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The upside of enablement: Leveraging employee excellence to advance the customer experience

David Antoline, President,  Active DigitalDavid Antoline, President, Active Digital
Doubtless, you’ve heard about the importance of delighting customers and the outsized value of the customer experience. However, these same truths were self-evident to businesspeople at least 100 years ago. In the early 1900s, department store magnates like Harry Gordon Selfridge, John Wanamaker, and Marshall Field popularized the idea that “the customer is always right.” By that, they didn’t mean that the customer was always in possession of the correct facts, but that the customer’s point of view—her delight and satisfaction—should be the overarching concern in the mercantile relationship.

Of course, today we have more things to buy and sell, more ways to transact business. Customers, too, have more places to take their business if they are not satisfied…and more ways to complain loudly and publicly about a poor experience. The idea of brand loyalty – largely elusive and illusory – is no shield for lousy service. The warmth of ahotel staff can’t help if guests abandon reservations because the app is a nightmare to navigate.

Customers wish to be satisfied—i.e., have their “rightness” validated—at every step in their journey: before, during, and after the transaction of money, time, and commitment. Otherwise, they’ll buy, bank, borrow, browse, and donate elsewhere.

The Experience OKR

Regardless of whether you measure success in dollars or clicks or likes, outstanding experience needs to be the objective, defined by clearkey results. That’s because customers have their own OKRs. They’re not on slides or spreadsheets but are felt as powerful, visceral interpretations of the solutions you offer and how you offer them. These interpretations are recorded by customers on their own version of blockchain: an immutable ledger of delights and slights that they rightly hold as absolute truth.

Customer experience measurement should be builtinto every touch point. For many companies, this instrumentation will require an entirely new way of thinking about the experience. However, the data gleaned is vital in creating a cohesive end-to-end experience. Just as important is user research. While CX measurement quantifies what customers are doing, user research seeks to uncover why they are doing these activities. By understanding both aspects of the transactional reality, brands can advance their customer agendas.
What’s more, the value of this data and its potential is not just for customer service, brand, or UX. Like safety, customer experience is everyone’s job. To enhance the experience, employees must know it, live it, and think it even if they are not customer-facing. Poor internal company experience will leak out…and customers won’t like it.

Optimizing employee enablement

The reverse is also true – positive internal company experience will make its way to your customers, offering you a distinct competitive advantage. By increasing employee enablement, you’ll improve the intra-company experience, which will translate to a measurably different externalexperience for your customers.

Employee enablement goes beyond the laudablebut self-limiting ideal of employee engagement.Itviewsworkers as strategic business partners. Enabled employees have the resources, training, technology, and empowerment they need to help the company pursue its goals. Excuses are replaced with action, business-as-usual is replaced with continuous innovation, and the minimal viable product is replaced bythe optimized experience.

Experience as a shared outcome

We can take the proven philosophy of Selfridge, Wanamaker, and Field and turn it inward for maximum advantage: theinternal and external customer is always right. It’s a mindset that makes individuals, teams, units, divisions, and subsidiaries accountable to their business partners and stakeholders.

When values and virtues align, theyempower employees to solve problems independently, experiment and innovate fearlessly. Acting in the customer’s best interest becomes standard operating procedure because it’s linked to employees’ enlightened self-interest. Upselling and cross-selling become automatic functions of advising and solution providing. The operative question is constant: “How can we do more to serve this relationship?”

Now offered consistently delightful experiences, customers begin to value the brand more. In fact, they begin to value it more than what’s in the bottle, the box, the envelope, or the app. Even for commoditized categories, it’s a value that can translate into premium pricing, higher Net Promoter Scores, higher revenue per customer, and greater lifetime value.

Employee enablement allows companies to lead rather than follow, to power and scale growth intentionally, strategically, and repeatedly—with consistent results that factor out luck.In addition, firms can solicit regular and candid feedback from their internal and external stakeholders in order to refine and evolve thecustomer experience.

Even though the potential rewards can be great, this transformation itself may not be easy. However, the first step is quite simple: start listening to your employees and customers to understand where the pain points are.

Chances are, you’ll see for yourself how right they really are.
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