Customer experience (CX) is a key aspect to the innovativeness of an organization. Particularly, in knowledge intensive business service firms, customer experience is one of the key factors driving growth, sustainability, and value creation. In addition to CX, employee engagement (EE) is critical to advancing innovativeness in organizations. EE is also integral to an innovative culture which is also important to an organization’s innovativeness. Here is a past post on innovative culture. But how can leaders influence EE to shape CX directly and indirectly enhance the innovative culture within an organization. There are several keys to leveraging EE for the ultimate CX and in this post I’ll be focusing on three ways from the leader’s to employees viewpoint and the three ways from the employee’s to customers perspectives.
Leaders to Employees
At the crux of EE is the leader’s relationship with their employees. The best performing organizations understand that they are not only designed to make money in an efficient manner, but they are only as good as the people that carry out the day-to-day operations. If leaders are able to maximize the output of their people by tapping into their motivation and aspirations without threatening them or burning them out, then they are more likely to be the best version of themselves in their interactions with customers. Consequently, leaders have to bring the best versions of themselves in their interactions with their employees and model the following behavior to influence employees impact on CX. Here are three activities that leaders must take to raise employees impact on CX:
Investment - While resources will be expended to compensate employees but the investment here is on a more personal level. Leaders have to give of themselves to get from their employees. Being transparent, being vulnerable, listening and being proximate are all qualities that a leaders has to exhibit to engage their employees.
Inclusion - Leaders can create opportunities for employees to show their interests, skills, and innate abilities. Where employees initiate conversations or ideas that may possess and opportunity for growth. Leaders must assess the risk and be open to include employees in projects beyond their job description.
Inspire - Leaders also set the boundaries for ideation and planning logistics which allow leaders to put employees in positions to succeed as well as push them out of their comfort zone.
Leaders have to be aware that pushing employees outside of their comfort zone can backfire if employees aren’t ready or don’t feel empowered.
Employees to Customers
As employees experience the impact of their leaders pouring into them, the opportunities to impact customers experience experience is greatly increased. Employees own customer relationships and can exhibit a degree of vulnerability to influence their experience. However, theoretically speaking owning the relationships is not enough, employees must take specific actions and understand why they must take those specific actions to increase the value created with CX. There are three qualities that employees must have to influence CX:
Empowered - Being the first point of interaction, employees have a great opportunity to create an outstanding first impression and possibly establish the roots for a long-standing fruitful relationship. Employees can empower customers through an open dialogue that helps customers understand the level of relationship that will enhance the innovativeness of all parties involved as well as create a level of comfort with the capabilities and value the employees’ firm can provide. Employees can also empower customers by being open to feedback and actively seeking feedback in every area of their business.
Inquisitive - Employees must be curious on several different levels
Curious about how they can add value help customers solve their problems
Curious about what problems customers have and will face in the future
Curious about how solving a single customers problem can be applied in other domains
Enabled - Employees can enable customers toward innovativeness by accommodating customers breakthrough ideas, disruptive questions, and perspectives that go against the grain. Ensuring that customers are aware that no question is to outlandish, no idea is too bold, and no problem is unsolvable together.
TURNING THE CX DIAL UP
While an employee can have a significant impact on the experience of a customer for the life of an engagement and well beyond, the likely driver of the empowerment, inquisitiveness, and enablement of employees to shape CX is instilled by the leaders within the organization. Firm leaders are the focal point of an innovative culture, as they set the tone and create parameters for what is and is not allowed in terms of innovative conduct and expectations for execution.
Additionally, leaders set themselves in alignment with employees to get the most out of them. Meaning, to get employees to be more productive, while it may be a matter of perspective, may not necessarily be about doing what they are good at but getting them to participate in activities outside of their comfort zones.
Such is true in all business “Give to Get ”. I’m not saying that leaders should only give with the intent of receiving because an act without genuine intentions will likely not be received well. Leaders give from an abundance mindset and from their overflow. Investing in their employees should be relatively easy from this perspective. And by“leaders”, I'm not necessarily referring to those with hierarchical positions and titles.
Leaders are those that influence people, situations, and circumstances toward favorable outcomes.
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