Years ago, I was a trainer for a large manufacturing company preparing for a rollout of a total redesign of our key business application. I felt very well-prepared to deliver my first class to the shipping office team, since I was trained on this application by the developers themselves.
As I was walking the class field by field through the screens, I had that energized feeling that I was doing a great job, but the students looked confused. One brave student put his hands on his head, made a face, and finally said, “Let me tell you what I do.” He walked me through his daily workflow. As he was talking, a flustered voice in my head asked, “Did I teach the right screens?” As I continued to listen, the pieces came together and I said, “Let’s start over.”
Once I understood the workflow, I was able to teach them how to do their jobs in the re-designed screens. However, because the sequence of the fields and screens didn’t match their workflow, the new design was cumbersome and slowed them down. Not only did it make their jobs more difficult, it could also have a negative impact on the external customers. Although requirements were collected for the redesign, the technical solution did not make employees’ jobs easier, increase productivity, or improve their perception of IT or the company and their work experiences.
Unfortunately, this disconnect between IT design and business workflow still exists today. Although we’ve made great progress in how we collect requirements and enable the business, there is still a siloed, disconnected understanding of the more holistic employee experience (EX) and its impact on external customers. For organizations to be successful, there needs to be understanding, visibility, and transparency of all factors that impact experience. To achieve this, all areas of the business need to be involved, and IT must be a key partner in experience efforts.
IT Can be the X-Factor and Lay the Foundation for Success
There’s a lot being written and discussed about customer experience today. However, very few organizations are truly transforming employee or customer experiences. Many are launching their initiatives without having a comprehensive, organization-wide strategy. Instead, they are often narrow in scope. These siloed efforts focus on small “pieces of the puzzle” and achieve limited success.
The better the digital employee experience, the more productive employees can be, and the better their work experience is. The reliance on IT to provide a great employee experience is high. Yet, IT is not typically included as a partner in experience initiatives. Instead, they are relegated to carrying out IT tasks assigned by the initiative “owners”. IT actually has much more insight into experience than the company may realize. In fact, IT can be the X-factor for employee and customer experience success.
By involving IT as a partner from the beginning of the initiative, the company can capitalize on the fact that:
- IT interacts with employees daily and hears and sees how they feel, and how their work is impacted.
- IT services and products impact all employees and customers.
- IT has extensive operational data that, when combined with sentiment data, can help to identify areas to improve.
- IT can optimize, automate, and improve the employee experience.
By quantifying what IT knows about the employee experience and aligning it with touchpoints and interactions with external customers, the company can begin building an end-to-end view of experience. With all groups partnering on one experience initiative, everyone in the company works toward the same endgoals. This eliminates competing priorities, transcends siloes, and transforms the culture to one of collaboration, transparency, visibility, and shared success. As a result, improved Employee Experience will drive a better external customer experience.
Quantify IT Insights
IT employees have daily interactions with employees. Whether interacting with employees in project meetings, user acceptance testing, support interactions, or hallway conversations, IT employees regularly hear experience comments, complaints, compliments, and challenges. By formalizing a system for capturing this feedback and analyzing it, IT can begin to lay the foundation for understanding employee sentiment and identifying opportunities for improvement.
Documenting comments heard during IT interactions can be as simple as having one place for all teams to store employee and customer comments. However, documenting the information needs to be quick and easy to encourage your team to capture the information.
One example of this was when Nate Brown, Founder of CX Accelerator, provided all call center agents a CX Magic Button. The button provided both a physical reminder to capture the information and a quick way to capture it. It integrated with the CRM tool; pressing the button opened a feedback page where they captured the data. By performing text analysis on the comments, the company identified areas to explore further.
Another way to formalize gathering sentiment data is to hold focus groups or perform interviews and document answers. Focusing on their daily workflow and learning how it is positively and negatively impacted can show what needs to be improved. Findings will span all areas of the employee experience: the physical environment, technology and tools for their jobs, and the organizational culture. This is why the experience team needs to be cross-functional.
Together, they can gather more information in their respective areas, which will drive prioritization of improvements across the whole company.
Here are some sample questions that can help to assess current Employee Experience perceptions:
- Are we making it easy for you to do your job? If not, why?
- Are you equipped to meet organizational or individual goals? Why or why not?
- What is working well and what needs to improve?
- What best facilitates your productivity or most negatively impacts it?
- Does the company provide you with the resources needed to create a great Customer Experience (for external customers)?
- What are you hearing from your customers about their experiences with our company?
These questions not only help in uncovering needed improvements, but they also help to understand and define the desired experience. Both are needed to implement a comprehensive experience initiative.
Combining Operational and Sentiment Data
The goal is to understand the end-to-end employee and customer experiences, and how they feel about any interaction. It is unlikely that IT operational reports provide an accurate view of employee perceptions and experiences, nor do employee engagement and customer satisfaction surveys uncover operational needs. Reports and surveys alone will not provide sufficient insight into operations or sentiment.
Combining these efforts increases accuracy in identifying what to further assess and review. Once areas are identified, it’s important to gather metrics and operational data and define and prioritize improvements.
For example, if we learned from employees that it takes them 8 to 10 minutes to log in and get started in the morning, then it is important to look at operational measures, such as incident data, processing time for core business applications, and performance data on hardware and software being used. Additionally, we need to assess whether this is happening to all employees, or a segment, and what differentiates them and their work.
Traditionally, IT separates measures into logical siloes. An infrastructure group may measure uptime and reliability, while a service desk measures compliance to SLA metrics. Projects measure on time and on budget, and change management measures successful changes. Based on these metrics, each respective area within IT may think that they are delivering a great experience, but the metrics are transaction-based and far from holistic.
First, perceptions and sentiment are cumulative. It’s the combination of moments over time that impact how employees and customers feel. Although it is important to measure transactions, it is even more important to measure more broadly and comprehensively. Measuring all aspects of experience changes the focus from transactions to the broader experience.
Although each team’s efficiency metrics impact their operational success, experience measures become the overarching success factors. They add a layer of success measures beyond operations. It is not enough to be efficient in each area. Instead, all groups need to know how their work/actions impact the overall experience. Once the customer journey is mapped and each area knows how they impact experience, the experience success measures become shared and all teams view success more holistically.
Avoid Watermelon Metrics
It is important to note that customer satisfaction is not synonymous with a great customer experience. An employee could be satisfied with individual interactions like support calls or using an application, yet still be dissatisfied with the overall experience. This is referred to as watermelon reporting showing that you are meeting service level targets – they are green – but customers aren’t happy – hence the red inside. XLA Collab encourages working toward “Kiwi” metrics – green for operations (Service Level Agreements - SLAs) and green for sentiment (Experience Level Agreements - XLAs).
Once desired experience and the current experience are understood and mapped, companies can start to transform their cultures to one that continually evolves the employee and customer experiences. By having the visibility of the end-to-end experience and mechanisms to appropriately prioritize and measure improvement, companies can continue to evolve in areas that matter most to employees and that positively impact organizational success. The domino effect is that IT will move past providing technical solutions and will instead be the X-factor in improving employee and customer experiences and helping organizations to succeed.
Rae Ann Bruno is the President of Business Solutions Training, Inc (BST), an organization focused on training and consulting in various areas of ITIL, Knowledge-centered Service (KCS), Service Desk Improvement, Internal Marketing, Metrics and ITIL Process Improvement. She was inducted into the HDI Hall of Fame in 2017 and was named one of Cherwell’s IT Legends that same year. She holds several ITIL and HDI certifications and is a Business Associate for HDI ITIL and Support Center certification courses and consulting.
Rae Ann is a member of the HDI International Standards committee and is a frequent speaker at leadership and support conferences. She is the author of the HDI focus books: Translating IT Metrics into Business Benefits and What Have you Done for Me Lately? Creating an Internal Marketing Culture.