Mandate for 2021: Become an experience-driven organization

Companies that deliver great digital experiences for employees and customers alike are in the best position to win

The experience-driven organization—comprised of customers, employees, and, in certain industries, users—will outperform in the year ahead.

As a global pandemic radically changed the way people work in 2020, companies responded by investing in a wide range of digital tools and services to keep them engaged and productive with remote working, and to stay connected to their colleagues.

Even before the pandemic hit, new research shows, companies that had already made significant investments in digitizing employee experience were achieving major benefits. In a global survey by ServiceNow and ESI ThoughtLab of more than 600 C-level executives in five sectors—financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, public sector, and telecom—organizations defined as “leaders” in digital work experiences reported where they are seeing the biggest benefits relative to other companies:

  • Higher topline growth: 44% of EX leaders say their efforts have resulted in more revenue compared with 27% of other companies.
  • Increased employee productivity: EX leaders (58%) cite better productivity as a benefit, much more than other companies (41%).
  • Higher employee satisfaction: Almost half of EX leaders (44%) say digitization has led to a happier workforce compared with 37% of other companies.

The research also showed that investing in employee experience correlates with improved customer success, and, ultimately, higher revenue. For example, organizations identified as EX leaders in the survey (60%) were more likely than follower organizations (37%) to analyze customer needs, attitudes, and behaviors. Leaders (50%) also did a better job of designing customer-centric products and services than followers (28%). Leaders (47%) were also twice as likely as followers (29%) to personalize customer experiences.

*A smaller super-leader group, comprised of 60 organizations, reported growth

Those findings build on other survey insights about corporate investments in digitizing customer experience. Companies that invested heavily in digital CX saw major bottom-line benefits such as improved customer-satisfaction scores, higher revenue growth, and reduced customer churn, to name a few.

The upshot for CEOs: Companies that offer great digital experiences for their employees are seeing that investment pay off in spades with improved digital CX. As companies look to make more progress and scale their efforts in both camps, they will adapt organizationally.

“There’s a set of common capabilities that organizations need to have,” says Bruce Temkin, head of the XM Institute at Qualtrics. As EX and CX appear more like symbiotic partners of the business, Temkin adds, “companies need to think more in terms of broader experience management.”

“When I talk to employees, they often define ‘doing their job well’ as having the resources, processes, and policies to serve their customers the way they deserve to be served,” says Annette Franz, CEO of the consultancy CX Journeys. “Ultimately, when employees are enabled to do that well, they are happy, satisfied, and engaged.”

The right EX tools for the new normal

By shifting to remote work, the pandemic has upended how many companies conceptualize employee experience. With no shared physical space to foster communication and collaboration, employees need real-time access to tools, apps, and information that allow them to work well individually or as part of a team.

But, the ESI/ServiceNow survey shows, not all investments in digital employee experience are equal. Companies planning digital EX investments in 2021 should consider where the most experienced practitioners are placing their best bets. Here are four tech investment areas where EX leaders are seeing the biggest returns relative to follower organizations:

  • Robotic process automation (RPA): Machine learning–-enabled RPA automates repetitive tasks of workers, freeing them up for higher-level responsibilities.
    ROI for Leaders: 37%; for Followers: 25%
  • Mobile-enabled work experiences: Giving employees the tools to work from their mobile devices offers substantial benefits.
    ROI for Leaders: 26%; for Followers: 16%
  • Access to customer data: Companies that invest in CRM systems that broaden insights into customer sentiment and behavior report high returns.
    ROI for Leaders: 28%; for Followers: 19%
  • Digital assistants: EX leaders are seeing higher ROI from the use of chatbots and digital assistants.
    ROI for Leaders: 21%; for Followers: 14%

Beyond enabling teams to work faster and smarter from home, EX leaders also report seeing higher ROI from digitized employee training and development, with 59% of leaders reporting high ROI, compared to 37% of followers.

The power of digital listening

Just as striking as the investment payoffs of digital EX is the digitization of processes that foster communication between employees and managers. Almost 40% of EX leaders report high ROI from digitized employee pulse surveys and other feedback tools, while only 27% of other organizations are seeing the same benefits.

In other words, engaged and happy employees ultimately deliver better products and services to customers. “There’s a concept called the ‘spillover effect,’” says Franz. “One person’s emotions affect how other people around him feel. That’s the connection between employee experience and customer experience.”

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