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Is Employee Morale the X Factor in ‘Customer Experience’?

Over the weekend this headline appeared in the Wall Street Journal: Customer Experience Is the Key Competitive Differentiator in the Digital Age. Customer experience (“CX”) has become jargonized — as the abbreviation suggests. It’s also a term that means different things in different contexts.

Here’s what the article argues:

Consumers want a positive experience, not just a transactional relationship, with the brands and companies they engage with. The customer experience, that is, making each of its clients feel special, is increasingly the key factor for a business to stand out from its competitors.

The rise of the user experience as a key competitive differentiator has led to the growing importance of design thinking in the last few years. Design thinking aims to make our interactions with complex products and services, as well as with complex institutions, as appealing and intuitive as possible. A design-centric organization should be adamantly focused on its customers needs, rather than just on its internal operational efficiencies.

The core principle is putting the customer/consumer at the center of the organization’s thinking and processes. Many organizations talk about “customer centric” practices but few of them actually deliver. In other words, there’s a pretty big gap between rhetoric and reality in most organizations.

One challenge is: the complexity of interacting with customers across so many channels in a consistent way. Another is delivering an intuitive and simple digital experience. Employee engagement is rarely discussed in the context of “CX” conversations. Products or “UX” are typically the focus of CMO presentations. But the neglected “X variable” in CX is probably the attitude and enthusiasm of employees.

In several interviews I conducted with agencies that had low digital churn rates, for our recent “SMB Churn Busting” report, this was cited by several people. For example, Matt Neely, VP Client Experience for Logical Position told me, “Happy employees equal happy clients; so we try to make our employees happy.”

According to Gallup survey data, the vast majority of employees are “not engaged” in their jobs; some are actively disengaged:

85% of employees [globally] are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. The economic consequences of this global “norm” are approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity. Eighteen percent are actively disengaged in their work and workplace, while 67% are “not engaged.” This latter group makes up the majority of the workforce — they are not your worst performers, but they are indifferent to your organization.

In the US, Gallup says that 69% of the workforce is disengaged or actively disengaged. Disengaged employees aren’t disruptive, they’re just not doing their best or making any significant effort. “They show up and kill time, doing the minimum required with little extra effort to go out of their way for customers. They are less vigilant, more likely to miss work and change jobs when new opportunities arise.” Actively disengaged means disruptive or hostile and undermining productivity.

Disengaged employees aren’t going to deliver a great experience for customers — by definition. Accordingly, more time, energy and attention needs to be devoted to employee morale as part of the broader customer experience discussion. It may be the single biggest factor behind organizational success or failure, which isn’t currently part of the “CX conversation.”

At  LSA18, there will be a number of sessions that focus directly or indirectly on customer experience issues:

  • Leadership, Competition and Change
  • How Will AI Change Digital Marketing?
  • SMB Retention All Stars

In addition, IRI President Nishat Mehta’s talk will directly address the customer experience:

Nishat Mehta

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