Executive need to listen

COLUMN | July 20, 2022 | 5 min read

CX and EX are one

Leading companies merge customer and employee experiences to thrive

By Tahn Shannon, Workflow contributor

The widespread shift to hybrid work has been a life-changer for employees and a game-changer for employers. What was once considered a nice perk is now a basic requirement.

At the same time, many Australians report their need for customer service increased during the pandemic. Yet many felt service experiences got worse.

Whether they show up as employees or customers, people are generally united in what they want: speed, simplicity, and personalisation wherever and whenever they need it. As organisations struggle to meet new employee and customer expectations, artificial intelligence (AI) adoption has grown 15%. Corporate spending on information technology is tipped to rise for a third straight year.

Gartner predicts that by 2024, organisations providing a unified customer and employee experience will outperform competitors by 25% in satisfaction metrics for both EX and CX.

Coming out of the pandemic, many Australian companies have boosted digital investments in response to global uncertainty and a major skills crisis. Yet just 16% of executives say they have a clearly defined strategy for digital, according to EY-Parthenon research.

CEOs worry that systems to improve organisational resilience are too complicated to implement. As a result, some of the country’s most complex businesses still rely on spreadsheets, email, and whiteboards. Although many managers focus primarily on revenue and customer satisfaction metrics, individual decisions made by employees will be the difference between business stagnation and growth.

Today, great experiences separate leaders from laggards. As companies evaluate the return on digital investments, prioritising lower costs and growth, AI-based tools and technologies that create outstanding experiences for employees and customers are at the top of their shopping lists.

Change has been forced upon a lot of institutions that have been operating much the same way for decades.

In research commissioned by ServiceNow, AI expert Catriona Wallace predicts that as organisations move up the digital transformation maturity curve, the lines between customer and employee experiences will increasingly blur.

Some forward-thinking organisations are already moving in this direction. One leading food and beverage brand has merged its employee and customer support desks to deliver a simple and consistent experience to all its stakeholders. “I expect more companies will take a similar approach in future,” says ServiceNow Chief Innovation Officer Dave Wright.

AI is no longer just the domain of leading-edge innovators. Even historically conservative Australian organisations are investing in technologies such as robotic process automation and machine learning to transform experiences. In a recent job listing for a data lab general manager, for example, Australia Post declared that its mission was to build an “AI-enabled’ postal service.

Over the next decade, we can expect Australian government agencies to focus on providing citizen services that match the convenience and flexibility of digital consumer experiences. This perspective was championed by Victor Dominello MP, state minister for customer experience and digital government in New South Wales, at ServiceNow’s recent Knowledge 2022 conference in Sydney.

The state’s Department of Customer Service is one of many government departments offering employees a single front door for IT, HR, payroll, and finance services as part of an effort to reimagine the way its people work. By automating manual tasks and improving outdated and clunky processes, the department aims to streamline EX, so employees can spend more time improving outcomes for citizens.

Until recently, outdated systems at the Australian federal Department of Industry, Science, Energy, and Resources, made it difficult and time-consuming for employees to make simple requests, says Steve Stirling, general manager of ICT operations. Even worse, the task of sorting and acting on requests involved sending countless emails to the relevant teams. It was slow, repetitive work.

Introducing a single, unified system has allowed requests to be automatically sorted, categorised, and assigned to the right people. “We have improved our automation and streamlined a range of administrative tasks, allowing employees to do more important work” says Stirling.

Digital transformation is only successful if it provides a better experience than before—and the only way to know that is by getting good feedback, explained Minister Dominello at ServiceNow’s recent Knowledge 2022 conference in Sydney.

“Traditionally, governments just didn’t want to know what people think—but you can’t elevate the citizen experience unless you understand it,” says Minister Dominello. “Now we’re actively inviting and providing easy channels to capture feedback—we really want to hear. It’s a massive culture shift.”

When Westpac, Australia’s oldest bank, began simplifying HR service delivery, it had to rethink how the bank’s technology and service models were structured. The HR team identified many disconnected systems, overly complicated processes, and excessive manual work.

“We were dealing with 90,000 requests and 30,000 phone calls annually,” says Andrew Collett, employee experience lead at Westpac. “Critical information was scattered across intranets, SharePoint drives, and personal folders—employees were accessing help via front doors, back doors, and trap doors.”

The aim of the project was to help employees find what they wanted fast. With the first phase completed, Westpac has achieved a 26% reduction in HR service calls, enabling HR staff to spend more time on higher value work. “It all comes down to taking away the transactional, tactical, high-volume queries so that our employees can solve with self-service, wherever they are,” says Collett.

The beginning of the pandemic in 2020 exposed how National Australia Bank (NAB) needed a new way to interact with its employees. Almost overnight, its 30,000 workers shifted from office to working from home. Without a formal HR technology strategy in place, the bank’s fragmented systems resulted in a 13% attrition rate for new job starters and exposed the bank to more than $280 million in potential risk.

Staff wanted to access data anytime, anywhere, but were hamstrung by manual, siloed processes. The bank realised that the experience created for colleagues needed to match what it offered to customers.

Solution: NAB created a unified experience for employees in HR, finance, facilities, or other workplace services that integrates with existing systems. The new experience was deployed entirely remotely within 14 weeks. As a result, employee self-service nearly tripled, cases raised by phone halved, and 83% of queries are now logged via digital channels.

Companies, employees, and customers have all faced significant hardships and change in the last few years. Investments in simple, secure, frictionless employee experiences are delivering real, quantifiable improvements in financial, talent retention, productivity, and customer satisfaction metrics. They also strengthen organisational resilience and insulate against external disruption.

Underwhelming experiences were never good for anyone, but the pandemic made digital-first experiences the default mode of interaction. In this new world, employees and customers will increasingly demand excellent digital experiences.


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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.