It seems like everyone is talking about customer experience best practices. Companies across industries are spending time and effort creating memorable customer interactions deploying omnichannel tools and artificial intelligent (AI) self-service technologies, employing service-focused manpower and establishing optimal processes – all in the sake for an improved customer experience. It drives repeat sales, business growth and customer loyalty. Not convinced? According to Forbes, two-thirds of companies compete solely on customer experience. 86% of customers are willing to pay more if it means getting a better customer experience (Super Office).
But in our laser-focused vision, are we forgetting something just as important – and maybe even more important?
The answer, as it turns out is complicated.
“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
Richard Branson, The Virgin Group
How you treat your employees has a direct impact on your customers
It does seem blatantly obvious. Employees who feel unsupported, unhappy and dissatisfied with their work will negatively affect operations. Often, these employees remain silent and disengaged, but will spread their negativity to co-workers and yes, even to your customers. Those who decide to leave add to the growing rise in employee turnover that many companies are experiencing as we navigate through the pandemic.
“The responsibility of a company is to serve the customer. The responsibility of leadership is to serve their people so that their people may better serve the customer. If leaders fail to serve their people first, both customer and company will suffer.”
Simon Sinek, Motivational speaker and marketing consultant
So, why aren’t companies doing a better job of supporting their internal customers?
Even with effective employee engagement strategies in place that help to create a more inclusive, nurturing work culture, if you don’t implement optimal processes and quality standards similar to the ones afforded to your customers, then you are doing a disservice to your internal teams.
Let’s say that your team is a help desk supporting the payroll and compensation department. Their role is to expertly serve internal colleagues by providing an exceptional customer experience. But, if they are martyred with lengthy or broken processes, lack access to real-time information, then you are limiting their ability to deliver on their promise.
The consequence? Poor service quality flows from internal to external, ultimately affecting your highly valued customers. That unhappy internal customer who was unable to reach the compensation department in a timely manner, or was unable to fix a reoccurring error in their pay cheque? Well, guess what – their festering unhappiness will carry over to how they, in turn, treat your customers. Do you expect a mistreated or poorly serviced employee to WANT to go above and beyond to service your customer? It’s not going to happen.
Plus, these same broken internal processes are often replicated when serving external customers because after all, your internal teams are providing similar services.
Four actionable back-office employee experience steps to take
It’s time to prioritize your internal customers. By applying the same customer experience principles employed for external customers to your internal customers, you’ll achieve greater employee engagement and commitment that directly affects customer service quality – as it transforms into the employee’s ability and willingness to provide top notch service to your customers.
What you need to consider to improve the internal customer experience:
1. Determine how you deliver your services
Are your internal business units in service delivery mode? Do they have a good understanding of the needs and expectations of their customers?
You cannot improve your services if you cannot properly define exactly what you want and need to accomplish. By adopting a customer-centric mindset, you’ll be able to better determine the processes and standards that you need to establish.
Define, share and promote your service offering to your internal customers because it’s the foundation of your business unit and serves as your commitment to the organization and your customers. Properly defining your services and your service levels is an essential condition of success for the optimal management of your operations.
Next, clearly establish the division of roles and responsibilities within your team. Do not neglect to do this with your customers as well. Creating clear and precisely detailed agreements will improve the overall quality of your services and reduce both frustration and misunderstandings.
Ensure that your operational processes adequately support your service offerings and that they evolve according to the needs and expectations of the company and your customers.
2. Measure customer satisfaction
Customer satisfaction measurements should not be exclusively reserved for your external customers! The satisfaction of your internal customers must be at the heart of your priorities, whether you are in sales, marketing, procurement, finance, HR, etc. The internal services you provide have an impact on external customers. The implementation of customer satisfaction measures through annual surveys, feedback forms and discussion groups are working tools that allow you to ensure optimal management of your operations.
And remember to share the results with your team and your internal customers. The goal is to improve your services offered and ensure employee satisfaction, which will in turn positively impact employee engagement. It also signals that you intend to make the employee experience a priority. Plus, this practice equips you to better manage customer perceptions and expectations.
3. Monitor service quality
Again, it’s important to monitor the quality of your internal services and measure the perceived service quality you provide to your employees to ensure employee satisfaction. If you’re not, then that’s an essential step in understanding how well your employees value your services.
In step 2, you took the time to measure employee satisfaction through employee surveys and employee experience initiatives. So, it’s equally important to continuously monitor how well your improvements are being received. By monitoring employee satisfaction levels to correctly identify employee needs and expectations, you can better determine your operational processes.
How well has your team implemented the improvements launched since the last employee satisfaction was measured? Are additional modifications required? Has employee feedback been incorporated into the service delivery process so that you can adequately measure whether employee needs are being met? Continuous communication and feedback are required so that quality levels and standards are raised – where everyone treats the employee as your organization’s greatest asset.
Quality monitoring practices must be put in place since they are a key source of information that makes it possible to measure and optimize the customer experience within the organization.
4. Adopt the same tools that you use to serve your external customers
You’ve invested a considerable amount of time and money on omnichannel tools and AI self-service bots to meet your customers on the channels they prefer. And yet, your own service teams and internal customers may be using primitive tools. You really can’t expect to provide high-quality customer service if you don’t employ the same tools used to manage external customers.
It just makes good customer sense. When you prioritize the total customer experience – both internal and external – then your employees too can greatly benefit from your solution investment.
Good customer experience starts and ends with your employees
Your back-office customers are internal colleagues who rely on their services to complete their daily tasks, function as employees and feel valued. Focus your efforts on meeting their needs by providing employees with the same level of service and appreciation you provide your external customers. It’s an important part of your employee engagement strategy for improving employee retention and employee satisfaction.
Service quality affects all stakeholders in the company.
By developing and instilling a customer-first culture, many organizations have forgotten their employees in the mix. With the market for talent crazy competitive, it’s never been more important to focus on your employees as it helps to attract and retain high-value personnel. Using the same customer experience tools and principles employed for customers with your back-office employees is key to heighten their sense of ownership in their tasks and in the services they provide external customers.
It pays to build a solid customer experience from the inside out.