CxP Law #4: Unengaged Employees Don’t Create Engaged Customers

If you want to improve customer experience, then it might seem obvious that you should focus completely on customers. For most firms, though, that’s not the correct approach. Where should you focus? On employees. While you can make some customers happy through brute force, you can not sustain great customer experience unless your employees are bought-in to what you’re doing and are aligned with the effort. If employees have low morale, then getting them to “wow” customers will be nearly impossible.

This relationship between employee engagement and customer experience was described very clearly in The Service-Profit Chain, which was was published in the Harvard Business Review in 1994: 

Profit and growth are stimulated primarily by customer loyalty. Loyalty is a direct result of customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is largely influenced by the value of services provided to customers. Value is created by satisfied, loyal, and productive employees.

Walt Disney also captured this concept very simply:

You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.

Here are some implications of this law:

  • Don’t under-spend on training. You can’t just change some business rules and processes and hope that customers will be treated better. Just about any change to customer experience requires some employees to change what they do and how they do it. So don’t skimp on the training effort.
  • Make it easy to do the right thing. If it’s hard for employees to do something, then they are less likely to do it — and more likely to get frustrated. That’s why enabling technologies need to be designed for employees to easily accomplish tasks that help customers.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. If you want to have employees feel like they’re a part of something, then you need to tell them what’s going on. So develop a robust communications plan that not only tells employees what the company is doing, but also explains why you’re doing it. And it helps if you sincerely solicit feedback!
  • Find ways to celebrate. If employees do things that help customers, then find a way to celebrate those actions. These celebrations can take many different forms: a handwritten note from the president, acknowledgement in a company newsletter, or an on-the-spot bonus. Look for opportunities to catch people doing the right thing.
  • Measure employee engagement. Firms need to put the same rigor in monitoring employee relationships that they do in monitoring customer relationships. So they need to develop a relationship tracking measure like “likelihood to recommend <firm> as a place to work” that is used to gauge progress and to identify corrective measures.

The bottom line: Customer experience depends on employee experience.

P.S. Here’s a link to all 6 laws of customer experience.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

7 Responses to CxP Law #4: Unengaged Employees Don’t Create Engaged Customers

  1. timvantongeren says:

    Nice post Bruce. In my view this is the heavyweight among the 6 laws – and the one ignored most. [Do you think you can weigh the different laws by importance?] Do you – or anybody else – know any good books that have this law as main topic?

  2. Pingback:

  3. Annie says:

    I’d love to read more about this. Too often companies scrimp and save on employee professional and personal development and/or perks assuming that pouring more capital into the product will entice customers. The bottom line is that companies battling constant turnover are companies that don’t succeed. Why aren’t the dots being connected in more places??

    My area of expertise is Disney, but, frankly it happens everywhere–even in my own company.


  4. Bruce Temkin says:

    Tim and Annie: Thanks for the comments. This is truly an underappreciated area. I would look at the Service-Profit Chain article that I referenced above (it’s also a book). Interestingly, I am finishing up my research on Customer-Centric DNA, so the resulting report will certainly touch on this area. I’ll be able to highlight some of those findings in a month or so.

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