is also vastly different. Customers have short, transactional relationships with companies, whereas employees tend to have long, complex relationships with the people and companies they work for.

So what is the connection between CX and EX, and how do they interact with one another?

Mike uses an example in the healthcare industry to explain. He points to a Harvard Business Review study that found that a performance gain greater than 1% or more in both communication with nurses (the single measure of patient experience) and employee engagement resulted in a 6 point increase in hospital rating. In a regression analysis of 3400 hospitals, a 6 point increase in hospital rating translated to a 1.2% increase in net operating profit margin.

Engaged healthcare workers provide better patient experience, resulting in happier patients. Happier patients stimulate higher employee engagement. This is a pronounced compounding effect.

“If you engage employees, then you will get more engaged customers, and happier customers which will in fact lead to engaged employees. Employee engagement actually is the start of a virtuous cycle.”

But let’s not forget that cycles can go either way…

“Disinterested employees create less happy customers, less happy customers depress those employees more and make them more cynical. They provide less value and you go down a hole. So there is an absolute exponential multiplier effect.”

Mike stresses that small negative perceptions and problems in employee engagement rapidly circle their way through the flywheel and create significant problems.

So what does this all mean? Frontline employee engagement is more important than ever. When you have high employee engagement, you improve customer experience, staff retention and productivity, which leads to a loyal customer base and better business performance. The causation is crystal clear.

When we take a step back and ask what drives high employee engagement, Mike believes it comes back to their experience, which is not quite as crystal clear. Employee experience is determined by a combination of factors including the culture and environment of the business they work for, fairness and inclusion, well-being, support and feedback, colleagues, and more.

Mike provides a scenario to demonstrate this complexity. Imagine you have two employees that love their job and feel empowered in the work they do. You’d expect, based on our early discoveries, that they would deliver exceptional customer service. But imagine for a second that those two employees can’t stand each other, but have to work together. That creates a kind of friction, which is passed through the flywheel down to the customer.

The crux of Mike’s argument is that although EX and CX are vastly different, they’re intimately connected. When we’re looking to improve customer experience, we shouldn’t jump straight to the customer. What we need to do is take a step back and look at the frontline employee and their experience first. When we harvest an environment that creates positive employee experiences, we essentially create more profitable and beneficial business outcomes.

Sign up for free to watch the full presentation.

Learn more about the Global Frontline Experience Summit 2022.

Susanne Axelsson

About the Author

Susanne Axelsson
Susanne is the Frontline Community Evangelist as well as the author and researcher for Frontline Magic Handbook. She believes happy customers are born out of great experiences. Great experiences are delivered by motivated frontline people.
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