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Is EX the New CX?

August 18, 2022 Employee Experience
Melissa Henley
By Melissa Henley

“Happy employees mean happy customers.” All of us have heard it — but what are we doing about it?

Poor customer experience (CX) is a mirror of a company’s employee experience (EX). If you’re weak on one side, you’re likely to be weak on the other. In fact, it’s easy to debate if a strong commitment to EX leads to better CX, or if a company-wide focus on CX leads to better EX — or somewhere in the middle.

The best way to ensure customer happiness is to first to ensure the same for your employees. In other words, employees who feel engaged in their role likely possess a more positive attitude toward their workplace, and in turn deliver more effective customer service. “Happy employees are more likely to go the extra mile to help your customers out, show resilience in challenging situations, and to help your company’s profits grow,” wrote Justworks vice president of customer and employee success Jason Whitman. “All those factors result in more satisfied customers and a better retention rate.”

Given that, does it even make sense to manage EX and CX separately anymore?

Embracing Both Employee Experience and Customer Experience

It’s easy to get stuck in an outdated way of thinking about improving CX and EX. Fundamentally, they’re more similar than they are different. Traditionally, the two programs have been siloed, with EX managed by the HR function and CX managed by customer success. But does it make sense to have the same leader manage both?

Having a C-level leader controlling the effort throughout the whole organization can unite your company to collaborate on CX and EX efforts. Some organizations have a chief experience officer (CXO) or chief happiness officer (CHO) who is responsible for ensuring positive experiences for all relevant stakeholders, both internal and external.

If both CX and EX are managed properly, they can create long-lasting value for the organization. According to IDC, 85% of companies surveyed found that improved EX and higher employee engagement translated to better CX, higher customer satisfaction, and higher revenues. And that makes sense. EX is vital to how the world — and your customers — view your brand and your company. Are your employees posting on social media about how much they love their jobs? If they are, that enthusiasm translates into easier recruiting, easier selling, and loyal customers who buy more often.

But if the connection between EX and CX is so clear, why aren’t we immediately changing everything about how we work? Well, bad behaviors and patterns are built over time, and won’t change immediately. Often, these bad behaviors are the results of good intentions that have evolved in unexpected ways — a sentiment that is familiar to any CX pro.

Related Article: What Happens When Executives Don't Value Employee Experience?

Don’t Just Copy and Paste Your CX Program

Regardless of who manages the program, you can’t look at CX and EX as projects — or as silos. To succeed, the values driving your program must be instilled and socialized throughout the culture of the organization. And that has to start from the top down.

In the IDC survey mentioned above, 62% of respondents said there is a defined causal relationship between CX and EX. So, you might be tempted to copy-and-paste your CX program right onto your EX program. But there are some differences that require a different approach. 

Your employees have a deeper, more complex relationship with your company than your customers. They spend eight (or more) hours a day with you, and have different challenges and different victories. They see your company through a separate lens, interacting with poor leadership, undesirable behaviors, and entrenched business processes that require often Herculean efforts to overcome. 

While CX programs are intended to drive loyalty and increased purchasing, EX programs encourage employees to show up every day ready to bring their whole selves to work. It’s also much more expensive to lose an employee than a customer. The estimated costs of replacing an employee are high — up to 94 days for skilled workers, 14 calls and interviews and up to 150% of their salary. So when you’re considering employee experience, don’t just rely on your CX tools. Be sure you’re monitoring, measuring and adjusting employee engagement regularly.

As you get started, don’t forget to consider:

  • Linking employee and customer journeys. Employee journeys can be frustrating. But we tend to invest resources in fixing journeys for our external customers — which leaves our internal customers feeling disengaged and left behind. EX leaders can apply CX skills to understand employee expectations and actions to understand employee journeys and goals — not just improve HR processes — which ultimately creates an engaged, empowered workforce.
  • Building a common framework for EX and CX measurements. No matter how good your intentions are, it doesn’t matter if you’re managing the wrong things. EX can learn a few tings from CX here — looking at ease (customer effort score, or CES), recommendations (eNPS, employee net promoter score) and satisfaction (customer satisfaction score, or CSAT). Your exact metrics will likely vary, but if you’re focusing on making sure it’s easy to do business with you, your internal and external customers are happy enough to recommend you to colleagues, and they are satisfied with your company, you’re headed in the right direction.
  • Creating a culture of belonging. Employees want to feel like they are making a difference, not just pushing buttons over and over. According to McKinsey research, in the past six months, 54% of employees who left their job did not feel valued by their organization, while 51% lacked a sense of belonging. We share roadmaps and vision with our strategic customers — but are we doing the same for our most valuable customers, our employees? Ensuring employees understand where you’re headed and how they can contribute, as well as how they can drive change, will help retain existing employees and attract new ones.

Related Article: How the CIO and CHRO Will Rethink Employee Experience Together

Is the Venn Diagram Between CX and EX Really a Circle?

Despite their differences, EX and CX both come down to the same thing: Putting the customer first.

A great work culture is more than ping-pong tables, beer o’clock and snacks. A great EX empowers employees to make the best decisions for customers, fosters confidence and autonomy, and celebrates the success of the entire team — not just executives.

When CX and EX are aligned in an organization, so are the results — and improving them will create a competitive advantage that’s impossible for your competitors to imitate. Dan Price, Gravity Payment’s CEO, was ridiculed when he raised the minimum wage for all employees to $70,000, but after he did it, the company’s customer inquiries shot up, employee turnover went down to less than half, revenue tripled, and the company became a case study for Harvard Business School.

So, if happy employees mean happy customers, what are we doing about it? It’s clear that employees who have a more rewarding and engaging EX deliver a better CX. And it delivers on the bottom line, too. According to research from Grant Thornton and Oxford Economics, companies with healthy cultures are 1.5 times more likely to report average revenue growth of more than 15%. So if you aren’t investing in both EX and CX, now’s a good time to start.

About the Author

Melissa Henley is Senior Director of Customer Experience at KeyShot, the global leader of product design rendering software. Customers are at the heart of all Melissa does, and her passion is around connecting people to content that can have a genuine positive impact on their lives.

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