“Happy employees create happy customers” is a maxim said to have been coined by retail tycoons of the early 20th century. Modern-day digital retailer Jeff Bezos, meanwhile, has spoken of building an employee culture with “obsessive customer focus,” while Virgin Group founder Richard Branson said, “Loyal employees in any company create loyal customers, who in turn create happy shareholders.”
Employee happiness, satisfaction, engagement and loyalty have been cited by scholars, authors and business leaders as requisites to providing great customer experience, which ultimately leads to profits.
Customer experience or CX, however, suffered during the pandemic. I’m almost certain that readers of this article have experienced a breakdown of customer service from suppliers, who may have reasoned that most of their staff were working from home, bogged down by poor internet connections and distracting home environments.
Apart from this, customers changed their behaviors, preferring a seamless digital experience to physical touchpoints. Companies were unable to quickly adapt, lacking trained and digitally skilled employees.
It is no wonder that 92 percent of human resource leaders in the US set employee experience as the top priority in 2021 according to an isolved survey published in Forbes. Employee experience (also known as EX) comprises the employee’s perceptions about his or her journey through all touchpoints — from hiring, onboarding, engaging, performing, rewarding, developing, to departing — at a particular company.
Gallup research, meanwhile, has shown that the employee experience matters because all individual moments play a role in how he or she feels about an employer’s purpose, brand, and culture, which directly affect employee engagement, retention, and performance.
Another global study by IDC in 2021 showed that 85 percent of business decision-makers and influencers agreed that improved employee experience and higher employee engagement translated to better customer experience, higher customer satisfaction, and higher revenues. Sixty-two percent said there was a defined causal relationship between EX and CX and that the impact was “large,” “significant” and measurable. This is why human resources (HR) executives and professionals increasingly play a key role in CX.
As a start, chief human resources officers (CHROs) and other HR professionals can adapt traditional tasks such as hiring, training, development, and compensation to embrace a CX orientation. They can include in managers’ key performance indicators some metrics on attitude, behaviors and skills in CX when hiring and developing employees. Even non-customer-facing roles should embrace CX. Internal processes should be aligned to providing great CX, which require the right mindset and behaviors among employees.
This is where HR plays a strategic role, when the organizational culture is transformed into a customer-centric one. Working side by side with the CEO, the CHRO should spearhead the culture transformation of the organization alongside digital transformation. It entails changing the mindset, behaviors and attitude of organization members in a way that provides a positive customer experience before and after the sale in order to drive repeat business, customer loyalty and profits.
The increasing role of HR professionals in enabling CX through EX also requires them to understand how employees interact with customers and how customer behaviors are changing. This is an entirely different perspective from what traditional HR is used to. HR professionals themselves need to transform and learn the ropes of being a customer.
The author is the founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consulting, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is a fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.