The Intersection Where Customer Experience (Cx) And Employee Experience (Ex) Meet

A customer-focused culture requires you to constantly look for ways to improve the customer experience, and the only way you can sustain that momentum and get employee buy-in is by ensuring employees have a great experience, too.

By Jeff Toister

##CX #customercare #customerservice #CustomerExperience

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Customer service is about the customer. It’s about making them happy, leaving them with a wow feeling. This concept inspires everything we do here at Botsify. Of course, we’re in the business of developing technological tools (like our website chatbot or Facebook chatbot) to help support the design of that “wow” moment, but at the end of the day that’s what we’re striving to

So, how can your business ensure that feeling happens as often as possible?

Through an airtight CX strategy, of course. And within that airtight strategy, you no doubt put the customer first. But, as you’ll see in this interview, you may be missing something else essential: the satisfaction of your employees. 

How is their experience tied into an overall positive CX? And what can you do to make sure they’re not left in the dust with a bad attitude, or the wrong vision, leaving an unnecessary stain on the delivery of the CX?

We had a conversation with Jeff Toister, who deeply understands the importance of keeping your employees engaged just as much as the customers, and how that cannot be forgotten in your CX strategy. 

Jeff has won an award this year as Top Customer Service Influencer of 2019 (well done, Jeff!), and he uses his knowledge to conduct trainings for businesses looking to boost their CX through the satisfaction of their employees. 

Let’s jump into the interview. 

The Interview

Thank you so much for joining us today, Jeff. First of all, I have to say, as someone who put in their time as an hourly employee, your work really speaks to me. You focus primarily on making employees, as you say, "obsessed with" giving the best CX. My first thought is that perhaps you've had a bad experience with some job in the past, as an employee. If that was it, we'd love to hear about it. If not, what was it that brought out the revelation that employee satisfaction = maximized CX? 

I'm glad my work speaks to you! I can say I've definitely put in my time as well. I've been lucky enough through the years to have both really good and really bad experiences, and I've tried to learn from them all. 

The very first customer I ever served ended in a service failure. I was 16 years old, and had just gotten a job in a clothing store. It was just a few minutes into my first shift when a customer walked up to me and asked if the store carried Dockers. My nervousness and inexperience got the best of me, and I blurted out exactly what my mind was thinking: "I don't know."

The customer got upset, muttered something about the sorry state of customer service these days, and left the store in a huff.

I instantly felt bad and knew it was the wrong thing to say, but was also a little resentful. The person who was supposed to be training me had spent about 15 minutes showing me around and then had gone on her break without fully preparing me to do my job. I had not even met any of my other coworkers yet.

It was a terrible feeling, but an important learning experience. I identified my coworkers and introduced myself so I knew who to turn to if another customer asked me a question I could not answer. I also learned everything I could about the store's products, so I could better assist customers in my department.

My hard work soon paid off when I was asked to help train a new employee a few months later. I did everything I could to set him up for success, and took great satisfaction in seeing him learn to become really good at serving our customers. That experience helped me discover a love for training at a very early stage in my working career.

One of the pillars of your strategy to keep employees engaged is developing a strong "service culture" within your company. You detailed an experience you had when you and your wife were shopping for camping equipment. Initially, you went to Sports Authority, where you quickly realized their culture was centered around sales - complete with an impersonal, stamped "satisfied customer" survey invitation. Having not purchased anything, you then when to REI, and you were impressed with the stark difference. At REI, the staff was passionate about the outdoors and giving you real, truthful recommendations about what and what not to buy. What would you say created that difference, behind the scenes? What aspects of REI's CX strategy, specifically about their service culture, were different?

REI stands out because the organization is intentional about the service culture. It's mission revolves around helping people enjoy the outdoors, and the company does a number of things to make it easy for employees to be engaged with that mission. 

It hires people who are passionate about the outdoors, so REI associates naturally love helping people find the right equipment. They've tried the gear themselves and know from firsthand experience what works best in what situation.

The company has a lot of customer-friendly policies, like a 100% satisfaction guarantee that gives you a year to return most items for a full refund. There are also more associates on the sales floor at REI than at a typical retailer, so customers are able to get more individualized attention. 

In the above example, you mentioned that Sports Authority was making use of surveys, and you do, in fact, go into the use of surveys as a method for maintaining a positive CX, but not always. What do you believe are the guidelines for using customer surveys? Is there ever a situation when they should not be used?

It's helpful to answer your question a different way. What are situations when a survey should be used?

A survey is just one tool in the customer experience toolkit. Before using a survey, or any other tool, you should understand the job you are trying to accomplish. For example, why do you want to survey your customers? What do you hope to learn from the survey? Is there any other way to get that information? What do you plan to do with that data?

The answers to those questions should determine whether or not you should launch a survey, and if you do, what the survey should look like.

Without clear direction, a survey becomes nothing more than an inconvenience to customers that does nothing to improve the experience.

Another one of your articles that really caught my attention is titled "Why You Should Stop Trying to Motivate Customer Service Employees". The key point described here is, as you say, "We spend so much time on the how, as in "How do I motivate my employees" There's not nearly enough time spent thinking about the why, as in "Why aren't my employees motivated?". That's a really good point. What, then, are some of the biggest differences between those two questions? What perspective shift needs to happen for an employer to transition from "what" they can do, to "why" their employees aren't motivated in the first place?

Spend just a few moments talking to your employees and you'll discover that most people want to do a good job. If you hire the right people for customer service roles, they enjoy being helpful.

The real issue is demotivation. Companies make it too difficult for employees to make their customers happy. They make lousy products and services. Employees are made to enforce unfriendly policies, and often are not empowered to do the right thing. Even worse, customers take out their anger and frustrations on frontline employees.

It gets discouraging when you go to work day after day and continuously deal with the same problems without feeling like you can make a difference.

For example, a study by the research firm Benchmark Portal discovered that contact center agent job satisfaction takes a steep drop after agents have been on the job for three months. This happens to coincide with the average amount of time it takes for a contact center to fully train a new hire.

Customer-focused organizations recognize employees are part of the solution. Leaders in these companies spend time listening to employees to understand the challenges they face when serving customers. They work with employees to find solutions, since employees often have great ideas for solving the toughest problems and want to help. These leaders understand their role is making it easy for employees to do the right thing, and if they can do that, motivation will take care of itself.

Directly related to the perspective shift detailed above, you also provide guidance on how to engage your employees for the best CX results. You said something that I think many of the readers of this blog have experienced first hand, which is "Employees lose their natural motivation when they aren't empowered." I feel like you really hit the nail on the head there. When I read something like that, the first word that comes to my mind is "boredom." Like, when employees are bored (not empowered), they tend to not give two hoots about how the customers are feeling, because they themselves feel no purpose to their work. Having said that, would you agree that employee boredom serves as a major roadblock to the CX? How can businesses implement meaningful, empowering motivators into their more traditionally menial roles? 

I think there's a difference between empowerment and boredom.

Empowered employees are enabled. They're given the resources, best practices, and authority to provide their customers with a great experience. When an employee is not empowered, they're missing something they need to serve their customers well. It can be soul-crushing when you feel like the result will always be a service failure no matter what you do.

Boredom is a different challenge, and you're right that it often comes from a lack of purpose. It is easy for employees to get bored when they look at their job as a series of transactions, without understanding why they are serving customers.

The key for business leaders is to help employees understand their job's bigger purpose.

I'm sitting in a hotel lobby as I write this, and I'm watching the valet parking attendant from the front window. It's very slow and he hasn't had many cars to park. It's also clear that he doesn't realize or care that he is the first and last impression every guest has of this hotel. Guest after guest has walked right by him without getting so much as a smile or a hello from the valet.

I've seen valet attendants at other hotels take a much different approach when it's slow. They know they are ambassadors, and they take that role seriously. They greet guests as they arrive or depart, even if they don't need valet service. These valets also keep the front of the hotel organized and clean. When there isn't work to be done, they're waiting with a smile, ready to spring into action when a guest needs their assistance.

Sometimes, employees enjoy their jobs but can become tired from too much repetition. Here's where it helps to give them opportunities to add extra value or just do something different. For example, when I managed a contact center, different members of my team were designated as product knowledge experts for various categories. Each one was given time to really become an expert in a particular area, and they were asked to help keep their colleagues up to date on new developments and serve as a resource for the really tough questions. Getting a chance to do something a little different from time to time was fun for the team.

"Vision Writing" is another big part of your strategy. It's something you get into when you discuss your methods for engaging employees and maximizing the best possible CX. You specifically state that there are 3 steps of creating a successful CX vision statement - which are preparation, writing and sharing. Considering a statement is usually a short sentence or two, are there any keywords that need to be included, or that have been proven to work the best at reminding your staff of the CX and keeping them "obsessed" with delivering it? 

A customer experience vision should be unique to your organization, so there are no particular words that must be included. In fact, it's a mistake to copy words from other organizations' vision statements because what's right for one organization might be totally inauthentic for yours.

A good vision statement fits three criteria. First, it's simple and easy to understand. Second, it's focused on what you do for your customers. Third, it should reflect both the current customer experience and the desired future state.

For that third point, think of what the customer experience looks like when everything is working well. That should be reflected in the vision, and the desired future state is to create that same experience more consistently.

Let's talk about the importance of avoiding a "silo mentality". A "silo mentality" is defined by Investopedia as "a reluctance to share information with employees of different divisions in the same company.'' Do you believe integrating a level of company transparency between branches, thus avoiding the silo mentality, is necessary for inspiring your employees to deliver the best CX? 

I hear this frustration a lot from leaders and employees alike. Silos can crush the customer experience when various departments fail to coordinate their activities. Even worse, different teams can start blaming each other for service failures, which is unhealthy and unproductive.

You can overcome this challenge through shared goals. This helps departments move away from competing for resources and attention, and gets them start cooperating to achieve mutual outcomes. 

A lot of companies implement competitions between different locations or teams to encourage everyone to elevate their performance. This often backfires and causes a lack of transparency and cooperation, because everyone is looking out for themselves and wants to keep their best practices to themselves. The most customer-focused organizations do away with internal competitions and leader boards, and instead have a rigorous process for sharing knowledge and new ideas.

Finally, throughout all of your talks and case studies, if you could eliminate one bad habit you see businesses do that negatively affects their employees' motivation to play their part in the best CX, what would it be, and how can they avoid it?

The worst habit is a lack of commitment. Leaders often find themselves chasing one management fad after another. One quarter, there might be a huge focus on customer experience and then all that work is forgotten by the next quarter the focus shifts to employee experience. Employees see this happening and it gets confusing and frustrating to start one new initiative after another.

The reality is these concepts aren't separate. A customer-focused culture requires you to constantly look for ways to improve the customer experience, and the only way you can sustain that momentum and get employee buy-in is by ensuring employees have a great experience, too. 

The most successful, customer-focused organizations know that CX isn't a one-time initiative, it's how they do business. It's something they work on day after day, month after month, and year after year.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with our blog audience today Jeff. We truly appreciate your insights. To our readers, if you’d like to learn more about Jeff and the work he does you can follow him on Twitter or visit his website here

About the author

Jeff Toister

He is a nationally recognized employee training expert and a sought after speaker with more than 20 years of experience.