If you are starting to think that the term “employee experience” (or EX) is just another HR “buzzword”, you are not alone. There have been plenty of “hot topics of the month” being thrown around and from one trend to the next it can be hard to keep things straight. You may even think that employee engagement is the same as EX as the terms seem to be interchangeable. Employee engagement and employee experience are two very distinct (and important) components to your HR strategy.
Let’s take a very quick look at the difference between the two:
Employee Engagement is the output, or the result of the employee experience. It is usually a one time assessment (think yearly surveys) to measure employee commitment…..more or less. Think of it as a portion of the story from a slender slice of time.
Employee Experience is how employees perceive, interact, and function in all touchpoints of the employee lifecycle (from hire to employment end). In a nutshell, EX is what work life is really like on a day-to-day basis that will feed their engagement (pride, commitment, and advocacy of the business).
But it is so much more than an engagement score. EX is tied tightly with retention. Where an organization has a highly employee-centric approach they will generally see higher retention rates with much happier employees (which by the way ultimately improves the customer experience).
When we think of EX and the employee journey, we should think of it with a start, a middle and an end. Through each touch point we should be asking questions related to how the decisions we make and the processes we implement enhance or distract from a positive response from our people. I tend to look at the timeline like this:
In order to assess how employees move through these phases you need to first understand what your processes are, what system you use and what actions you currently have in place. Then you can start asking the relevant question: “With every action/decision/process you make, or have, within your organization, how does it impact your employees?”
To help you get started here are a just few simple questions I use when I am working with organizations to help identify opportunities for meaningful change.
How does the candidate move through the recruitment and selection process? Is it a user-friendly application system or are there unnecessary barriers?
Is the selection/hiring process structured with relevant criteria? Are all hiring managers engaged and plugged into the appropriate or said values of the organization?
When a new employee starts employment, are we simply providing an “orientation,” or do we invest in actual on-boarding practices? What do we do to make sure a new employee feels like part of the team? Can they relate their job tasks to the overall goals of the department/organization? Do they have the necessary support system in place to promote learning and connection?
How often does the employee receive meaningful feedback on their performance? How is the information delivered to the employee? What actions do we have in place to ensure the employee has the necessary tools/equipment/knowledge to be successful?
Do our processes and systems support the physical and mental well-being of our employees? Do they feel supported, encouraged and part of a team?
How and where do we offer areas for professional growth?
What system is in place when an employee decides to leave? How do we handle the exiting phase of employment (whether voluntary or involuntary)
Was their employment meaningful? Did they feel valued? Were they fairly treated?
In the end, organizations (small, medium, and large) should never under-estimate the value and power of the employee experience. Poor employee experiences at any point in the employee journey will often lead to disengagement, poor retention, lower productivity, higher absenteeism, and decreased quality of work, to name but a few. Encourage transparency with your employees and integrate their lived experiences into your decision making so you are working to enhance their overall journey.
Remember the best question to ask will always be: “With every action/decision/process you make, or have, within your organization, how does it impact your employees?”
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Those who care the most — will sell the most.
The best sales reps understand their customer.
The best sales reps understand their industry.
The best sales reps study the art and science of sales because they care.
After selling professionally for 15 years and reading over 300 sales books, some books become more relevant than others.
If you are in B2B sales, here are 33 of the most relevant books right now:
*Bonus: Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller (this one is marketing but every salesperson should read it)
**For a free copy of my upcoming "sales" book, send me a (dm) message.***Your Turn: What books are missing? What ones would you add?
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To be honest, it depends. You may think that is a typical response from an HR person – finding that grey, safe, middle ground in an answer. But hear me out.
If I were to draw on a comparison, I would point you to any customer service department. The role of that department is to provide excellent service and maintain positive relationships (to retain customers), but at the same time there is a competing interest to ensure they are also following company directives (adherence to guidelines).
In a situation where both the customer and the company are served well: friend. If one party feels they were not served well: foe. And so is the journey of HR.
Leadership may feel their HR department is being too “extreme” when it comes to following the legal aspects of employee related decisions. Employees may feel HR is of no value because they only exist to protect the company. Foe.
Solve an employee issue. Friend.
It is no wonder the push and pull in the love/hate relationship with HR exists. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the perception of the customer. How do they feel after an interaction with the Customer Service (Human Resources) Department?
Over the past year (and even longer) I have read stories, participated in many conversations and debates on the harsh view of Human Resources. As a practicing professional in this field, I have experienced the criticism firsthand. The one thing I have learned is you can accept this as truth and continue to be embroiled in the friend/foe tug of war, or you can make a decided effort to change and be a better HR leader by actively changing the narrative.
You may be asking how?
Simply put: STOP LETTING HUMAN RESOURCES BE DISLIKED. Be the leader that no longer allows people to “blame” the HR function. Be the leader that utilizes communication and displays the ability to work with people and not against them. Do not just manage relationships, build them. And for goodness sakes – stop hiding behind policies. You will never change the conversation if you do not use your voice.
What have you done to positively change the view of Human Resources in your company?
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Imagine you had a crack in the foundation of your home. Now imagine you “fix” the crack with super sticky glue only to find another crack, and another and another. The next think you know you are constantly patching cracks with a less than perfect solution, but it is all you can do to keep your house standing.
For some organizations their recruiting, hiring and retention efforts are very much like the super sticky glue. It can patch the problem, but it can’t “fix” the problem as more and more cracks appear. The next thing they know they are on the Merry-Go-Round Named “Recruiting”. The never-ending cycle of patch and repeat.
A large part of the problem lies in the recruitment process itself. Having unclear expectations of skills and ability, poor selection practices and ineffective communication with candidates all play a significant part in how a company attracts talent.
But (and this is a big but)…….you can really hone in and create a terrific recruitment strategy and still fall short. This is where many of the folks I work with are left scratching their heads. They identified a portion of the problem causing the cracks, invested in extra super sticky glue, but still see the cracks.
I believe that is because there is little to no effort going into the long-term retention plans of the workforce as a whole. A faulty foundation cannot sustain a structure and understanding what is happening and why will provide us the solutions we need to stop the madness if we are really wanting off the merry-go- round.
In all my years in HR there are a few fundamental components that many companies don’t invest in which can have such an impact on their overall recruiting, hiring and retention:
Onboarding (not just orientation!) – every company needs an onboarding process, not to be confused with orientation. Filing out new hire paperwork is not enough. Your new hire should be set up for success as of day one. Training, support, and mentorship is what creates an especially important part of the employee experience. Do not undervalue this step.
Communicate, Communicate – oh …..and Communicate!! The flow of communication between employees and their managers should be constant and on-going. Questions, concerns, feedback, and expectations are daily, weekly, and monthly occurrences. Containing them to yearly “reviews” gives problems a chance to fester and go unaddressed. Connecting with each employee on a regular basis is much more effective than sticky glue after the crack. This becomes an even bigger requirement with a new hire. Lack of communication in the early days will see them disengage much quicker than a tenured employee.
Training (and do not think you are too busy to invest in this!) - Part of new hire onboarding must include a training plan. New hires don’t just walk in knowing the job even if they have all the skills. They need to be shown the ropes. And to be honest, you should want to show them how to do things correctly from the beginning. But more than that, employees seek opportunities for skill development and growth. Is there really a downside to this? Where you can develop skills and train for tomorrow’s needs proactively, maybe, just maybe you won’t need to jump on the merry-go-round quite as often.
How you hire and how often you hire is up to you. If you find that using extra sticky super glue works on your merry-go-round named recruiting, I wish you success. But if you really want to fix the issues and create a structurally sound foundation look at your recruiting, hiring and retention strategies yearly (at a minimum). Replace what isn’t working with something you can build on. Your employees and your organization will be better for it.
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I recently had a negative experience with a big-box pet store chain.
I signed my young 15-week old puppy for some training classes. After a 45 minute call with the trainer, she confirmed the class would start on February 6th. I went into the store the next day to pay for the class, and another manager confirmed yet again the class would start on February 6th.
When the day of the class arrived, I took time to get my puppy walked, fed, and ready to go to her first day of class. I walked into the store, went over to the training area, and then gasped! No class, instructor, nothing. I asked to speak with the manager, who rudely said, “You should have looked at your paperwork!” I informed this very young and naive manager that I was given no such paperwork and that both the trainer and other manager confirmed this was the day. With no empathy or compassion for the mistake caused by the store, this inexperienced and un-customer focused manager began to argue with me, quoting “store policy” and a host of other irrelevant excuses for their mistake.
I explained that I had taken time from other projects to make this class. The manager didn't care. I said that I have been terribly inconvenienced due to their negligence. He didn't care. When I asked him to make the situation right, he boorishly said, “Don’t ever come back to my store again!” Without asking, he proceeded to hand me $129 in cash and walked away.
This is just one example of horrible customer service that millions of consumers face on a daily basis. Companies hold consumers in shackles and force them into submission. “Comply or die” is the new customer service philosophy from most organizations. Companies have designed a process contrary to serving the customer. They have established in great detail a dysfunctional process that is the exact opposite of good service.
It’s as if they get some kind of sick satisfaction over the power they can hold over another person. It is business slavery. They hold all the power, and we have no choice but to endure their horrible service or be denied the essential services we need in life.
It is an appalling truth that needs to change.
Customers are ready to fight
Customers today expect the worst from companies. They depend on poor service and anti-consumer policies. Naturally, customers will be defensive and on-edge. Why should your business be any different than all those others? This is what your customers are thinking, so they come in with the gloves on and ready to fight. They are like Rocky Balboa facing off against Ivan Drago. They are the underdog: outmatched and outgunned. They know they probably don’t stand a chance. So, they will fight to the death. They raise their defenses and are ready to rumble.
But you have a competitive advantage over all those other businesses providing humdrum and bland experiences. You will exceed your customers’ expectations in every way and watch as the defenses come down and the money rolls in.
Sadly, the vast majority of companies today are not customer-focused. They have not made quality service a priority. They have made transactional volume and bottom-lines the mantra.
Can you afford to say “no”?
In my first book entitled The Customer Service Revolution: 8 Principles That Will Change the Way Companies Think About the Customer Experience and the Employees Who Work For Them, I shared how Richard Branson revolutionized the concept of saying “yes” to customers. He tells a story about staying in a traditional hotel and noticing several buttons on the phone for various hotel departments. They transferred him from department to department until someone could assist him. So, he put a single red button on his hotel phones. You guessed it, “YES!” is at the top of the phone. He empowered his hotel staff to take care of the guest and their needs.
Branson infused the belief that every department is committed to service excellence. Finding opportunities to say yes exceeds customer expectations by doing what they asked you to do. It seems like a radical concept now.
As consumers, we expect the answer and the experience to say no. Companies will hide behind policies favoring them. It’s what we expect and count on. This is why when a company goes above and beyond to say yes and make it happen, it is a memorable experience for the client. Saying yes to reasonable requests is the action of doing something, not just saying the word. You don’t have to use the literal
words yes and no. Rather, your actions say the same thing, and often will say it stronger and louder. Giving your customers the run-around is saying no to them. Making your customers feel bad for spending their money with you is a definite no. But creating memorable moments for them is a big yes. Honoring the lower price of a competitor is a big yes. Giving the customer an extra 10% off just for the sake of being nice is saying yes. Remember, actions speak louder than words.
In business, sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes it has to be no. I am not ignorant to this fact. But the customer should never hear this. They needto know they have options and can make the best decision for their situation.
In most cases, companies can say yes to customer requests. They just choose not to. When the answer has to be no, turn those around into mutually beneficial results for both the customer and the business.
In a 2018 survey, Salesforce found the number one demand from customers was a memorable experience. What happens when they don’t get this from your brand? 76% of respondents stated it’s easier than ever for them to take their business elsewhere—switching from brand to brand to find an experience that matches their expectations.”
Further, a Bain Capital survey found that while 80% of corporate CEO’s think they are providing “outstanding” customer experiences, only 8% of consumers actually agreed with them. That is a discrepancy of 72%! That number shows the ignorance of companies who think that by simply providing a product or service they are somehow providing great service to match.
Customers not only expect great service; they are demanding it! They want to know their business is respected and appreciated. They will search high and low for it. And when they finally receive it, chances are they will become loyal brand ambassadors. They will recommend you to their families and friends, which increases profits for your organization. If you provide great experiences and promote a customer-centric culture, your sales will boom. Do the opposite, and your business will suffer. Which side of the aisle would you rather be on?
Customers will not tolerate bad service
We as consumers should not tolerate bad service. I said it before, and I’ll say it again.
I am really tired of hearing about how we need to simply “tolerate” bad customer service. Now before you start sending me nasty emails accusing me of being insensitive, keep reading.
Of course, I don’t mean you should be insensitive, discriminatory, and rude. I have never advocated such practices. But we throw this word tolerance around as a catch-all rather than using it in its proper context. Merriam-Webster defines tolerance as “the ability or willingness to accept opinions or behavior that one
does not necessarily agree with.”
It is this last part I want to focus on: behavior we do not agree with. We are told that we need to simply “put up with” bad service. We need to turn the other cheek and accept it for what it is. My question is this. Why should we? Is there some law that says I have to allow and just accept appalling and even abusive service from a company?
According to a 2018 study by Ipsos, of the 200,000 customers surveyed, government sector customer service had the worst customer service practices in the United States. A whopping 39% of those surveyed stated interactions with government customer service is deemed the worst. Following in a close second, telecommunication companies (defined as internet, cable, and television
providers) scored at a shocking 38%. Healthcare, airlines, insurance and big-box retailers all followed this wall of shame. Sadly, it isn’t getting any better.
If anything, it’s getting worse. Why? Because we as consumers tolerate it. We allow it to continue. We continue to patronize these businesses and enable their practices to continue. By doing so, we give them a carte-blanche excuse to be noxious and unfeeling in their service.
In the logo for my consulting firm, I use two Japanese characters that spell the word kaizen. It means “good change”, but is also the embodiment of a way of life. Kaizen means to continually look for opportunities to better one’s self and surroundings. What a great concept for customer experience!
Even the most customer-centric organizations will tell you that they can always do better.
You are presented daily with an abundance of chances to be a hero in your customer’s lives. Put on your cape and make it happen for them!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
By Bryan Horn
Bryan Horn is the founder of CX Solutions, and customer experience training firm located in Salt Lake City, UT. He is the author of two successful customer service books, The Customer Service Revolution: 8 Principles That Will Change the Way Companies Think About the Customer Experience and the Employees Who Work for Them!, and Get Your Stuff and Get Out! Why Customer Service Sucks and How We Can Make It Great Again!.
He is a graduate of the world's foremost customer service development programs, namely The Zappos School of WOW!, the Disney Institute, and The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. He was dubbed a “customer service superhero” by the UK based Clientship Partner podcast (hosted by Christopher Brooks).
For more information about Bryan, please visit www.thecsrevolution.com.
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