Let’s talk about customer and employee experience. There’s much talk about “experience” nowadays. In this article I want to share some of my thoughts about this positive “fuss” around customer experience (CX) and then employee experience. Starting with CX…
CX is now a proven business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) strategy for winning and retaining customers. As to what it is, and entails, there are many available definitions. You can Google some of them but the common theme is how people feel they are treated as customers (of a particular company), with this strongly influencing their future relationship, loyalty, and spending.
CX and internally-delivered IT
As to the applicability of CX to corporate IT service providers, i.e. IT departments or organizations, it might not initially appear to be relevant. After all, end users aren’t viewed as customers, because they don’t personally pay for the IT services they consume. Plus, the IT organization still has somewhat of a monopoly on corporate IT services, notwithstanding the “bring your own device” (BYOD) and “shadow IT” revolutions.
However, it’s another modern IT-management “buzz phrase” that’s the root cause of CX’s applicability to corporate IT – “consumerization.” Not the “consumerization of IT,” which heralded in the aforementioned rise of BYOD, but consumerization per se. With employee expectations of technology, services, customer service, and support being raised by their personal-life, consumer-world experiences. Employee workplace expectations are now forged in a CX-driven, consumer-world environment and it will thus take a focus on CX for IT organizations to consistently meet those expectations.
But even though consumerization now has a huge influence on employee expectations, we at HappySignals believe that an even bigger influence on employee expectations (in the area of IT service management (ITSM) and IT support) is more and more capable end users. Because employee IT skills are already at a good level, and the average skill level is getting higher and higher as the so-called millenniums enter the workplace. This has a huge effect on the skills needed from service desk agents.
Some key CX concepts
Global analyst firm Forrester Research states that organizations that want, or need, to produce a superior customer experience need to engage in six high-level disciplines:
- Customer understanding
- Governance, and
Showing the complexity of the required B2C and B2B CX investments and efforts.
This might sound hard and too much to do, but you can start small. There are some tips at the end of this article on how to start and how to take concrete actions.
From an IT organization perspective, investing in a full-blown CX program will most likely be too much in the beginning. But there’s still is a huge need to understand what CX is, its importance, and how traditional IT operations will need to change in light of both consumerization, millennials, and the overall growing power of CX.
A key element of “internal CX” is understanding, and then ideally meeting, these higher employee expectations of corporate service providers – from how easy it is to identify and request IT services, through the appropriateness of services (relative to consumer-world exemplars), to how IT support and customer service is provided. Meaning that these and other parts of the overall IT service lifecycle will need to be assessed against what will be both new, and moving, employee-expectation goal posts.
Is employee experience management a better term?
Some corporate IT organizations might feel uncomfortable with the term “customer experience,” especially with the reticence to call end users “customers.” An alternative term is “user experience” (UX). However, this already has a more parochial use case in IT as:
“A person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service. It includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction and product ownership.”
Plus, there’s the possibility that UX gets confused with the commonly-used “UI” (user interface), with even the extended “end-user experience” still likely to cause confusion and misdirection.
Another alternative is “employee experience.” Something that has been, in the guise of employee experience management, used in various forms based on the concept that delivering positive experience to employees leads to positive, and superior, customer experiences. With Richard Branson famously stating that “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
Or would the term “service experience” be a better one to use? From my perspective this would be the most suitable to define the experience related to ITSM. But let’s try not to create a new term in this article.
So, where should your IT organization start? Understanding what commonly goes wrong is as good a place as any…
3 common customer and employee experience success barriers
The first, and most obvious, barrier to customer and employee experience success is “not believing.” Not believing that:
- CX, and its impact, is real
- Employee experience is important to the IT organization
- There’s a need for IT operations to change to better meet increasing employee expectations of service delivery and support.
Thankfully though, industry research by both HDI and the Service Desk Institute (SDI) is repeatedly showing that, at least at the IT service desk level, ITSM practitioners are acknowledging the need to improve the customer or employee experience.
For instance, in the 2017 SDI report “A View from the Frontline,” in answering the question: “During the next twelve months, which of the following do you expect to see?” The joint-top response – at 73% – was “Greater focus on the customer (end-user) support experience.”
The second barrier to winning with customer and employee experience is “believing that the IT status quo is good enough.” Where, by measuring IT success at the wrong points, and using the wrong measures, the IT organization believes itself to be doing a great job of delivering IT services that meet employee needs and expectations. One phrase I have heard too often is that: “Employees will always complain.” This is a sad attitude and it’s also sad from the perspective of employees – they cannot just change their IT service provider. If this was the attitude in some consumer business areas the companies with the attitude wouldn’t exist for long.
Forrester Research has conducted various pieces of research into this “expectation gap” (between how IT, and its customers, view various aspects of corporate IT service delivery and support) and it’s a gap that will only continue to widen if the gap isn’t recognized, understood, and proactively addressed.
The third barrier is more predictable – that the IT organization doesn’t have the right people, skills, and capabilities to operate in a CX-obsessed, or employee-experience-centric, world. From starting out on the improvement trail to ongoing operations and improvement.
Employee experience management for ITSM in action
If the attitude is right, taking the first steps with customer and employee experience is not too hard for anyone. Below are a few tips on how best to start. I have presented them using the aforementioned steps from Forrester:
- Have a discussion with IT management about your values and role in the changing business environment and the changing expectations.
- Feel free to use the freely-available HappySignals benchmark data to motivate your management if needed.
- Customer understanding:
- Use a day to listen to real employees – the one day is a good start. Don’t present anything. Ask them to tell stories about how they’ve experienced IT services. How were you able to help them? Did they really know who to contact? Did they try to avoid contacting official support and, if so, why? In these meetings don’t correct them – not even once! Listen and think why they did something in the way that they did. And, if possible, use someone to lead these interviews for you but still be there in the meeting room to listen.
- If you think that the previous bullet point would be waste of time. Please read it again. Better customer and employee experience starts with understanding employees. You can also get the employee experience baseline from good measurement but this doesn’t replace the need for one-to-one or group interviews.
- Measure feedback to understand what doesn’t work.
- Interview to understand what precisely the current problem is.
- Test designs and ideas to optimize the employee experience.
- Sorry Forrester, but I would change the order so that we start with the measurement. In this way opening the eyes of IT management is easier. You would be able to show what works from the employees’ perspective and what doesn’t. Then you can find out what must be designed better. If you don’t know, then you just guess if the problem is the provider or maybe the old exchange server you haven’t had time to move into a modern cloud environment.
- Measure the customer and employee experience continuously and share the results with the business, your own IT team, and all partners.
- HappySignals measures both the experience and employees’ productivity (lost work time per ticket), with the productivity you can also make actual business case calculations for your CFO. This measurement has been designed and tested with normal employees.
- Governance and culture:
- Set targets with top IT management, service owners, and with partners. Ask what your service owners and partners can do to deliver a better experience, don’t put it on the service desk that handles the daily issues with services others have built.
- One of the best decisions we at HappySignals ever made was to integrate our product to ITSM tools so that we are able to show the employee feedback directly to service desk agents and their managers.
- After measuring experience for some time add it to your agreements you’re your service provider. Or even replace the current, traditional key performance indicators (KPIs) because they will, in many cases, prevent good employee experiences.
If you wish to discuss this more, I’m more than happy to have a chat around customer and employee experience and how to measure it.
Sami Kallio is the CEO of HappySignals, a company focused on helping businesses to improve their internal services by shifting the focus from traditional metrics to employee experience - by measuring and analysing employee happiness and productivity. Sami says:” I believe that enterprises should no longer try to save more money from support services. Rather that organizations should put more focus on business value. At HappySignals we help organizations to measure and understand their employees' experience and productivity in a new way."