The COVID-19 pandemic has hastened the need for companies to improve how they engage with both customers and employees, leading some to merge the two disciplines into a new function called experience management.
“I see more large companies starting to bring together customer experience and employee experience,” says Bruce Temkin, head of the XM Institute at Qualtrics, a research firm focused on experience management.
In fact, studies have shown how a successful tandem employee and customer-experience strategy is critical to driving corporate performance. In a survey of C-level executives by ServiceNow and ESI ThoughtLab conducted at the start of the pandemic, companies defined as the most advanced with digitizing employee experience cited not just increased employee satisfaction and productivity as a major benefit, but also improved customer experience and engagement.
Since then, experts say the momentum has only accelerated. It is now mission-critical to keep workers engaged and productive in a work-from-anywhere environment, and to make consumers happier with digital experiences to replace conventional ones that may not return anytime soon.
“Strategies that drive digital employee experience are starting to look like strategies you use to drive customer experience,” says Temkin. “Since most organizations are woefully short of expertise in both areas, it makes a lot of sense to build a single center of excellence for delivering great experience.”
While some companies are creating formal org structures to integrate both EX and CX—in some cases, by adding a chief experience officer to run them—others are approaching the challenge more holistically. Either way, “they are trying to build on a set of new capabilities,” Temkin says, which can help accelerate and scale efforts in both camps.
“You wouldn’t typically have a company where the HR team is working hand in hand with UX teams in customer service,” says Amy Lokey, head of global design at ServiceNow. “But bringing that data together and looking at the correlation and causation across those different experiences is an untapped opportunity for many businesses.”
Here’s a look at some of the core capabilities needed for companies to make digital experience management a more powerful strategic weapon.
1. Experience strategy and roadmap
Successfully creating and scaling digital experience between CX and EX requires new coordination between silos, teams, and projects over long periods of time, says Temkin. Companies need to track progress against a well-defined plan that identifies which digital experiences, journeys, products, and services deserve focus and resources, and in what order.
Along with the strategic plan, experience-management leaders can also serve as important change agents, says Lokey. “You have to find the advocates within the company who will bring everybody along with them.”
2. Experience design
The concept of human-centered design—putting people’s needs at the center of creating new products or services—has been around for years. Until recently, however, putting it into practice for CX or EX required big-budget assistance from top design firms like IDEO.
Today, digital platforms put these capabilities in the hands of fast-growing experience design teams. These teams combine UX expertise, design thinking philosophy, and collaboration with employee and customer feedback channels to design digital experiences that hide all the back-end complexity from employees and customers.
3. On-demand team building
Companies considered the most advanced in digital working cite the ability to have the right team with the right skills as a key element of success, according to a new survey by ServiceNow and ESI ThoughtLab.
“The ability of an EX or CX project leader to quickly find the right people with the right expertise and form a team is really important,” Lokey explains. How can companies do that most efficiently? Digital tools that manage employee skill profiles, she says, can help project leaders to scan the entire organization for talent, bypassing silos between HR and customer support teams. “Tactically, it’s like a very effective search experience, like a very robust employee directory.,” says Lokey.
4. Real-time feedback and sentiment analysis
CX and EX teams typically have their own methods for connecting with their constituencies. Some are high-touch strategies, such as in-depth interviews, immersion sessions, customer or employee panels, or ethnographic research. Others are digital: pulse surveys and other real-time methods of collecting feedback.
New digital enterprise platforms allow sentiment and feedback teams in CX and EX to collaborate more, scale their efforts, and better share insights and best practices.
“You can get into more daily feedback versus a survey that happens twice a year,” says Lokey. “You can have very lightweight mechanisms to gather people’s experiences and how they’re feeling.”
5. Low-code app development
New digital platforms and tools have given rise to the concept of citizen developers—people in HR, customer support, IT, and other areas of the enterprise who use their deep knowledge of customers or employees to design “low-code” apps and other solutions that don’t require an engineering degree.
“People who are most likely to create those apps are process owners or managing a team,” says Lokey. Merging CX and EX experience design, she adds, can allow companies to innovate much more quickly in both camps.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how formal or informal companies get in unifying how they create and manage digital experiences, says Temkin. “The most important thing is to start building these skills now.”