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Great Customer Experience Starts with the Right Corporate Culture

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DON'T: TIE EMPLOYEES' HANDS

When it comes to spelling out specific employee expectations, "don't be too vague or too broad," Sam Stern, an analyst at Forrester Research, recommends. Workers should have guidelines and suggestions for handling a variety of customer issues—they shouldn't be left to improvise. But organizations should also be careful to avoid suffocating them with rules and restrictions.

"You want to be prescriptive and specific, but leave them with enough autonomy and power to decide how to react in the moment," Stern says. Ritz Carlton earns praise in this regard as well. Hotel employees are given a certain dollar amount to use toward customer experience at their discretion. "The staff can use those funds however they see fit. Every customer will have different needs and desires, and this policy is in tune with this reality," Stern explains.

Similarly, at Zappos, employees are encouraged to do whatever it takes to please customers, even if that means directing them to a competitor's site, says Lior Arussy, a consultant at Strativity Group. "If they don't have something a customer wants, they'll tell them where they can get it. It's about satisfaction, not selling a pair of shoes," he says.

DO: IMPLEMENT THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGY

From sophisticated Voice of the Employee (VoE) solutions to powerful human resources (HR) platforms, there's plenty of solid legacy technology for company leaders to choose from, but the key to exceeding employee expectations is implementing fresh technology that zeroes in on the consumer side of every worker. Salesforce, for example, recently built a partial HR ecosystem on top of its Customer Success suite—the ecosystem that's home to its marketing, sales, and service clouds. The first release of Salesforce's HR suite consists of four products: Employee Journeys, an "on-boarding" and ongoing management tool; Employee Communities, where employees can connect with peers; the HR Helpdesk, which links employees with the HR department; and HR Analytics, a measurement tool that enables HR staff to track employee engagement metrics.

"When you look at customers, there's this 'do-it-for-me culture' and this high level of expectation, and brands have been trying to deliver experiences to meet these expectations. But when you look at the employee experience, employees walk into their office and it's like they're traveling back in time. The technology is outdated," Jim Sinai, senior director of the Salesforce AppExchange and product marketing, told CRM in April.

By providing employees with tools built on a platform that has proven to deliver solid customer experiences, companies can start meeting some of the expectations that their workers have as technology users. Often employees are frustrated by the amount of friction they encounter with HR technology, and so it's vital to ensure that the seamlessness they experience as customers or users translates to HR software, Sinai said.

Other vendors are also keeping the consumer side of every employee in focus. Confirmit, which offers a traditional VoE product, has recently added a tool to its suite that analyzes the conversations employees are having across social media. Employees may not be allowed to tweet or share Instagram photos while they're at the office, but at home, they're sharing and consuming content from a wide variety of brands, many of which are likely your competitors.

Confirmit's Genius Social Media product "brings social media into the mix" when it comes to determining what employees are saying about the company or competing brands, says Tore Haggren, senior vice president of Confirmit's VoE division. "Through the Genius dashboards, corporate leaders are able to see what matters to [employees], what they find meaningful, and whether they're sharing any frustrations online," he explains. "It's a great way to give the employees a voice in a setting that's natural to them."

DON'T: DO EMPLOYEE SURVEYS JUST FOR THE HECK OF IT

There are no quick fixes to deep-seated company culture problems, so sending around an occasional survey or launching an out-of-the-blue VoE initiative feels superficial and insincere—and for employees, providing the feedback becomes a pesky chore. Unless feedback is collected regularly, it's ineffective, because without incremental measurement, it's virtually impossible to track improvements and other changes. "Employees laugh when company executives tell customers and shareholders how employee-centric they are when all they do is send out one survey a year," Arussy says.

Companies have to not only regularly collect feedback but also leverage the insights to drive employee- and customer-facing initiatives. Employees are the eyes and ears of the company—"they are your scouts," says Chip Bell, founder of consulting firm the Chip Bell Group. The extent to which their feedback is incorporated into the company culture and processes will determine how valued and valuable they feel. "You can't make every change that employees recommend, but putting some of the best suggestions into action is a way of telling them, 'We need you, we hear you, and we value you,'" Bell says.

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