Designing Customer Experiences with Employees

May 17, 2015by zilver

Anno 2015 the customer experience community can be proud and content: customer centricity is high up on the agenda of corporate leaders. It’s been a long time since I’ve spoken to someone with a leading position in business who does not believe that putting the customer first makes business sense. I’ll be the first to admit that many still have a long way to go in putting these beliefs in practice, but the mentality and the will are here and they’re here to stay.

But aren’t we forgetting something? What fascinates me in this stage of the maturity of customer experience design is this: all our methodologies, tooling, and discourse are aimed at understanding the needs and motivations of customers. So we can design services that help customers reach outcomes that bring them value. Nothing wrong with that. But when we start to design the touchpoints through which to deliver these services, we see employees as just another touchpoint or channel—and yet it’s employee behavior and motivation that can make or break an experience.

When we want to understand how customers behave and what motivates them to do what they do, experience designers embark on contextual design research to uncover deep customer insights. When we design new touchpoints, we co- create them with customers and then prototype and test to get quick customer feedback. In 2014, we started doing the same with frontline employees: we involved frontline staff in the process of designing the touchpoints. And we then involved them in prototyping, testing, and getting customer feedback.

For example, when my friend Damian Kernahan of Proto Partners and my firm Zilver Innovation were asked to improve the call center experience for an Australian telco, we didn’t tell the call center reps how to change their behavior based on customer insights. Instead, we spent a lot of time with the reps finding out what it was they needed to deliver an outstanding experience. We asked them to interpret and apply the customer insights. And then they co-created what it was they needed with their colleagues, their customers, and us. When we worked on the customer experience of a large global car rental company, we involved station staff in the creation, prototyping, and testing of experience improvements. We made it their responsibility to get customer feedback. We asked them what they needed to make life a little better for the customers they served daily.

In short, we no longer see employees as a channel to deliver experiences, but as co-creators of experiences. It’s the combination of customer insights and employee insights that now enables us to really make a difference in the organization and in each customer’s experience. And that’s why I’m planning to do even more of this work with my team and clients in 2015.

Employees want to be involved. It helps them understand how to do what they do best: make customers happy. And it helps them commit to experience innovations because they were there as those initiatives took form, they were listened to, and they were seen as pivotal in improving customer experience.

Employees will resist change when you tell them what to do. But they will embrace it if you ask them what to do.

See published article at Customer Experience Outlook.