Companies like Zappos often are seen as the standard bearers of the top-notch customer experience, but some companies trying to emulate them may find they fall short because they are missing a key component: an equally top-notch worker experience.
The issue of worker satisfaction being tied to customer satisfaction is drawing enough attention that earlier this year Appirio commissioned Forrester Consulting to evaluate “the maturing of worker experience across industries.” What researchers found may have companies re-evaluating how they approach the worker and customer experience connection.
Among the findings:
Researchers define the worker experience as building a corporate infrastructure that “fosters worker productivity, engagement and agility” to ensure workers “can design, deliver and support high-quality experiences.”
Part of that means giving workers the training they need to handle issues that may arise in their dealings with customers – and then empowering them to make decisions and take the action required in the moment. It also means providing the technology that best helps the customer and the employee. For example, Zappos enables customers using its online site to always be able to connect immediately with an employee, who is given the tools and authority to solve customer issues.
“I think that is what really delights customers – that they can reach out to a human being at any time and they will fix a problem for you,” says Harry West, senior vice president of human capital management at Appirio. “Technology is essential, but it’s got to be empowered by workers.”
The reason why more companies don’t follow Zappos example in empowering workers? “They don’t trust them,” West says.
The survey also finds that managers lack the tools and methodologies to “assess how worker experience affects business competencies like innovation and product development.”
That is why it’s so important that worker experience and customer experience metrics be aligned, researchers say. Right now, few organizations are tying improved customer experiences to better worker experiences. The organizations that are making an attempt at a better worker experience say their efforts are haphazard and actually “are harming the customer experience,” the report finds.
One of the most challenging aspects of improving the worker experience, the research finds, is that 90% of organizations report that it’s not something that’s being talked about by senior management.
“This is sort of seen as the line manager’s responsibility,” West says. “But the problem is that this means there is no consistency (with the worker experience) in organizations.”
West says that organizations need to aim for basic outcomes, which requires a much more “high-level focus” on the worker experience so that efforts are more consistent.
“For example, you might look at whether you do a good job of training employees. Well, without that consistency, the results could totally depend on the department,” he says.
At this point, many may point out that this is a job for human resources. West says that while it’s “top of mind” for HR and they play a key role, the worker experience must be considered mission critical – and that means the involvement of top executives.
“The business case really has to be made for the importance of the worker experience,” West says. “You need the support of the COO” in order to really make the worker experience a budget priority.
West emphasizes that data is key in order to make the link between the worker experience and customer experience, although it also comes down to a culture that is committed to it.
West says that his own office tries to improve the worker experience by engaging employees in a variety of ways – such as the pool table that “we occasionally use,” – but it’s also important there is a consistent message throughout an organization.
“I think it comes down to showing employees how what they do makes a positive impact on customers. That will make people happy,” he says.