Start with employees to deliver a great customer experience

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It seems like everywhere you turn today, people are talking about the importance of creating positive customer experiences. After all, building a strong, distinctive customer experience can help build loyalty—and in challenging economic times, a loyal customer is worth his or her weight in gold. But with all of the focus on customers, are we missing something? How can companies define a great experience for their customers without creating a great experience for their employees too?

One of the best lines I’ve heard about employees and customer experience is: “If you want your employees to give service with a smile, you first have to give them something to smile about.” In short, great employee experiences are the foundation for great customer experiences. While your marketing department makes promises to customers, your employees—particularly front-line personnel—are the ones tasked with keeping those promises. The more engaged your employees, the more likely they are to deliver the experience that you’ve worked to define.

How do you create a culture where employees deliver great customer experiences? Take a page from organizations that have first created great employee experiences:

Employee Experience Tactic #1. Encourage employees to use their judgment.

An empowered workforce is more engaged in your success and more willing to “own” the customer experience. Nordstrom is known for its strong customer service. The “Nordstrom Way” is the focus of an upcoming book, which discusses how the key to this type of service-minded experience is an employee base that is empowered to go “above and beyond”. Nordstrom’s famous 75-word Employee Handbook contains only one rule: “Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.” Employees that are empowered to make decisions feel more satisfied, which leads to higher engagement and better interactions with customers.

Employee Experience Tactic #2. Define clear, actionable values.

To create consistency in delivering a great customer experience, employees need to have a roadmap to guide their behavior-also known as an organization’s values. Whole Foods is a great example of an organization that leads with its values. All Whole Foods employees know the company’s values because they are used as a lens for making decisions at the corporate-level throughout the organization. Customers understand these values, and the values are prominently displayed in retail locations. Define what your company cares about and then live those principles by relentlessly delivering on them through your communications practices, hiring policies, rewards and recognition programs and performance evaluation processes.

Employee Experience Tactic #3. Embrace the Golden Rule.

To engage your people, ensure that they are representing your organization in the best way and create strong experiences, you should apply the Golden Rule—treat your employees the way you would want to be treated. Zappos is a great example of an organization that treats its employees with empathy, transparency and fairness—and has built a strong, sometimes wacky, corporate culture to match. Zappos implemented a Code of Conduct rooted in integrity, honesty and commitment. Its core values state that “Fundamentally, We Believe That Openness And Honesty Make For The Best Relationships Because That Leads To Trust And Faith.

Creating an employee experience that gives your people a reason to smile—where they are empowered to make decisions, driven by actionable core values and treated with empathy and fairness—will give your people a reason to deliver great experiences to your customers again and again.

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