woman laughing as a colleague looks on (back when we could share offices)
PHOTO: Jason Goodman | unsplash

Customer experience (CX) initiatives often have a strong emphasis on changing corporate culture. And it makes sense. There’s a direct link between happy employees and happy customers. The Aberdeen Group found that companies that actively engage employees have customer loyalty rates 233% higher than those that don’t.

Employees are the face of your brand. No matter how much effort you put into digitizing your customer journey, at some point your customers will interact with an employee. And even if they don’t, their digital journey will be programmed (or in the case of an AI-driven experience, coded) by a person. Regardless of if your customers physically interact with your employees or not, their intentions, care and understanding of the importance of customer experience will shine through.

If the connection between company culture, customer experience and improved revenue is so clear, why aren’t we all running out to change everything about how we work? Well, as the aphorism says: Rome wasn’t built in a day — and neither is your company culture. It’s not a journey, it’s a destination — and it’s one you reach after ongoing iteration and effort.

If you’re looking to create a company culture that supports your customer experience goals, be sure you’re focusing on your employee experience, looking beyond the metrics and communicating your values.

Employee Experience Drives Customer Experience, So Start From Within

It’s simple: EX drives CX. If you don’t have happy employees, you won’t have happy customers. Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute found that eight out of 10 customers are willing to pay more for a superior experience.

Investing in EX doesn’t mean giving employees more vacation time and free lunch and donuts on Fridays (although that doesn’t hurt). It means you invest in the right things, like:

Recognition

Everyone values feeling seen and understood. For customers, it’s a personalized experience when they visit your website, or talking to a customer success manager who knows them. For your employees, it’s recognition. When employees feel recognized, retention goes up, and when they don’t, they leave. One survey showed that 50% of employees who don't feel valued start looking for other jobs. Think about recognizing employees on their birthdays and anniversaries, shouting out their wins, and establishing personal relationships so they feel seen. In the end, both customers and employees want to feel valued as people, not just as part of the bottom line.

Consistent Employee Experience

As a general rule, customers care more about the overall experience than some big wow moment, and employees value the day-to-day experience where they are treated like humans more than a fancy holiday party. In fact, 60% of employees would take a pay cut to work for a more empathetic employer. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a huge amount of money moving to a fancy new building. It could be simple things like more flexible work schedules, better lighting in the office or a standing desk. The point is, you won’t know unless you ask, making investing in getting accurate and timely feedback even more important. 

Open Feedback Channels

On the note of feedback, let’s revisit “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By the Sink,” which I first discussed in relation to proactive support. Guess what? It’s not just your customers who are giving you clues about their unhappiness: your employees are too. Many of us are guilty of asking for feedback then ignoring it if it doesn’t fit our narrative or dismissing it as just unhappy people complaining. Constructive feedback is one of the greatest gifts you can receive, because it means you have employees who are still engaged. So, if you’re going to ask for feedback, set your ego aside and listen. You might be surprised at what you hear.

Whether you’re thinking about customers or employees, it all boils down to the golden rule: treat others like you’d like to be treated. Policies and procedures have consequences — both good and bad — that reach far beyond their intended consequences. And if your employees’ experience isn’t positive, you can bet your customers’ won’t be either.

Related Article: 5 Tips to Get More From Your Voice of Employee Program

Don’t Get Tied Up in the Metrics

Churn, NPS, CSAT, CES … the CX metrics you can measure are endless. Yet focusing only on metrics can leave you disconnected from your ultimate goal: keeping customers happy.

You’ll know you’re tied up in metrics if you’re justifying results with the same tired excuses (internal systems, not having enough or having the wrong people, dirty data) — or using those same excuses as a reason you shouldn’t even try to improve. Maybe you’re spending all your time debating how to calculate metrics instead of discussing what insights they’re giving you. Or maybe you’re just telling anyone who will listen that the numbers don’t matter because “we’re different” — and ignoring customer insights because they just don’t get it.

Metrics are important, but they aren’t everything. Instead, think about prioritizing must-win battles that impact customers’ happiness — and your bottom line. It’s a lot easier to rally employees around “improving the login experience” rather than “reducing bounce rate from the login page from 65% to 33%.” Employees have ideas about improving a specific experience based on their knowledge and conversations with customers. Let them be a part of driving the solution. 

Related Article: Frontline Workers: The Untapped Knowledge Workers in Your Midst

Think You’re Communicating Enough? Think Again

Do you know your company’s mission, vision, and values? Be honest: how many of you just went to your company’s website for a quick refresh? Well, I’ve got news for you — if you don’t know, why would you think your employees do?

Your mission, vision and values can’t be something you write once, memorialize on your website, then promptly forget. You need to continuously communicate them throughout the organization, so they’re part of your company culture. But more than that, you need to make it easy for employees to live those values.

Think about it. Most of us probably work at companies who have some variation of “customer success” as one of their core values. After all, who doesn’t want to make customers successful? And to be more blunt — what company will succeed if they don’t put customers’ success at the center of their strategy? But it’s one thing to say it, and it’s another thing to live it — in your words and in your actions.

So, the next time you feel like repeating your values at an all-hands, take a step back and think about if you’re empowering your employees to live your values. Are you giving them the technology they need to quickly solve customer problems, or are they working with patchy internal systems that have been cobbled together over the years? Are your employees encouraged to use their best judgment to make decisions to help customers get a quick resolution, or are they hamstrung by pages of policies and procedures? Do your employees feel they are able to communicate back to you about what is and isn’t working, or are they expected to sit silently because the executive team knows best?

When you empower your team to live your values, you’ll create a dynamic and vibrant corporate culture that supports your customer experience — and grows with you over time.

Customers expect and value great experiences and emotional engagement, which means strong company culture makes all the difference. To live customer experience, your team must move beyond simple KPIs to caring about making life better for your customers, your company, and everyone they meet. And to get there, it means you must encourage motivation and engagement from your team.