HR Technologist Article
Guest Written by: Derek Wang
Many companies now have a focus on customer experience. Now many are realizing the significant impact employee experience has on customer experience. Here we examine three areas in which EX influences CX and how that looks at an example company.
With the omni-channel data analytics tools available today, it’s no surprise that organizations are listening to the voice of their teams and gaining insights to improve the employee experience. But successful organizations go beyond this, because they know that happy and empowered employees are the key to positive customer experiences (CX). New Zealand’s Contact Energy is one such organization. The company attributes its successful transition from a traditional national energy provider to a successful competitor in one of the world’s most competitive energy markets to their focus on employees. As Jo Kearins, head of culture, puts it, “People, not processes, transform businesses.”
Companies can determine which customer issues might be the result of poor team knowledge or training using the same analytics tools designed to collect and interpret customer feedback. Employee feedback can also help pinpoint company process and procedure issues that influence customer satisfaction, and provide insight on areas for improvement. These are just a few ways in which the employee experience (EX) directly impacts the customer experience. By treating employees as “clients” of the enterprise, companies are also serving their external customers.
Prior to implementing a customer centric business strategy, processes at Contact Energy were designed with systems in mind, not employees or customers. Customers were even referred to as ICPs - installation control points - and the company functioned as a biller. With no ability to impact customer experience, employees – especially those in customer facing positions – were apathetic at best.
In many organizations, customer service representatives (CSR) are the voice of the company when speaking with customers. The CSR’s attitude comes through to the customer in oral and text communications. Analyzing CSR conversations with customers reveals attitudes on both sides of the exchange. Using trained neural language processing algorithms, data analytics tools can discern the sentiment of each participant and how one impacted the other. Obviously, confident agents who are empowered to serve customers are going to convey their helpful attitude to those they engage. Those customers, in turn, will be more inclined to have a positive impression of the company.
At Contact Energy they realized that employees in the call center want to have meaningful conversations with customers. Many of the previous CSR metrics, such as length of call and number of calls handled, drove bad behavior and did not motivate agents. With customer analytics tools, managers are now able to use more meaningful metrics such as customer retention and satisfaction. Employees are also empowered to actually solve customer issues and, therefore, feel like they make a difference. Hence, they care about outcomes.
Human resource managers don’t have to be data scientists to interpret analysis from today’s tools if the platforms provide dashboards that visualize the results. These systems can help highlight areas where CRS skills are weak or underutilized. For instance, if a CSR is frustrated with answering the same mundane questions time and again, or because they have not been prepared for circumstances with appropriate responses to customers’ questions and concerns, it will be reflected in their demeanour toward customers and in their job satisfaction. In this way, by being attuned to employee experience, human resources can impact CX.
Data analytics systems at Contact Energy interpret agent and caller sentiment based on biometrics such as voice volume, speech rate, etc. With this understanding the company is able to recommend a path for the CSR to ease the conversation and call resolution. By analyzing customers’ concerns, Contact Energy can dynamically update the frequently asked questions and answers used by agents.
Human resource teams can also influence CX by listening to their teams’ irritations and discomfort with corporate policies and procedures. Analyzing employee feedback and sentiment can reveal areas for improvement – both internally and customer-facing. Specific processes that need improvement or revision can be identified using analytics tools to drill down into the data once trends are spotted. By improving company functions and customer engagements, both employees and customers are more satisfied.
An analyst at Contact Energy was unhappy with many of the mundane, repetitive tasks required to complete his assignments. He developed an automated process to handle these tasks and was once again engaged with his role. Recognizing that this initiative delivered results, the company rolled out his solution to the rest of the team. Today, the company actively works to improve employee user experience (UX) by taking away mundane tasks, so agents are free to handle the highest human interactions. It recognizes that regardless of what one is trying to optimize, there’s a human element.
When employees are viewed as valued participants in an enterprise, focus is on user experience. User experience is, thus, the employee experience. And, as we explored above, employee experience directly impacts customer experience. At Contact Energy, employee engagement has improved from 36% in 2015 to 79% today. The dramatic improvement in employee net promoter score (NPS) from -49 to 33 is also reflected in the customer NPS climbing from -13 to 27. In 2015, 66% of complaints were about customer experience; now that is down to eight percent. Most importantly, in 2015 Contact Energy was writing off over a million dollars per month in unrecoverable revenue; today that number is less than $100,000 per month. As Kearins explained, UX = EX = CX.