Anneli Westerberg

B2WE2C – Why great customer experiences start with employee experience design

With a growing demand for best-in-class experiences in our private lives, people have started to expect the same level of service in the workplace. As employees, we now wish for tailored experiences, fast evolution and personal connection in our careers.

As a result of this evolution, we have seen the emergence of employee experience (EX) design, where processes, structure and culture are re-imagined at an organisational level and tools are re-designed to be employee-centric rather than organisation-centric. Employee experience was the fastest growing category of work at Fjord in 2015, from banking to telecom to pharma. 

It’s great to see that employee experience is finally getting the attention it deserves. It’s about time. While customer needs have been in the spotlight for a while now, colleague needs’ are still often made equivalent to business goals. 

However, so far we mostly talk about the benefits of employee experience design from a business perspective – how employee experience design can help attract and retain talent or how it can break organisational silos and increase collaboration. 

But what happens when employee and customer experience depend on each other?

Providing great service is part of the employee experience

Most services, even primarily digital ones, have colleagues in customer facing roles. For some brands, customer facing colleagues are a key part of the experience. For others, the customer might only talk to colleague when something goes wrong. In either cases, a customer facing colleague’s day is only as good as the customer’s experience.

Great digital experiences set the customer’s expectations high, also for human interaction. If colleagues have to battle ancient systems and counterintuitive processes, they will struggle to provide the experience that customers expect. Customers will be impatient when asked to give information they’ve already provided and feel frustrated by the slow pace.

Not surprisingly, no one wants to feel stupid at work. Not every colleague has the ambition to go above and beyond all the time, but most people want to feel that they are good at their job. Empowering colleagues to provide great service is key to both employee and customer experience design. 

Innovation might already be happening

Even if you’re designing a customer facing experience, it makes sense to start by talking to colleagues. Why? Because colleagues are a great resource when it comes to identifying customer needs. Unmet customer needs are their daily pain. And if you’re lucky, they might already be doing what you have set out to do.

When a Fjord team does field research in workplaces, we look out for employee hacks. Not the kind that involve breaches in information security, but quick creative solutions to everyday problems. These hacks come in all forms; from spreadsheets over apps on a private phone to improvised workflows. Spotting such a hack is great. Not only have you identified a need (as someone took time out of their busy schedule to create it), you also have a great opportunity to learn something.

As these hacks can be band-aids curing a symptom, it’s important to always take a step back and ask “why?” first. However, not every hack is a band-aid. Sometimes, we stumble onto some great and innovative solutions. It’s also not uncommon that we see low fidelity versions of our own ideas already happening among colleagues. 

Keep the colleagues involved the whole way

Maybe the most important thing once you’ve started, is to keep the colleagues involved.  Too often, we tend to rely solely on customers for feedback on our designs. Engaging colleagues on a regular basis throughout the design process will give you another perspective and a much richer picture. 

Colleagues can tell you, if what you’re designing will help them in their day-to-day work. They will spot gaps in your design and have a good idea of future customer benefits. And if the colleagues believe in the service they will be providing, they will also be it’s best advocates.  

So next time you set out to design a customer experience, don’t forget to start by visiting the customer facing colleagues.

Read more about employee experience in Fjord’s 2016 Trend Report.

Anneli Westerberg

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