No matter how great an experience your company is providing for your customers, if it’s not providing a great experience for your employees too, your business is going to suffer. A poor employee experience—especially when juxtaposed against a great customer experience—leads to employee resentment, disengagement, and eventually, diminished business performance.

In my previous post, I shared that the key to business success is providing great experiences for customers and employees alike. Now I’d like to share some of the common ways businesses erode the employee experience, and how that erosion impacts business results.

Planting the seeds of disengagement

Think about these scenarios:

  • A financial services firm provides easy-to-use digital applications for customers to transact through while employees are still required to use outdated and sluggish systems that don’t easily enable administrative actions.
  • A bank forces an employee to maintain an account at one of its branches in order to receive a paycheck, even though the employee would rather bank elsewhere.
  • Customer service representatives are expected to deliver immediate results in solving customers’ issues, but they’re hands are tied by cumbersome approval processes.
  • Employees are asked to work longer and harder in return for dwindling benefits and compensation, while business profits climb.

These scenarios are real, and they (among others) are the path to employee disengagement. There are a number of factors underlying these scenarios, including short-sighted cost savings, short-term thinking, and entrenched and inflexible company policies. Additionally, many businesses have adopted a “one size fits all” talent management approach to drive consistency, efficiency, and fairness―all good things, but not without their drawbacks.

There is also often a misjudgment on the part of HR and the employee around when the employee experience starts and stops. Employees can begin to disengaged at recruitment and all too often during the onboarding process. Accenture data has shown that a poor onboarding experience has a direct impact on retention beyond the 3-year mark. Nor does the experience stop when someone decides to leave. A poor experience in leaving an organisation is the last thing that people will remember about that organisation and means they are less likely to come back, recommend the company to their friends, or be an ongoing customer.

Compounding the problem is how organisations in general have come to treat employees over time, including the removal of traditional “employee perks.” Who in any large and longstanding organisation hasn’t heard employees bemoan the “good old days” when benefits like free beverages and snacks or business class travel were commonplace? While these perks may have been a cost to the company and offered no immediate financial reward to employees, in essence, they said “we (the company) care about you.” Withdrawal of the perks makes employees feel like the organisation doesn’t care.

At a more fundamental level, the seeds of disengagement lay in the simple failure to recognise the disconnect between the employee and the customer experiences.

What’s at stake

The impacts of this disconnect are tangible, and include:

  • Increased employee disengagement
  • Decreased retention rates
  • The inability to attract top talent
  • A potential ongoing drop in profitability
  • The loss of advocates in the market place

The damaging effects of disengagement in particular should not be underestimated. Studies have shown that within the customer service arena, people-related issues are the source of 62% of all customer complaints. After all, who is it easier for employees to vent their frustration on—their company’s CEO, or their company’s customers? In fact, employees don’t even have to “take it out” on customers to have an impact. Disengagement can simply mean they are far less likely to go above and beyond for the customer and focus on providing a great customer experience.  Conversely, research shows that when employees are happy, customers are happy too. A 2006 Gallup report indicated companies with the highest levels of employee engagement enjoyed an average of 12% greater customer advocacy than companies with the lowest levels of employee engagement.

Lastly, while it’s obvious that employees are customers too, companies that don’t pay attention to this dynamic are at risk in two ways. First, any customer is a valuable customer—and that includes employees. Second, employees are in the perfect position to build the business as brand ambassadors. However, if employees aren’t happy with their company, not only might they not become customers themselves, they might also discourage their families and friends from becoming customers as well.

In my next post, I’ll explain how taking a page from the marketing playbook offers a potential solution to bridging the divide between the employee and the customer experiences.

For more information about aligning the employee and the customer experiences, please see:

Managing Your People as a Workforce of One

Is customer experience management futile without an employee engagement strategy?

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