HR Disruptors: Driving Company Growth with Employee and Customer Experience

Most businesses understand the essential part their customers play in increasing revenue, but what about the role of employees? As critical contributors to your business, employees have a huge influence on your company’s bottom line. In many ways, employees are a company’s most important customers—and their experience at your company can make or break your revenue.

The connection between employee experience and customer experience is undeniable but often underestimated. Demonstrating that link to executives can be difficult, and staying ahead of changing employee needs is a challenge.

In the third installment of our HR Disruptors conversation series, Julia Anas, Chief People Officer at Qualtrics, and Aarthi Murali, Chief Customer Experience Officer at M&T Bank, share their expertise on how HR teams can amplify the employee experience to better support their customers and drive business growth.

Keep reading for the highlights, or you can enjoy the full discussion here.

Employee and Customer Experience Work Together to Drive Business Growth

At their core, employee experience and customer experience have the same goal: meeting human needs. Employee experience focuses on every step of the employee journey, starting before they’re hired and continuing through daily workplace interactions. The same is true for customer experience: it starts with first contact, and then focuses on creating a positive, lasting impression throughout the entire customer journey.

The key to understanding employee experience is to realize that employees are a company’s greatest asset and its first customers. When employees are engaged, empowered, and see the value of their work, they tend to deliver great experiences for customers. Investing in employee experience pays off with an engaged workforce that provides innovative, quality customer service.

Employee experience is what differentiates good companies from great companies—so, if you want to serve customers in the best possible way, start by serving your employees.

M&T Bank invites all employees to “end their week with the customer” and listen to recordings of customer calls every Friday afternoon.

The Need for Empathetic Experiences Has Never Been Greater

Like almost everything else, customer and employee expectations have changed drastically over the past few years. And no one is immune to these shifts—the Great Resignation showcased the importance of employee experience and the weight employees place on a supportive and engaging workplace environment.

As employees’ needs and priorities change, the need to understand employees and listen continuously has never been greater. Companies can’t rely on their prior understanding of employees or how they did things in the past because in the post-pandemic workplace, many of those notions are obsolete or ineffective.

Those same shifts are evident in customers. The bar for customer expectations has been raised so that brands have to do more than just deliver a product—they have to show up in more empathetic, human ways. For many customers, the experience is as important as the product or pricing—especially in a marketplace that offers convenience and cost-comparative shopping like never before. Customers also increasingly care about what companies stand for and the difference they make in their communities.

To set themselves up for long-term growth, companies need to pay attention to customers and employees, and the successful ones are doing so in the following ways:

That’s how you close the feedback loop—by making sure every employee understands leadership is listening to them and making improvements based on employee feedback.

Strong People and Business Strategies Rely on Listening

Changes in customer and employee expectations aren’t slowing down. Companies must stay diligent in their efforts to listen to their people. A robust people strategy doesn’t happen overnight and it isn’t a fixed target; it requires continually listening to both anecdotal feedback and quantitative data and adapting and evolving to remain on course.

Developing innovative people strategies can begin with a few key principles:

  1. Start at the top: Get buy-in at the executive level about who the customer is and how to prioritize employee experience.
  2. Communicate clearly: Make sure everyone in your organization understands who the customer is.
  3. Listen actively: Seek feedback from employees and customers, and acknowledge it with actions as well as words.
  4. Track the data: Aggregate and prioritize employee and customer data to understand how they impact each other over time.

Successful companies find ways to apply these tenets to their industry and culture. Here are a few examples from our experts, Aarthi and Julia.

Listening to Customers: An Example from M&T Bank

Aarthi explains how M&T Bank works to better empathize and understand their customers by inviting all employees to “end their week with the customer” and listen to recordings of customer calls every Friday afternoon.

By listening to actual customers—not just broad instruction or research—M&T Bank helps employees better empathize and understand who the real customers are that they serve, which helps the company stay customer-centric and continually provide value they care about.

Listening to Employees: An Example from Qualtrics

Simply listening to employees isn’t enough. Companies have to close the loop by implementing their feedback and ensuring people know their voices are heard.

In post-pandemic surveys, Qualtrics employees overwhelmingly shared that wellness matters to them. As Julia explains, the company listened to that feedback and responded in two ways: by rolling out a wellness reimbursement program, and then by clearly communicating the rationale behind it.

Understanding that not every employee would prioritize or connect their new benefits to employee feedback, it was important for the leadership at Qualtrics to explain to employees what the HR team heard in the survey—that many employees valued wellness—and that the reimbursement program was how they were taking action.

That’s how you can close the feedback loop: not only by acting on feedback, but by ensuring every employee understands leadership is listening to them and making improvements based on their feedback.

Building People Strategies to Drive Company Growth

People teams can’t tackle every customer or employee experience issue, but showing genuine effort and understanding is just as important as delivering solutions. Rather than waiting for the perfect solution, listen to feedback from customers and employees and move forward in the areas that are possible and impactful. As you find compelling stories that showcase the business case of customer and employee experience, you’ll gain buy-in from leaders and momentum to keep your people strategies moving forward.

Customer and employee priorities are shifting, but one thing will never change: the need to listen and respond with empathy. Prioritizing people and connecting customer and employee experience is a sure way to drive business growth today and in the future.

Enjoy all of Julia Anas and Aarthi Murali’s expertise on driving business growth with customer and employee experience in this HR Disruptors session!

Watch the Full Conversation