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Employee engagement and customer experience: creating an integrated strategy

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This article is part of Blink’s “frontline first” series: content created specifically for leaders of deskless or distributed teams. We know that the job of frontline leadership is entirely different from managing ‘desk-based’ teams, so this is for you and your unique set of challenges.

Most companies and their CEOs, CHROs and other C-suite leaders recognize the importance of employee engagement in an era that has been characterized by “The Great Resignation” and “Quiet Quitting.” But ensuring strong and positive employee engagement (EE) offers value beyond keeping employees on board: it also has a tangible impact on customer experience (CX). 

For those organizations with customer-facing workforces – such as retail and hospitality (and in the case of patient experience, healthcare) – this has never been more critical. But these employee engagement and customer experience strategies are often owned by very different departments, and therefore rarely get the opportunity to align for mutual benefit. In this article, we’ll unpack how you can bring them together to create a stronger, more successful organization.

What’s the relationship between employee engagement and customer experience?

As Richard Branson famously said: “Take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers.” That’s just common sense.

An Aberdeen Research Report stated that: “Customer experiences don’t happen in a vacuum. They are the result of employee activities. Businesses that understand the importance of employee engagement and manage it through a formal program to align to their customer experience goals achieve far superior results.”

This sentiment is also backed up by data: Gallup research, for instance, reveals that: “Work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperform bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 21% in productivity, and 22% in profitability.” Pretty compelling numbers, showing a connection that makes a strategy worth investing in.

Customer experience is driven by great employee engagement

How to deliver an integrated strategy for employee engagement and customer experience

Delivering an integrated CX/EE strategy drives a positive experience for both customer and employee. But that doesn’t happen by chance: it requires concerted effort and a solid strategy.

When should you start?

In a word: now. Every touchpoint an employee has with their employer – from applying for a job through to the day they retire – has an impact on their engagement, and in turn, the customer experience they deliver.

When customer experience is part of the goal, it can be tempting to focus employee engagement efforts on peak periods such as the holidays. However, this misses a crucial point: to be successful, employee engagement should be consistent in both timing and delivery (after all, it’s not so much a thing that you ‘do’ as a thing that you ‘get’ – more on that philosophy over here).

Employee engagement: not just for Christmas anymore

Who owns what?

Who’s responsible for employee engagement? Everyone. While employees’ direct supervisors and managers obviously play a critical role, it takes a village to create a culture and environment that will effectively engage employees—from C-suite, to HR, to line leaders.

When it comes to building an integrated strategy for employee engagement and customer experience, that means that the CX team needs to sit at the table for planning EE and vice versa. This way, you can start to map metrics and associated initiatives that can tie both strategies together. Speaking of which…

What should you measure?

What you measure as part of your integrated CX/EE strategy should offer reliable insight on the extent to which your company is driving positive experiences for both employees and customers – and most importantly, how these two correlate.

Measuring employee engagement

Key metrics include:

  • engagement polls or surveys
  • conversations with direct supervisors and HR
  • passive data on engagement with communications such as intranets or frontline employee apps like Blink

Measuring customer experience

Key metrics here include:

  • customer reviews
  • customer support tickets or complaints
  • repeat purchase rates  

Bringing the two together

Now that you have key datapoints that both CX and HR have committed to, you can start to understand how to maximize the mutual benefits of those efforts. The key to doing so is to collect data regularly and consistently, so that you can make correlations to show that where engagement is higher, customer experience improves. To continuously improve, we suggest breaking these down into:

  • trends by location or site
  • trends by department or team

What happens now?

You start the work of employee engagement – and we’ll never successfully cover all of that right here (check out this article for more). But if you’re running a customer-facing frontline workforce, it’s time to call upon your co-workers in Customer Experience to support and collaborate on a strategy that benefits the ‘bottom line’ as much as the frontline.