- Customer Experience
- Employee Relations
Improve Customer Experience by Improving Employee Engagement
- Christa Heibel
- 20 April 2017
The connection between stellar customer experience and engaged employees may be intuitive for many leaders, but recent research is proving the link to be very strong indeed: more happy employees = more happy customers. Temkin Group’s 2016 Employee Engagement Benchmark Study revealed companies that excel at customer experience have “1.5 times as many engaged employees as do customer experience laggards.”
Any conversation about customer experience strategy must include – I would argue it should start with – a conversation about employee relations. It’s common for companies struggling to move the customer experience dial to assume the solution lies solely in improved or increased technology. In reality, customer experience is most affected – and affected most quickly – by company culture.
The Temkin study analyzed the engagement levels of more than 5,000 U.S. employees and found:
- Sixty-three percent of U.S. employees are “highly” or “moderately” engaged – the highest in the six years the study has been conducted.
- Companies that outperform their competitors in both financial results and customer experience have more engaged workers.
- Compared to disengaged employees, highly engaged employees are almost five times more likely to recommend the company’s products and services, they are over four times more likely to do something that is good, yet unexpected, for the company, they are three times more likely to stay late at work if something needs to be done, and they are over five times more likely to recommend an improvement at the company.
- Companies with 501 to 1,000 employees have the highest percentage of engaged employees, while companies with 10,000 or more employees have the lowest.
- On an individual level, our research shows that the most highly engaged employees tend to be those who regularly interact with customers, who are highly educated, who earn a high income, and who are executives.
- Forty-nine percent of construction employees are highly engaged, the highest level of any industry. At the other end of the spectrum, only 20% of employees in public administration are highly engaged.
I know what you may be thinking: this is a chicken and egg conundrum. Employees are happy because customers are happy. But a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology proves this is not the case. In fact, employee engagement has more impact on business performance than vice versa. The study authors concluded, “Consistent with prior research, this suggests that job attitudes may come first, and that practitioners might be well advised to aim to improve job attitudes in order to boost performance.”
Companies that want to improve their CX strategy should therefore focus on better engagement with their employees. A common barrier to achieving consistently good customer experience is when employees feel that there’s a disconnect between how the company treats them and how they’re expected to treat consumers. “When we do the right thing for our employees, it’s also the right thing for our business,” Corey duBrowa, SVP of global communications at Starbucks, recently told AdWeek. “When employees are satisfied and engaged, the result is deeper customer connections and an elevated customer experience.”
Considering the fact that many companies identify customer experience as the most important differentiator, it makes sense for them to not only understand the level of their employees’ engagement, but also actively work to improve it.