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CX maturity playbook: Employee experience

Actionable insight to uplevel and transform your employee experience program.

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How to use this playbook 

This playbook features one of the nine key elements that we measure in our customer experience maturity assessment: employee experience.

Here we provide you with specific actionable steps you can take to advance from one level of employee experience maturity to the next. 

If you have yet to evaluate your CX maturity, we suggest you take our assessment now, identify your current level for employee experience, and return to this playbook for how to move forward based on your score. 

The insight provided is in partnership with Jeannie Walters, CX expert, CEO and founder of Experience Investigators™.

ABOUT THE ELEMENT

Employee experience 

Employee experience (EX) is the sum of all the interactions that an employee has with their employer during the duration of the employment relationship. 

Many companies think that by applying the usual benefits and perks—like free snacks and beer on Fridays—they can check off the employee experience box. 

When in truth, it’s much more than that: Employee experience is the backbone of any customer experience. All employees in a company—whether they interact directly with customers or don’t—play an important role in customer experience. In other words, happy employees lead to happy customers.  

A dissatisfied employee is unlikely to provide good customer service or pass vital customer feedback up the chain. If employees aren’t engaged with their jobs, they probably are not representing your organization well. And of course, this will damage the overall customer experience.

The ideal employee experience is supported by defining and measuring employee success alongside customer experience outcomes. In other words, employees understand how their day-to-day actions are tied directly to customer experience success.

A mature employee experience program also invests in bettering employee day-to-day activities, providing them with the right tools and resources, and prioritizing their feedback in a similar way to customer feedback efforts.

Such a state is achievable through strategic action, which you can start taking today with the help of this playbook. 

The five levels below are defined based on general processes, rules, and expectations of employee experience. We recommend you start with the level that our assessment scored you as. 

ACTIONABLE STEPS

Level 1 to Level 5

Level 1   

What it looks like 

At this stage, employee experience is not at all aligned with customer experience.  

This means employee performance is evaluated based on a person’s specific roles and responsibilities, instead of how their actions influence the customer experience. In fact, at Level 1, employees may not hear much at all about the customer experience. 

Employees are given tools based on internal efficiencies, such as time-tracking mechanisms, but not those that enable them to deliver for customers. 

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

Customers get frustrated because I have to ask them the same questions they just answered in chat. When chat can’t help, they have to call us. The problem is that I don’t have visibility into where they just came from or what they did—the tools I have don’t allow me to see that. — Customer Support

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 1 to Level 2 is about transitioning into a “what gets measured, gets managed” mindset. This means tracking objective metrics to measure customer service success, and providing employees with the tools to enable them to deliver on those measured outcomes.

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • Customer experience metrics

  • Tools and resources 

How to take action

To advance Level 2, you’ll first identify and use key CX metrics to drive action across major departments. Second, take stock in what tools, resources, and systems are enabling employee success or hindering it. 

Step 1: Identify the key metrics that will drive the right action 

Now’s the time to determine what metrics will give key employee groups the insight and motivation that’ll drive the right customer-centric behavior.

We recommend focusing on your Customer Support and Customer Success teams, as well as your self-service options for customers. 

Success and Support are the teams that interact directly with customers and can offer valuable insights into what both customers and employees are experiencing across the journey. Also, measured outcomes—like reduced customer service costs or improved conversion rates—can easily show how improved customer experience will lead to better business results. 

There are many CX metrics available, but since you’re just getting started, it’s best to focus on familiarizing your teams with one key metric. Here is what we recommend: 

Each of these metrics will drive customer-centric behavior and enable coaching for specific employees. Plus, employee satisfaction will rise as they start seeing how their actions impact customer experience.

Step 2: Create a list of tools and resources that would empower employees 

At this level, most tools and resources for employees are built based on efficiency and productivity instead of optimization of the customer experience. 

Take inventory of the tools available, and then generate ideas around what resources would enable employees to deliver on the customer experience. If possible, gather feedback from employees to ask them directly. Your wishlist might include:

  • Customer analytics tools, like a CRM or a CX solution, that provide real-time information on customers’ behaviors and interactions with your brand. This will streamline customer support, removing the needing to ask customers unnecessary questions. 

  • A knowledge base that addresses the most popular questions in a fast and easy manner, empowering customers to resolve issues on their own. This tool will also enable your customer support agents to resolve issues quickly, by having the answers readily available. 

  • More advanced employee scheduling tools that empower customer-facing employees so they can better manage higher customer demand times. 

Prioritize your list in order of which tools would have the most positive impact on the employee experience. 

You may not be able to implement these resources immediately, but having a roadmap and explanation ready as to how these investments into employee experience will drive business results, will set you up for the future.

Level 2   

What it looks like 

At this stage, certain CX metrics, like Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), are used by specific departments to track customer experience and coach employees. 

However, customer satisfaction is considered a performance metric only in few teams like Customer Support and Success. For these teams, especially Customer Support, the focus is on resolving issues, with very little activity around proactively preventing problems in the first place. 

Also at Level 2, teams work in silos and most don’t understand the connections between their work and the overall customer journey experience. For instance, the metrics reported are often referred to as “customer support” measurements and not communicated in the context of the overall customer journey. This means leaders outside of support or success, do not see themselves as responsible for the customer experience. 

You might hear employees make such statements: 

Customers often find it hard to track their order status on our website and have to contact Customer Support. Our reps do a good job, but I wish customers could just find this information where they expect it. - Account Manager 

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 2 to Level 3 is about shifting the organization from a “customer support” mentality to a customer experience mindset. This is when all leaders—not just those in charge of customer-facing teams—start recognizing that their role is connected to customer experience success. 

To move forward, focus on:

  • Team goals that prioritize CX

  • Tools and resources to empower team leaders  

How to take action

Step 1: Defining team goals around customer experience outcomes

Business success should be defined in the context of customer experience, and specific results measured accordingly. Which is why, at Level 2, you must introduce customer-centric metrics that ensure customer experience is seen as part of every employee’s role.  

Discuss the overall customer journey and not just siloed portions like Sales or Support. And communicate about key customer-centric metrics that are associated with the overall customer experience throughout the organization. Such metrics could include: 

  • Customer retention rates: happier customers are more likely to stay, leading to more top-line revenue without additional sales.

  • Customer referral rates: Customer experience metrics, like CSAT or NPS, are leading indicators of referrals, which lead to sales and higher revenue.

  • Overall Net Promoter Score (NPS): Leading in NPS can attract new customers and indicate loyalty of current ones. 

Next, work with leaders in each department to select specific CX metrics that are relevant to their teams. For instance, churn and retention rates are key metrics for Marketing while cross-selling and up-selling play a significant role in Sales. For more customer-centric metrics organized by department, click here

Step 2: Provide tools and resources for leaders to easily connect their teams to customer experience success  

At Level 2, departmental leaders are tasked with specific, team-focused business outcomes. The Sales team is responsible for more sales. Product teams are responsible for product roadmap development. Marketing is responsible for awareness and retention. Meanwhile, the customer’s experiences with your company are inconsistent throughout the journey.

To advance to Level 3, leaders throughout the organization must understand how their efforts are connected to the overall customer journey, and how CX success means organizational success. This means having a basic understanding of the overall customer journey, and how everyone is responsible for creating a consistent, coherent customer experience.

Leaders must adapt and respond to employee needs by investing in the tools and education needed to deliver on these customer-centric outcomes. You can support these efforts by: 

  • Inviting leaders to participate in overall customer journey mapping efforts. See the customer journey mapping playbook for more. 

  • Encouraging leaders to commit to one CX-related goal to support organizational goals. 

  • Determining what specific budgets and resources are needed to implement the tools identified to deliver on these customer experience goals. This is often a good time to introduce a survey tool or other customer feedback mechanism. 

See the technology and tools playbook for more ideas. 

Level 3   

What it looks like 

At this stage, team leaders are focused on customer experience measurements for their department. These specific metrics are used to evaluate job performance and team success.

This can show up in various ways. For instance, when the overall KPIs for the organization evaluate Net Promoter Score (NPS) results, which are tied to leadership and team incentives and rewards.

At this stage, leaders focus on team goals and outcomes, but individual employees still don’t see their specific role as tied to customer experience success. 

You might hear employees make such statements: 

I’m thinking about contributions my team can make, as well as what my team needs, to help the business succeed overall. But while I know the importance of certain CX metrics, my direct reports still struggle to understand their direct impact on customer experience.  - Marketing Leader 

Priorities to advance to the next level   

The advancement of Level 3 to Level 4 is marked when all employees, not just leaders, understand their role in the overall customer experience. 

This is also when there are recognizable investments in the overall happiness of employees. The organization prioritizes the employee experience by providing advanced tools and training to help them do their jobs better, which includes delivering for customers in easier, smarter ways.

To move forward, focus on:

  • Employee performance CX metrics 

  • Tools and training investment

How to take action

Step 1: Introduce individual employee performance CX metrics 

At this level, thanks to their leaders, employees have seen how their team’s goals are connected to the overall customer experience success. Now is the time to Introduce accountability for specific, measurable customer experience outcomes at the individual employee level. 

Individual employees must understand how they support specific phases of the customer journey and how that fits into the overall customer experience. To do so, ensure employees are given fair and achievable CX goals and communicate regularly about the customer experience progress. 

First, determine what specific metrics can be influenced by individual employees. For example, a manufacturing repair department leader could determine that customer wait time has a direct impact on Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) rates. Individual team members could see how their individual results on wait time impact the overall CSAT via CX solution dashboards and from direct coaching. Tracking these at the individual level and communicating often about the overall impact will lead to better connecting day-to-day actions with customer experience success.

Next, communicate how this fits into the overall journey and results. For example, if customer wait times are high, then customer support calls will increase and customers will more likely feel frustrated. Communicate among teams to help prepare and anticipate customer needs for the benefit of employees and customers.

Below are other methods you should adapt to align individual employees to the overall customer experience outcomes:  

  • Connect the employee experience directly to certain phases of the customer journey. Leverage the end-to-end customer journey maps while zeroing in on the part of the journey each employee is responsible for. 

  • Integrate the overall CX strategy into one-on-one meetings and group discussions. See our CX strategy playbook for more

  • Recognize and share positive customer feedback and highlight the individual employees who earned the praise.  

Step 2: Invest in tools and training for a positive employee experience

In today’s rapidly changing world, employees are seeking more training, better technology, and the right workplace environment, whether in-person or remote, to feel engaged and empowered.

The World Economic Forum estimates more than half of employees are going to need significant training by 2022. Investing in the training and development of employees is a key factor in delivering a positive and consistent customer experience. This type of investment also leads to improved employee engagement and lower staff turnover, both of which benefit the customer.

In particular, employees report desiring more access to data and better technology to work smarter and more efficiently. 

The right tools and training will depend on the individual company, but here are some general suggestions to consider: 

  • Build a cross-functional approach to employee experience. Human Resources and Internal Communications teams, for example, can work together to communicate best practices and opportunities for employees across the organization. 

  • Invest in tools like customer experience management solutions and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems to help manage customer data and insights in real-time for quick action. 

  • Leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools, like chatbots and smart search, within employee knowledge bases to provide on-demand customer information, product knowledge, and answers to customer questions.  

  • Design employee learning and development programs to support a customer-centric focus, rather than just internal systems and processes. 

Empower employees and they will be more engaged, more likely to stay on your team, and even more likely to refer high-quality job candidates. The customer experience benefits from all these results.

Level 4   

What it looks like 

At this stage, employees understand their role in the greater context of customer experience success. Their performance is evaluated against certain customer experience metrics. 

Employees hear about customer experience on a consistent basis and are able to connect their day-to-day activities with delivering a better experience.

There are investments in employee experience to encourage high morale. Tools, processes, and systems are in place to help employees do their jobs better and work smarter, generally feeling supported and well-trained to deliver on their roles.

Employees are asked for feedback in general ways, like annual employee engagement surveys, as well as some ad hoc programs based on their team or a new employee program roll-out, for example. 

You might hear employees make such statements: 

I believe in the purpose of our business and I’m proud to be a part of delivering on it. The products we design are all about what our customers need. Our team is encouraged to ask for and use customer feedback to drive what we do and how we innovate. What we do for customers is important and meaningful. It’s a great feeling to be a part of this team. - Product Designer

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving to Level 5 is when everything comes together. Employees are dedicated to their roles because they understand the connection between their daily actions and customer experience. 

At the final stage, recognition of customer-centric behavior is rewarded based on specific interactions and experiences. Communication is consistent and transparent regarding both the employee and customer experience.

Employee feedback is also an important part of organizational culture. Employees feel heard and have a say in how to best deliver customer experience.

And customer experience is not something that is seen as separate from other parts of the organization: it is part of how everyone does their job, and how each employee contributes to their team.

To move forward, focus on:

  • Employee feedback program 

  • Customer-centric behaviors 

How to take action

Step 1: Building an employee feedback program

Invite employees to provide feedback both formally and informally. This requires more than an annual employee survey. Just like a customer experience program, an employee feedback program is ongoing and always evolving. 

Provide feedback mechanisms after each phase of the employee journey. This could include one-question surveys to gauge how easy it was for a candidate to apply for a job, all the way up to exit interviews for employees who leave. 

Build your program based on the same best practices that you base your CX program on. Be transparent with results and develop plans to act upon the feedback gathered. Employees should feel their voices are heard and their opinions matter to overall organizational and customer experience success.

Here’s how you can use customer experience best practices to listen to, understand, and act on employee feedback: 

  • Listen: Request both structured—objective ratings like Employee NPS (How likely are you to refer friends to work here?)—and unstructured feedback (Why or why not?). 

  • Understand: Analyze the feedback, identify trends and key takeaways and then share the results throughout the organization, including any plans to act on specific insight. 

  • Act: In addition to taking action on what is promised to employees, recognize and celebrate when employee feedback leads to a better employee experience or customer experience improvements. 

Step 2: Celebrate and reward employee customer-centric behavior 

Define specific, actionable behaviors employees can deliver. These should be connected to the overall purpose and vision of the organization, as well as the overall customer experience strategy. Now that employees are aware of how their role ties to CX metrics, it’s time to connect desired behaviors with the overall purpose and vision in more tangible ways. Focusing on the right behaviors encourages a culture of ongoing improvements.

Establish ways to reward employee behavior that is customer-centric and leads to positive customer experience outcomes.

For example, a healthcare provider’s mission is about taking care of patients with empathy. Employees mentioned by name in the after-care patient survey are recognized publicly and entered into a monthly drawing for a gift card. This is a low-effort way to reward and recognize the right behaviors directly. It’s also an opportunity for leaders to reinforce positive behaviors and engage with the entire team on specific patient experience outcomes.

Here’s how you can create your own reward system: 

  • Identify specific actions and behaviors that lead to positive outcomes, and educate and discuss those behaviors on a regular basis.

  • Tell customer stories with positive outcomes and highlight what specific steps led to those outcomes.

  • Provide meaningful incentives, like financial bonuses or other rewards, for high-volume, positive, and high-quality customer feedback. 

Employees want to provide meaningful experiences for themselves, their colleagues, and their customers. 

Level 5   

What it looks like 

Level 5 is the North Star. At this stage, employee experience is embraced throughout the organization. Here employees and leaders collaborate to develop customer-centric roles, design the customer journey, and deliver experiences. 

Employee feedback is consistently collected, evaluated, and acted upon. Employees feel valued and see customer-centric behavior rewarded and always recognized. 

The employee journey is well understood and communicated throughout the organization by leveraging employee journey maps and Voice of the Employee (VoE) programs.

The customer experience strategy includes HR-focused programs like hiring, onboarding, and ongoing learning and development. And employees are recognized for their contributions to the overall customer experience and are encouraged to provide their ideas for improvement at any point in the journey.

You might hear employees make such statements: 

I feel like we are regularly innovating and creating better experiences together. I know my voice is heard and my work is valued and appreciated. It means a lot when my team leader recognizes those of us who really show up for our customers with our Customer Story of the Week at our team meetings. It feels like each of us is living up to our mission of ‘Helping our clients plan their best future.’ - Financial Services Account Representative

Where to go from here 

Even if you score a Level 5, the work is not complete. Employee experience is an ongoing process of improvement and effort, with a focus on customer experience and employee engagement to deliver overall results and provide happiness for all.

To remain at this level, ask yourself:  

  • How connected are employees to the company’s overall purpose and values?

  • Do employees have the support, structure, and guidance they need to deliver on the customer experience?

  • Do employees have the right tools, systems, and processes to do their jobs well?

  • Do employees report feeling valued, heard, and supported?

  • Is customer feedback regularly shared and used for recognition and coaching? 

Employee experience is one of the most important investments to make for the success of your customer experience. But, just like your customers, your employees will have different expectations, needs, and ideas over time. Stay honest about how your employee experience is living up to these changing needs by checking in with these questions on a regular basis.

CONCLUSION

Closing thoughts

Customer-centric organizations encourage success by defining it in customer outcomes. Your employees are a key factor in customer experience—ensure their experience is set up to encourage both their success and your customers'.

As you implement changes, retake our maturity assessment to track your progress. Remember, you shouldn’t expect to make all major improvements at once—this is an ongoing, steady process, but over time, you’ll find that each change adds up, bettering the quality of your customer experience program. 

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