‘Customer’ization of HR

Reports by the American Customer Service Satisfaction Index show that leaders in customer service outperform the Dow by 93%, the Fortune 500 by 20%, and the NASDAQ by 335% . However, according to The Consumer Conversation 2015 report, only 37% of businesses surveyed said they were “able to tie customer experience activities to revenue and/or cost savings” . In fact, half of companies’ CX initiatives do very little to retain customers . With the market for customer experience management services and technology predicted to be worth $13.2 billion by 2021, the customer-comes-first focus is massively resource-intensive. A study by YouEarnedit found 77 percent of employees said the impact and appreciation they feel at work affects their ability to deliver a high-quality customer experience.

In the contemporary context of dynamism, it becomes more a necessity than adherence to a fad to focus on culture and engagement in order to realise the full potential of the investments into the human capital. Temkin Group reports a correlation between employee engagement and success in customer experience. In its 2016 Employee Engagement Benchmark Study, the firm showed that companies that excel at customer experience have one-and-a-half times as many engaged employees as customer experience laggards do. Gallup has found that a staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged, but companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share.

If a company wants employees to make a meaningful contribution, it needs to invest in and treat employees as if they were customers. This customer-centric approach to human resources can be referred to as “consumerized employee services” — a ‘one-stop-shop’ for managing employee needs by coordinating points of contact across the organization to deliver a smooth and consistent experience (Eaton and Tambe, 2015).

Applying customer experience strategy to employee experience begins with needs-based segmentation, grouping employees into clusters based on their wants and needs. Just as customer experience design requires a more nuanced understanding of customers than simple demographics or economic value, employee experience design should be based on employees’ drivers and desires, than simplistic hierarchical or functional segmentation (Lee Yohn, 2016).

Companies should design their workplace to align with the priorities and differentiators of their brands. For example, if a company wants its brand to be known for automation and speed, then the employees’ workplace environment, benefits, performance reviews, and so on should be technology-enabled and fast. Thus employees experience the benefits of the brand firsthand and are better equipped and motivated to reinforce and interpret them with customers. It also helps to cultivate a distinctive culture in the company, which in turns helps attract and retain employees who fit with the culture and are more likely to thrive in it.

Organizations like global retail leader Tesco and technology giant Adobe have gone a notch ahead and integrated their customer and employee experience metrics to deliver a holistic experience to both internal and external customers. Volkswagen’s customer experience function works closely with the people function, has introduced an enterprise-wide insights platform that brings together the employee and customer experience.

One of the best examples of driving their brand through their employees is the employee-centric policies of Starbucks. While most retail companies set health insurance eligibility at 30 or 35 hours per week, Starbucks has offered health insurance to part-time employees working an average of 20 hours per week since 1988. Starbucks also pays for college tuition for full- and part-time employees through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, a partnership with Arizona State University, which launched in 2014. Eighty-seven percent of the company’s brand affinity is driven by the way Starbucks treats its employees, according to a 2014 Starbucks customer survey.

As Sir Richard Branson puts it simply, Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.

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