By Dr. Paul Warner, Phd, VP of Employee and Consumer Insights
This post originally appeared on HR.com. View it here.
If an employee offers a suggestion on how to improve your business and no one is there to hear it, does it even make a sound? It may make noise, but one thing is for certain—it won’t make a positive impact on your customer experience.
First, a quick primer on terms. Employee engagement and related feedback primarily refer to employees’ experiences with their jobs, colleagues, pay, benefits, etc. Voice of Employee (VoE) refers to feedback employees give a company regarding the customer experience. Sometimes VoE feedback is mingled with employee engagement feedback. Some companies even ask employees about their ideas on how to improve the customer experience. Unfortunately, those cases are rare.
With the introduction of the service-profit chain theory more than a decade ago, companies began to understand the strong connection employee engagement levels have on the success of their business. Today, 71 percent of businesses rank employee engagement as “very important” in achieving overall organizational success. Sixty-six percent of CX professionals also say employees are the top source of actionable insights about their organization’s customer experience.
It’s not that businesses do not see the value of employees’ perspectives feedback. It’s that, in a time when brands will do almost anything to please customers, it’s surprising how many companies fail to solicit, value and act on Voice of Employee feedback.
Brands have stepped up their customer listening, or Voice of Customer (VoC) efforts significantly. And while incredibly valuable, even essential, VoC programs only collect one perspective of customer-to-brand interactions. Employees have an insider-view of the business as well as direct connections to the customer.
The next opportunity for companies is to more closely link these two essential stakeholders and their feedback.
Why Does VoE Matter?
Employees are on the front lines daily, which means they can offer companies rich intell into customer opinions about the existing CX. Likewise, employees can connect those perceptions to what’s not working inside the businesses, or which elements generate strong loyalty and advocacy with customers.
Some companies solicit VoC feedback as part of employee engagement surveys, which normally happen about once a year. A small minority of brands have invested in both technology and practices that build a culture of continual employee participation in shaping and improving the customer experience. Armed with both insider company knowledge and a unique understanding of customers, most employees have useful ideas for how to create a differentiated CX. Often, these insights are otherwise unavailable to decision makers higher up within the company.
Inviting employees to become co-creators of the customer experience fosters a sense of shared responsibility for company success. Benefits of this approach include the ability to design and execute truly differentiated experiences for customers that return more value to companies, increased efficiencies and improved employee investment and retention.
For VoE to make a positive impact on company processes and decisions, businesses must purposefully connect employee engagement and Voice of Employee, employee feedback with customer experience efforts.
Here are a few tips on how to do this well:
1. Educate Employees on Key CX Areas
Customer feedback is too often used to focus employees solely on improving negative customer experiences. Companies must focus at least as much time to helping employees understand the ideal customer experience they want to create, their role in making that happen, and how customers feel when the have great experiences.
Organizational leaders must quickly and constantly communicate any changes to brand promises or customer experience goals so employees can offer feedback on key CX components and identify where there are disconnects and disasters, as well as successes. Every piece of customer feedback is valuable, and withholding information from employees creates gaps in understanding, and therefore problem-solving abilities.
Knowledge of future CX plans should also be readily shared to ensure employees are engaged and understand their role in improving CX long term. Employees who understand a company’s CX vision can better address customer concerns and prioritize customer feedback that aligns with pending CX blueprints. Likewise, employees in the loop with future CX plans can better monitor when plans do not adequately address common customer concerns, which helps companies avoid misguided investments.
2. Make Smart VoE Technology Investments
Never missing a moment of feedback demands the appropriate VoE technology. However, not just any technology can keep pace with the high volume of employee feedback needed to generate actionable CX improvements.
For example, the best VoE technologies allow employees to offer feedback in the manner and time that’s easiest for them. This may include open online forums, ad hoc email and video surveys or more in-depth annual explorations. Likewise, VoE platforms should be able to handle a variety of feedback types, including unstructured comments. While structured questions can point companies in the right direction, employee verbatims about the customer experience are by far the richest source of actionability.
Companies should look for technology vendors that can handle this type of data at scale with purpose-built text analytics. And accuracy rates matter. A company can’t act on information that isn’t analyzed. A high degree of variety also gives businesses the flexibility to institute VoE programs that best fit their specific needs. Companies should seek out technology vendors that offer mix-and-match capabilities to best fit and meet all employee feedback preferences.
3. Express Gratitude for Employee Feedback in Word and Deed
Employers should get in the habit of clearly communicating the critical nature of VoE feedback to overall company success. Reinforcing the value of employees’ voices encourages a steady stream of feedback and reinforces employees’ role as indispensable agents of change.
Employers must also find ways to clearly communicate they have heard and appreciate employee feedback, as well as the actions they intend to take. As with customers, when employees give feedback and then hear nothing but crickets, the effect on the relationship can be more negative than not asking for feedback at all.
Employees must express genuine appreciation. Gratitude comes in many shapes and sizes. For example, companies can reach out to individual employees and personally thank them for their feedback, or even reward them. Blanket company praise is good, but not sufficient. Top VoE technologies streamline feedback to help companies identify vocal employees and extend one-to-one thanks.
Companies should pursue operational decisions with employees in mind to support appreciate with investments. For instance, picking VoE technologies that are easy to use demonstrates respect for employees’ time and input.
Every organization has unique CX needs, and each should pursue the right technology investments to capitalize on its specific feedback sources. However, despite differences, all companies must make VoE technology purchasing decisions that focus on one goal—constantly collecting, analyzing and acting on feedback from customers and employees.