Perhaps we should view employees as customers, says Jack Davies.
The customer is always right, or so the saying goes. This might explain why so many companies want to collect as much data as they can on the people who use their services or buy their products; they are trying their hardest to meet the needs of their target audience. But what about the views and perceptions of the people who deal most closely with the customers?
From retail staff to customer service teams, it’s a company’s employees who deal most regularly with customers, whether it’s handling a query over the phone or watching behaviour in a store.
Unlike the feedback, complaints or praise received in focus groups, voice of the customer forms or on Twitter, the real-life interactions that staff have with customers give in-depth, in-the-moment insights and information that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Companies already have a wealth of data on their customers, but adding employee information gathered from their daily observations and interactions adds a new layer of insight. The key benefit is that brands will be able to identify what is important to the customer experience —the gap between the experience an organisation thinks it is delivering and what the customer is actually experiencing.
By incorporating feedback from staff into, companies can create a culture where listening and sharing ideas is both encouraged and praised.
Creating a ‘listening’ culture
Marketing strategies often focus on the customer and how to improve their experience with the brand. By incorporating feedback from staff into these plans, companies can create a culture where listening and sharing ideas is both encouraged and praised.
This open and transparent culture also helps employees feel more involved in wider processes. Getting your staff on-board and engaged in this way is proven to improve productivity. Recent studies by The Harvard Business Review revealed firms with low employee engagement suffered 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability and even 65% lower share prices.
Employees are the eyes and ears of any brand. While their behaviour towards customers can make or break your reputation, their ability to observe, listen and understand can have an even greater impact.
The companies that realise this and move to include the views of employees are those most likely to form a well-rounded marketing strategy that is based on varied and trustworthy insights from both sides of the customer-brand interaction.
Removing silos to improve the customer experience
Most companies are guilty of managing their business in silos. Finance, HR, customer services, marketing teams (and more) often work separately, each taking responsibility for specialist areas of the business, with infrequent interaction or collaboration.
While this way of working is often ‘the norm’ in an organisation, let’s picture it from the customer’s perspective. Imagine you’re out shopping and wish to make a complaint about your experience in-store. You can’t find your size in the one item you’ve come in for and can’t find a member of staff to help you.
You eventually track down a person on the shop floor, who passes you on to their manager, but they explain that you need to speak to someone at customer service, because that’s what procedure states a customer has to do.
As experiences go, you’re unlikely to feel very happy at this stage. As customers we don’t value these fixed silos. We want our problem dealt with quickly by whoever it is that we approach at the time, without being passed between employees or channels.
Organisations are overcoming this issue by breaking down these silos and combining feedback from both employees and customers into one overarching experience management programme.
Marketers are starting to use the same technology to monitor employee feedback in the same way that customer feedback is analysed. Their thoughts on new initiatives, products and services, as well as how they feel customers will react to them, adds depth and insight to the customer data.
The outcome of this collaborative working is a united brand strategy, with products and experiences that are developed with the input of an engaged workforce, who have the in-depth understanding of their customers and exactly what they expect.
About the author
Jack Davies is head of content, EMEA at Qualtrics