I originally wrote today’s post for Tymeshift. It appeared on their site on March 14, 2022.

It is a known fact that the employee experience drives the customer experience. Without employees to build the products, sell the products, service the products, or deliver the services, you have no customer experience. They are critical to building that experience – and to delivering it.

When I first start working with new clients, I interview the executive team, a sampling of employees across all departments, and a sampling of customers across various personas. Doing this allows me to get an unadulterated baseline of the current situation. My favorite conversations happen with employees because they call it as they see it. And quite often, what I hear is this: “We don’t have the tools (or the process are broken, or the policies are outdated) to serve our customers the way they deserve to be served.” Seriously, their words. And it’s such a powerful statement – and such an affirmation of (a) what the employee experience is and (b) how the employee experience impacts the customer experience.

The employee experience is mission critical to delivering a great customer experience – and your employees get it. They know what they need in order to deliver a great experience for customers – and it’s not always just training. You need to take a look at what you’re doing to ensure they have what they need before customers can have a great experience.

So, let me step back for a moment and define employee experience. Employee experience is the sum of all the interactions that an employee has with her employer during the duration of the employment relationship. It includes any way the employee “touches” or interacts with the company and vice versa in the course of doing her job. It also includes the actions and capabilities that enable her to do her job. And, importantly, it includes her feelings, emotions, and perceptions of those interactions and capabilities.

OK, so let’s go back to my initial statement: employee experience drives customer experience. That cannot just happen on its own. You need to make sure that your employees are prepared to impact customer satisfaction, to deliver a great experience!

So, employees must have the right tools and the right information to do that. Like what? The following is a mix of tools, information, and other success criteria to ensure a great experience for both employees and customers.

1. Core Values: Culture is best defined as “core values + behaviors” and is often described as “how we do things around here.”Core values are really the beliefs of the organization or, more specifically, the people who comprise the organization. Without them, employees (and leaders) go about their days without a north star or a guiding light to make sure they always know what’s right and what’s wrong. Core values guide them in terms of how to interact with each other and with customers.

Core values should be integrated into everything employees do – hiring, firing, promoting, making decisions, developing processes and policies, and more. If employees ever question what they should do or question if what they’re planning to do is aligned with the organization’s expectations, they can refer back to these values.

2. CX Vision: Your customer experience vision is an inspirational and aspirational statement that outlines what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It briefly describes the experience you plan to deliver. And it serves as a guide to help choose future courses of action. It should align with your corporate vision. The idea is that this vision fuels innovation and reminds employees that there’s a human being on the other end of your CX strategy and transformation.

3. Brand Promise: Make sure you’ve clearly communicated your brand promise to employees. If they don’t know it, how can they live it? How can they deliver it? The smart CEO uses the brand promise to align all of the activities of the organization; that promise guides people, processes, products, systems, etc. Everything the organization does must support and reinforce the brand promise: every product, every person, every interaction, every touchpoint, all of it. Every time. This is probably one of the key tools for your employees when it comes to delivering a great customer experience.

4. Customer Understanding: Employees need to be well-informed and well-versed on who your customers are and how they impact each customer and his experience: provide persona definitions, journey maps, and customer feedback. The better employees understand customers and the current experience – alongside the desired experience – the better they are able to adjust course and deliver the experience that is expected of them.

5. Automation: This is one tool that is being used more and more these days. Automation isn’t about replacing people, it’s about removing menial, repetitive tasks from employees’ plates and streamlining processes so that employees can spend more time on value-add work and building or strengthening relationships with customers. They are happier and more productive because they’re doing meaningful work.

6. Training and Communication: Training and communication begin at the point of hire, with a solid onboarding program and communication around the importance of customers and the customer experience to the organization. Then throughout the life of the employee’s employment, offer regular training opportunities (especially as customer feedback, customers, and the experience evolve), communicate and set clear expectations, and provide ongoing feedback and coaching about how well the employee is delivering on those expectations.

7. Caring Leadership: Anne Mulcahy, former chairwoman and CEO of Xerox Corporation said, “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just as an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” I could not agree with her more.

8. Empowerment: When employees are empowered, they walk around with a sense of ownership, thinking and acting like they own the business. When you own a business, you put your heart and soul into it, into ensuring its success. Empowered employees don’t stand on the sidelines waiting to be spoon-fed; they know what to do. They take the horse by the reins and run with the directive (e.g., the brand promise), being accountable for their roles in the execution of the customer experience and in the success of the business. They work together with others who are just as passionate and who share a common goal. These things combined result in efficiencies from a variety of angles.

These eight items improve both the employee experience and the customer experience. But let me throw this out there. Start by talking to your employees. Get to know them. Understand them on a human level, a personal level. There’s no better way to ensure they have a great experience and can deliver the customer experience you expect than talking to them and involving them in the process.

Whether you are big or small, you cannot give good customer service if your employees don’t feel good about coming to work. ~ Martin Oliver

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is now available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.