21 Apr CX and EX: Balancing Company Policies And Customer Service Agent Needs
Updated April 2022 (originally posted 4 December 2019)
Business is business. We get it. Companies need to make money to thrive, and to have employees in the first place. Policies are important to business. As they grow, clear policies help define brand, develop customer experience (CX) and assist companies to scale. However, people are people too. Employee needs must be met for companies to benefit from their great performance. This builds positive employee experience (EX) for long-lasting relationships. Yeah, we know. Relationships are hard. But human beings (and businesses) don’t do well on an island alone. The 2020’s have brought that truth into sharp focus, along with the fact that many companies hadn’t invested in EX. The “Great Reshuffle” has been a response to poor employee experience hitting a wall. There are advantages to building your CX and EX together.
Policies and Powerlessness
Policies are necessary for consistency, brand building, and QA tracking. They are tools that need to be conveyed clearly to employees so they can implement them. When employee needs are at odds with company policy problems arise. For example, some companies don’t trust their customer service agents to use their accumulated knowledge and judgment. Instead, they restrict how agents can help customers. With certain interactions, this renders the agent powerless to assist the customer (and wondering why they took the job in the first place).
Ridgid (and bad) customer service scripts also put agents at odds with customers if those scripts are insufficient to handle customer issues. No one wants to look like an idiot in their job. Policies that force agents to repeat useless information instead of using critical and creative thinking devalue agent abilities. This also opens them up to customer abuse as customers become frustrated with the lack of resolution and what appears to the customer as stupidity, obstinacy or robotic responses.
Imagine this scenario:
“Think of an employee torn between obedience and customer-centricity. They may genuinely want to help a customer (helping boosts serotonin). But they also want to keep their job, so they grudgingly enforce policies they know make no sense, and they’re just as frustrated as customers at how absurd they are. When forced to choose, the long-term benefits of steady employment are more powerful than the short term satisfaction of meeting the customer’s needs.” – Megan Burns
What we see here is the employee exits the interaction with a dissatisfying job while the customer exists the interaction without resolution. With each of them unhappy, the business is at risk of losing both agent and customer.
Jekyll and Hyde Business – CX vs EX
Organizations need employees to interface with their customers, even at a distance. A company’s policies for its customers need to tell the same brand story as a company’s policies for its employees. A two-faced Jekyll and Hyde style company with one face for its customers and another for its employees backfires.
We see a lot of attention on CX, but it is important that companies don’t forget about EX. Sometimes agents are expected to put their needs aside for those of the company. That’s not a recipe for longevity. Like Megan Burns points out: “You can’t have great customer experience without great employee experience (EX), at least not for long.”
The employee-company relationship is a symbiotic one. When both are happy and successful together they create a successful business.
Customer effort and employee effort are also interlinked. Tethr researched about 1 million customer service calls for customer effort over multiple industries from March 11 2020-March 26 2020, the early days of the pandemic. On average their algorithm showed ‘difficult’ calls more than doubled. This was caused by more than long wait times. Many agents working from home were cut off from an immediate network of agents and managers to turn to in real time. The increased effort of agents increased the effort customers experienced while seeking resolution.
With all of the pressures of the pandemic in general, agents were contending with a whole new way of working. Remote work is likely to remain a significant part of business. Putting management and training methods in place which allow for exchange of information and support in real time is key to businesses weathering challenges while retaining workers and customers.
How Companies Can Build EX
Now it’s not that we want employees going rogue on company policy, but trust is a key component to relationships. (If you didn’t trust them why did you hire them?)
Policies are a roadmap, a guide to keep companies, employees and customers on the same, compliant page. But business, like life, isn’t always neat and tidy. Be prepared for surprises. They happen. As you evolve your company policies give yourself the opportunity to evolve your employee relationships by empowering your employees to use their accumulated knowledge of working with your customers and products every day. As Shep Hyken points out in his article, this kind of latitude helps businesses to keep customers as well.
Engage in quality training so that your employees are as prepared as possible to handle customer inquiries with ease. We know it would be great if training was one and done, but it doesn’t work that way. As your company grows you need to keep your employees ahead of the curve.
Treat employees as human beings and invest in their overall well being. Wellness programs benefit both sides. Employees get tools to improve their health and employers have less absenteeism and more energized and engaged workers.
There are companies, like tech company Alley, that have understood the importance of listening to their employee needs even pre-pandemic. They have a flexible hours allowing employees to fit work around life, not the other way around, putting trust in the people they hire.
During the pandemic, LinkedIn instituted a program called LiftUp which included fun events, ‘no meeting’ days and days off for wellness. They intend the program to continue post-pandemic as they have learned the value of supporting the health and happiness of their workforce.
For lasting customer-business and employee-business relationships, make sure your EX game is as strong as your CX game.