Executive need to listen

COLUMN | July 20, 2022 | 4 min read

Building an experience company

Why an integrated employee and customer experience is greater than the sum of its parts

By Tahn Shannon, Workflow contributor

Customer experience has long been a priority for the most successful companies and business leaders. When customers have a great experience, they’re more likely to buy more, make repeat purchases, and forgive mistakes, according to research from KPMG.

Yet when organisations think about improving customer service, many are now starting with their own employees. Research suggests that combining a focus on employee experience (EX) alongside customer experience (CX) will deliver long-term improvements to customer service and satisfaction.

This is echoed in new analysis by AI expert Catriona Wallace, commissioned by ServiceNow, which predicts that the lines between customer and employee experiences will increasingly blur.


How AI is improving customer experience

While many organisations have mastered human-centred design—prioritising people’s needs when creating new products or services—it’s not until they take the next step and transition from specialised EX and CX teams to a unified experience approach that the numbers really come into focus.

An integrated approach to CX and EX can help multiply impact, according to Dean Salter, group executive for global business services at Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company. Speaking at a recent Trans-Tasman Business Council (TTBC) Roundtable, Salter outlined how he is leading Telstra through a total experience transformation, overhauling its product suite and simplifying go-to-market options.

For Telstra’s customer assurance team, customer satisfaction and employee engagement are intertwined. Simplifying experiences boiled down to a human-centred observation: whatever pain and frustration employees felt was directly passed on to customers. This insight also redefined the role of agents: from encyclopaedic knowledge banks skilled in specific technologies to empathic customer care experts.

“It’s all about removing the hands off the keyboard and serving up information,” says Eric Jeanne, group owner at Telstra. 


Percentage of total experience leaders who report higher revenue by integrating CX and EX — ServiceNow/ThoughtLab

“We achieved that by digitising and automating workflows, to leverage all the data that’s captured, and supplementing that with the intel we have across our networks, to diagnose and restore service issues in real time.”

“We’re making it easier for customers to interact with us and for employees to do their job, wherever they are. Agents no longer have to be located in a particular area or role to provide that assurance function,” Jeanne adds. “Assurance is now delivered in a couple of clicks, not a couple of hours.”

There’s plenty of evidence showing a clear link between employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and profit. A recent ThoughtLab study, sponsored by ServiceNow, found that 41% of total experience leaders reported greater market share and lower costs from balancing customer and employee experiences, and 45% reported higher revenue from integrating CX and EX.

Nowhere is the urgency for total experience more apparent than in customer service, where front-line agents are often disconnected from middle and back-office operations. A recent ServiceNow study of more than 1,000 Australian consumers found 29% blamed bad customer service on a lack of ownership and responsibility between different departments.

If organisations get it right, it creates a virtuous circle. Happier employees deliver better service, and customer satisfaction increases, along with loyalty. As customers’ experience improves, morale and job satisfaction among employees climbs in parallel. When it comes to creating a brilliant total experience, the sum is greater than its parts.

This trend is only accelerating as AI experiences become more pervasive. Wallace’s analysis found that advances in AI are now helping workers and customers make more informed decisions, faster. At the same time, AI is enabling organisations to do a better job of understanding and caring for their employees and customers.

As businesses redefine what the workplace means today, changes to the fundamental structure and flow of work and customer service are also appearing.

At Telstra, CBD offices are being refitted as meeting points for team collaboration. Satellite locations will offer productive work zones without the commute, and the WFH environment completes the equation.

KPMG research shows more physical head offices are evolving into teamwork and collaboration hubs. Aussies want to decide whether they head into the office or work remotely depending on the activity they’re performing that day. The same research found more than 90% of employers say the impetus to re-evaluate their workplace strategies is not about cost-saving—it’s about delivering a superior EX.

Leaders can begin by creating a roadmap for experience that puts their people at the centre. Whether they’re at home or in the office, employees should feel they’re on a level playing field: that they have an equal voice in meetings and equal access to support and knowledge sharing. For some at the TTBC roundtable, mitigating remote-versus-office hierarchies is as simple as making sure that if one person is video-calling into a meeting, then all office-based attendees also switch to screens.

The future of work demands connected experiences that keep teams productive and motivated by removing friction points and automating admin. As Aussie businesses experiment with sustainable hybrid workplace models, they must support this shift with digital systems and AI tools that make work flow seamlessly between people and systems.

Siloed organisations simply won’t survive in the new world of work. An experience-driven organisation is like a self-healing, self-innovating, self-propelling vehicle heading toward one destination: delivering a great total experience.

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Tahn Shannon is a Sydney-based communications strategist and writer. She’s spent nearly two decades working with business leaders at the intersection of industry disruption, innovation, and organisational change.

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