By Stuart R. Levine
Published in Forbes
Have you noticed how increasing percentages of television commercials and print ads seem to have a digital component as part of the product pitch? Whether it’s apps, websites, artificial intelligence or even virtual reality, it’s time to take a deep dive into what your customers’ digital experience means for your business.
IBM Institute for Business Value has been studying this digital landscape. They recently surveyed 600 C-Suite and line-of-business executives at companies that are pursuing a “reinvention” of the customer experience with a digital approach. Surveyed companies from multiple industries and regions that are implementing their digital customer strategies, showed distinct differences in their approach to organizational culture and their employee experiences.
IBM separated “Outperformers”, which represented 25% of those companies surveyed, from the rest of the pack to identify effective practices, as Outperformers beat their competition in revenue and profit. Importantly, Outperformers showed a particular regard to how their employees and their organization’s culture fared in this time of transformational change.
Companies are in a race to deploy technology in order to serve increasingly demanding customers. Customers expect more and are prepared to leave behind companies that do not measure up. They want an easy, streamlined interface with technology, and can be finicky about adopting digital approaches. Moreover, inter-generational differences can be challenging, as different demographics have varying needs and levels of digital savvy. IBM’s research shows that companies must not just digitize customer transactions. They must empathetically understand the customers’ point of view, and remove the pain points. Surprisingly, digital interaction with a company can be more important than the product the company offers.
Your employees are on the front lines in transforming the customer experience and actually play the most significant role. Outperforming companies comprehend this better than the others. They are data-driven, measuring the correlation between their employees’ positive experience and customer satisfaction. They make sure that reinventing the customer digital experience will also be positive for their employees. 74% of the Outperformers from IBMs report see that when their customers are not satisfied, employee morale suffers, and they know that their employees are invested in making sure customers are happy. Only 45% of the companies that did not outperform, felt that degree of linkage between customer and employee satisfaction.
Engaged and satisfied employees result in satisfied customers. This is important to remember as you compete to recruit and retain the talent required to address this new digital world. To further this point, 62% of the Outperformers surveyed in the IBM study are re-allocating budgets to prioritize their employees’ experience. They are investing in them to assure that they have the learning, skills, work environments, systems, and communication to support them in serving the customer.
The smartest companies are creating and maintaining a culture of learning that will effectively support employees impacted by the changes that digital innovation brings. Employees need to prepare for new management structures, different additional responsibilities and step up to learn new processes. A healthy culture with first-rate employee communication can help employees understand how they fit into the overall picture of change, and how that picture aligns with the company’s vision and mission.
Talent is usually the gating factor in digital transformation. The best performing companies see accessing talent and innovation as a higher priority than cost reduction. Using the lens of digital change to re-examine their talent recruitment and retention strategies, Outperforming companies rethink traditional employee performance metrics, and consider alternative promotion programs. They invest to create and maintain a customer-focused culture in which their teams push to innovate quickly to create a seamless, frictionless customers experience.
Just as outperforming leaders are more willing to reach outside of their organizations for technical expertise, they also are willing to engage outside specialists to help with the heavy lifting of strategy development and implementation. These experts help companies to “get it right”, by bringing a deep perspective on the direction of the business from a high level. Organizations can use all the support possible in aligning the employee experience, organizational culture and the customer experience. Moreover, when outside experts interface with leaders and managers on the strategy implementation, executives have greater capacity to focus on their own core responsibilities.
As a case in point, I have worked with a major healthcare provider for years helping the leadership guide its teams through transitions in integrated care delivery approaches, including the use of technologies that make the experience for employees and customers easy and convenient. When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) came into effect, alignment of leadership and their teams around achieving desired outcomes for accountable care meant taking employee engagement to a new level. Dedicated employees made sure they understood the complexity of emerging models in patient customer service, and the leaders made sure the training and tools were available for the employees to be successful in delivering an experience that would encourage patients to actively refer others to the health system. As the client’s contact center asset grew in scope and scale of customer service options offered, employee engagement, satisfaction and alignment with the patient/consumer needs were essential to ensure positive health outcomes.
My client understands that today it is vital to have a reputation as a technologically advanced healthcare organization that delivers a higher level of quality care in a convenient, empathetic and patient centered way. The healthcare provider who I work with fully appreciates that their reputation depends on the engagement and satisfaction of their employees and employee management as part of a digitally enhanced ecosystem. Their platform currently includes a state of the art contact center that is staffed with dedicated customer service liaisons who are equipped with expert algorithms to ensure patients get the right appointments with the right providers at the right time. Their service model is enhanced by self-service tools and online and mobile platforms that make access to care convenient and readily available on the patient’s terms. The client’s digital and mobile platforms allow patients as “healthcare consumers” to manage numerous aspects of care including: scheduling, health system navigation, bill payment, and access to personal health information (e.g., insurance, lab results, health records). The system will continue to be cutting edge with the future unveiling of eVisits and video appointments. This eco-system of engaged employees, external technology providers, and trusted advisors means state-of-the-art convenience and quality that position the health system to care for patients and their families for life. The result is better health outcomes and improved financial performance.
For the champions in the customer digital experience, employees are the most valuable players, and teamwork is the secret sauce. Teamwork means collaboration within your organization and across the ecosystem. The same discipline driving delivery of a superb digital customer experience pays off in delivering a superb experience to your employees.