Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the Age of Experience issue of Workflow Quarterly.
Picture this: London, 1988. I land a job as a mainframe operator in a newfangled industry called information technology. I spend my first few months pulling and mounting tapes. At some point, the seasoned pros decide I’m ready for the next step. That’s printer operation, which involves changing paper and loading toner and fuser cartridges—very high tech.
A few more months pass by before I get to do the actual work of a mainframe operator: scheduling terminals and inputting the unintuitive commands of JES, RACF, and TSO while staring into a monochrome screen during my 12-hour shifts.
If I’d suggested the employee experience was not optimal and that the company didn’t properly celebrate “moments that matter” on my employee journey, my manager would have looked very puzzled…before bursting into laughter.
When was the last time you had an experience you really enjoyed—as a customer, an employee, or just a human being?
Fast forward 30-plus years and everything’s changed. What used to be sci-fi film props—touchscreens, personal communicators, and autonomous vehicles—have become reality. Employees today demand easy, personal, and thoughtful experiences.
Sound familiar? It’s exactly what companies try to provide their customers.
The era of total experience
When was the last time you had an experience you really enjoyed—as a customer, an employee, or just a human being? Hopefully, this is a fairly easy question to answer. But here’s a different one: How would you rate your satisfaction with that experience on a scale from one to 10?
Quantifying experience isn’t easy. Despite this level of difficulty—or perhaps because of it—entire industries have sprung up to help companies measure the experiences they deliver to employees and customers. Capturing and measuring experience is as vital as it is elusive.
If we can quantify experiences, we can improve them. So far, surveys have represented our best efforts in this arena. Many of us are familiar with net promoter score surveys, which help us put a finger on the customer’s pulse, or voice of employee surveys, which do something similar for employees.
Corporate organizations aren’t the only ones trying to put a number on experience. Gallup’s Global Emotions Report measures people’s positive and negative experiences worldwide. Every year, Gallup surveys about a thousand respondents in each country, asking questions about how often they’ve laughed, felt pain, gotten angry, or cried recently. These individual moments—having a laugh, lashing out at a loved one—are sorted into “positive” and “negative” experiences.
When we talk about moments that matter in the business world, we’re really trying to do the same thing as Gallup. Maybe we’re not asking our customers and employees about the last time they wept, but the principle is the same. Breaking down a human experience into discrete moments helps us understand what makes people tick.
Lately, it’s become clear to me that we’re going about this the wrong way. Currently, customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) are on two different tracks. Different departments and teams are in charge of measuring and improving experiences for customers and employees. When I talk to business leaders, they think they have to make a choice. They can either allocate money toward better experiences for their customers, or they can make life better for their employees. To me, that’s the wrong way to think about it.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. ServiceNow recently surveyed 1,000 C-level executives around the world about how they deliver CX and EX. I found their answers illuminating. Put simply, companies that excel at experience delivery don’t think of the two as separate. Instead, they align EX and CX to multiply the effects of each. Rather than tracking and improving one or the other, they’re looking for ways to do both at once.
More than half of all organizations that took this tack ended up increasing their revenue, improving the quality of their products and services, and advancing their strategic goals. That’s a stunning figure. And it’s not just about the money. Executives at leading experience organizations reported their employees were happier, safer, and more loyal. Teamwork came easier for them. Collaboration was smoother and more enjoyable.
These results tell me we’re in a new era of total experience. That’s a good thing. It also means that managers must learn how to improve experiences across the board.
Many of the most successful companies of our era aren’t providing novel services, but rather new and better experiences. Think Uber, DoorDash, Amazon, and Netflix. Clearly, the zeitgeist is telling us that experience is important. But how do we make it even better?
The most critical step is de-siloing EX and CX. That’s something many of us started to think about in the early days of the pandemic. With the sudden focus on hybrid and remote work, EX started to look a lot like CX. Suddenly everyone had to order equipment for their home office using the same systems and processes customers used to buy their products.
Companies that excel at experience delivery don’t think of CX and EX as separate.
According to our survey, many organizations took steps to integrate EX and CX during the pandemic. A little under a third used AI and other emerging technologies to build more intuitive experiences for customers. Here’s the cool part: The data shows that better digital customer experiences also improve employee experiences. About two-thirds of respondents said that they used the same AI technology originally intended for CX to build better self-service interfaces for employees. In short, a feedback loop: better CX yields better EX.
A global retailer recently created a TX team that combines customer and employee call centers. The same agents tackle both customer and employee concerns. AI gives every agent a toolkit so they can handle nearly any question that crosses their desk. It’s a win-win. Employees enjoy customer-level service, and customers benefit from internal accountability.
In the future, tracking and boosting TX might look something like a SimCity dashboard. Logging on to such a platform, we would see exactly how much revenue the business is bringing in alongside metrics on employee success and customer satisfaction. AI will be a huge help here.
By mining survey data and performing sentiment analysis, the technology could tell us exactly how “happy” our business is.
As we emerge from the pandemic, we should continue to look for ways to keep the TX feedback loop going. People now expect it, and it’s just good business. The numbers don’t lie: Organizations that choose total experience today are setting themselves up for success tomorrow.
Businesses thrive when they deliver great experiences
- Net promoter score (NPS): Measures customer loyalty by asking customers how likely they are to recommend your brand to a friend or colleague
- Customer satisfaction (CSAT): Measures how satisfied a customer is with a product or service
- Customer effort score (CES): Measures a customer’s perception of how easy or difficult it is to purchase products, resolve issues, and get answers to their questions
- Employee net promoter score (eNPS): Measures the likelihood of an employee recommending their company as a good place to work
- Employee satisfaction index (ESI): Typically comprises three questions to be answered on a scale of 1 to 10: How much does management support you in your job? How well does your workplace meet your expectations? Do you have the tools you need to do your job effectively?
- Voice of employee (VoE): Gathers employee feedback, pain points, and suggestions for leadership
— Justin Hall