Last week I debuted a new speaking topic, Power Up! Ignite CX & EX to Fuel Your Growth. This talk outlines why and how employee experience (EX) excellence leads to customer experience (CX) excellence. The client told me my presentation was exactly what the company needed to help its people understand the critical link between CX & EX, so I thought I’d share a few points here.
I bowed the new talk for a large healthcare services company that has undergone many large acquisitions in recent years. As it has added many new capabilities and new employees, it has seen employee engagement decline and customer requirements change. And yet, the company has promised to produce double-digit year-over-year growth in the years to come. It wanted to inform, inspire, and instruct its leaders on how to improve both EX and CX, so it invited me to address its annual leadership gathering of the company’s 250 top leaders.
I started my talk explaining how the convergence of two dynamics in today’s business world is forcing companies to think and operate in very different ways than they have before. The first is the growing importance of CX. CX has become the battlefield on which customers’ loyalty is won or lost.
CX has become so important because of the increasing costs of customer acquisition. Companies are discovering that in order to achieve and maintain profitability, they need to focus more on retaining existing customers. They must reduce churn and increase loyalty – and the way to do that is to work as hard on delivering great experiences for existing customers, if not more, than on advertising and marketing to get new customers.
CX is now the primary way companies differentiate themselves. In practically every category, products and services are becoming more and more alike, so everything a company does around and beyond the product is what makes them stand out from the sea of sameness. And thanks to the popularity of social media and review sites, every person is now their own media channel. This means brand perceptions are being shaped by the stories and experiences customers share more than ads or websites.
The second force that is changing the way companies thrive and grow today is the growing importance of EX. Just like for customers, the battle for the hearts and minds of employees is played out daily through their workplace experiences.
The ongoing war for talent is intensifying. Organizations recognize that to attract and retain top talent and compete with the full range of companies that are now vying for employees with in-demand skills, they need to differentiate themselves and create more value for their employees.
Also employees are approaching the workplace as consumers. Individuals want the same quality of experiences at work that they have as consumers, such as simple, seamless technology and direct access to decision makers. And now, thanks to sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn, it’s very easy for prospective employees to find out what it’s really like to work at any given company, so company perceptions are being shaped by the stories and experiences employees share more than any recruiter.
In my talk, I went on to explain that companies actually need to address these disruptive forces in tandem. EX and CX must be aligned and integrated together. Research has shown a direct correlation between employee engagement and success in customer experience. According to the Temkin Group, companies that lead their fields in customer experience have 1 ½ times more engaged employees than those who lag behind their competitors. And compared with disengaged employees, highly engaged employees are more than four times as likely to recommend the company’s products and services and do something good for the company that is not expected of them.
I offered up Airbnb as an example of a company that has experienced tremendous success because it has fused its EX and CX together. Airbnb has been in business for less than 10 years, and yet in that short time period, it’s managed to attract 100 million users in 191 countries and is currently valued at $30BB. In 2016 alone it grew revenues by 80%. It has completely disrupted the travel industry.
Airbnb achieves alignment and integration of EX and CX through practices such as:
- Values integration: The company employs 2,500 people worldwide and works hard to ensure each of them integrates the company’s values into everything they do. It has six core values. The first is “champion the mission” of belonging and the second is to “be a host,” that is, to live a life of hospitality. The company puts every prospective employee through at least two rounds of cultural interviews in which they screen for candidates’ alignment with these six values.
- First-hand CX: As a part of a week-long on-boarding process, each employee shadows a support specialist so they are exposed first hand to the challenges guests and hosts face and how Airbnb provides support to them. Employees stay in Airbnb properties when traveling for work and they’re encouraged to do so for their leisure travel as well. The also company strongly encourages employees to serve as hosts — it’s a big ask, but many do. From this first-hand involvement, employees can understand the experiences customers have and how those experiences can be improved.
- Customer interaction: Each year, hundreds of Airbnb employees join hosts at a three-day event designed so they learn from one another. Employees get to see and feel how what they do is received by their customers and, at the same time, hosts are able to build empathy for Airbnb. The company finds that the more hosts understand where the company is coming from and what it’s trying to do, the more they can stand behind and support it.
Because the experiences of employees and customers at Airbnb parallel and reinforce one another, they have produced — and supported – the company’s remarkable results. According to YouGov BrandIndex, its customers are the strongest advocates of any brand, not just those in the travel industry. And in 2016, the company took top honors in the Glassdoor survey of the 50 Best Places to Work.
The rest of my talk explained strategies to align and integrate CX and EX. I’ll cover those in a follow-up post. But for now, if you’re interested in learning more about the power of CX + EX and booking me to inspire and teach your audience about igniting CX & EX to fuel your growth, please contact me here.