How the Talent War Is Impacting Customer Experience (And What You Should Do About It)

By: Max Kenkel
poor customer service rating

TL;DR: Navigating today’s employer-employee dynamic has a lot of twists, turns and alleyways, but one thing remains constant: Customers have high demands for their experience with your brand. In this post, you will learn a bit about those roadblocks, how they impact the customer journey, and at the end, what you can do about it.

Now that we’re emerging from pandemic life, the war for talent continues to intensify. In some cases, it’s a battle for bodies to keep the doors open! You can see this at restaurants, stores, amusement parks, coffee shops and electronics stores as they adjust hours to close early because they can’t find people to work. Imagine how this is affecting customer experience.

Disengagement & Talent Shortages Take Their Toll

Businesses are closing on random days or at random hours because they can’t find workers. Among the workers they do have, U.S. employers are experiencing apathy in employee behaviors. This includes (but not limited to):

  • Not showing up for work regularly
  • Not applying for jobs
  • Not caring about the jobs they have
  • Not taking pride in their work

Worst of all: These situations drastically impact customer experience.

The biggest change is how many employees are leaving roles they don’t enjoy for better opportunities, otherwise known as "The Great Resignation." In fact, more than 3.95M people quit their jobs each month in 2021. Play around with SHRM's interactive chart to see more details.

Creating a great culture and giving employees purpose is more important than it has ever been if employers want to keep them. Plus, employees are almost always the front line for a brand’s customers, and happy, fulfilled employees are proven to provide better customer experiences.

3 Ways Brands Can Respond to the Worker Shortage & Its Impact on Customer Experience

How a brand responds to employees’ needs will offer different outcomes for employers’ bottom lines and well-being of their talent. For example, consider the following scenarios:

Option 1: Companies can improve employee experiences to draw top talent and create engaged employees. It’s not only about pay though; attracting and retaining talent takes investments into things like:

  • compensation and benefits
  • culture-boosting activities
  • engagement programs
  • recognition programs
  • training and upskilling opportunities

Impact to customer experience: Largely positive. There are enough studies and data points that show engaged employees who believe in the purpose of their work create an environment where customers want to be. Data from our programs indicate stores with engaged employees deliver as much as four times the revenue as stores with unengaged employees.

Option 2: Brands can take the risk that apathetic workers will deliver revenue at the rate they need to please shareholders. 

Impact to customer experience: Potentially negative or no change. While data suggests unengaged employees produce smaller revenue, there are many locations across hundreds of brands with uninspired, unengaged employees that still produce acceptable revenue. Our analysis shows:

  • Brands are leaving a lot of money (and share) on the table with lackluster customer experience
  • 64% of consumers have stopped purchasing from a brand after hearing news of that company’s poor treatment of employees.
  • With almost 50–70% of employees actively looking for new jobs, massive turnover can lead to risky customer interactions. Every day there’s a new story about a store not being able to be open/deliver to customers because of being short staffed.

Option 3: Brands can lean on automation for as much of the process as possible, eliminating the need for certain employees.

Impact to customer experience: This has the widest implications, because different segments of customers may like, dislike or be indifferent to automation. Companies who embrace automation will face new challenges with customer experience but may also enjoy significant cost savings. This battle to attract and retain talent should accelerate companies adopting automation tools. However, there is a spectrum of tolerance for automation and human intervention depending on where a brand’s customers need help. For example, think high-consideration vs. transactional purchases; or, sales cycle length, these all will be major factors brands need to consider. In all scenarios, clear communication (overcommunication) and adoption campaigns will be critical to ensure customers make a smooth transition from human interaction to machine/digital.

Enabling engaged talent to service customers at a high level or creating a positive automated experience will have a positive impact on improving customer experience.

ITA Group has examples of successful employee engagement, employer branding and communication campaigns that have helped repair damaged morale, improve discretionary effort from audiences around the globe and breathe life in to old-fashioned recognition programs to deliver better performances and a trackable ROI.

The foundational core of our business assumes basic needs are met. Brands must understand that in our cyclical economy, we’re at a point where employees have the power. Brands who rise to meet employee demands should see increases in share, revenue, profit and extended customer lifetime value. Those brands who rely on the old ways may be in trouble.

How Can ITA Group Help?

Here are seven ideas you can do to help combat the talent war and ensure customer experience is your number one priority and differentiator.

1. Help mature your voice of customer (VoC) program. Only about 15% of companies say their VoC program has matured—most are collecting survey results and that’s it. ITA Group can turn that feedback into action. We helped one recent client increase their NPS score five points in just two months.

2. Identify your new customers. The pandemic created new customer types for almost every brand. We can identify these new customers with an updated segmentation study. Then help you get a handle on how they want to buy and interact with your brand. This lets you focus where it’s most relevant, and service more customers the way they want.

3. Service dissatisfaction. If you have a gap in service, we have proven techniques to help brands apologize and retain the customer. We’ll work with you to identify the root cause of the gap and help mitigate the risk of it repeating.

4. Recognize and reward employees brand advocates. Show engaged employees your appreciation for ensuring customers receive an excellent experience. Conversely, we can identify areas of low engagement, then create and execute a plan to encourage desired behaviors.

5. Effectively retain top employees. We can help you identify and then execute on an engagement plan that keeps employees longer, cutting turnover costs and increasing customer satisfaction. (Tenured, engaged employees deliver better experiences because they are more knowledgeable and believable about your services and products.)

6. Upskill employees to meet the demands of changing business needs. There’s strong evidence to suggest that part of the problem filling open positions is that open jobs exist where workers currently don’t. Training workers to meet the new demands of business will be critical. For more on this, check out this article from The Wall Street Journal.

7. Use automation to improve customer experience. ITA Group’s box (literally) solutions motivate and engage customers in transitioning to a more automated experience with your brand. From something as simple as autopay or paperless billing to something more complex like digital ordering, automated diagnostics and AI service interactions, in-house engagement marketing and design experts alleviate fear of change and ensure a smooth transition of your strategy.

The talent war is in full swing, but it’s been bubbling for years. Brands who recognized that a happy, fulfilled and knowledgeable employee is the first step in delivering exceptional customer experience have been winning and will continue to win. In this battle for talent, brands will get what they pay for, and that’s not always simply throwing more cash at the problem.

Related: Inspire, motivate and retain top talent by communicating employee-centric brand messages that foster organizational alignment and create emotional connection.

To learn more about how you can get in front of the war on talent, let’s talk. ITA Group has a team of strategy advisors who can guide you through this new normal where employees are no longer viewed and treated as a commodity but rather, a partner in providing an exceptional customer experience.

Check out another article where Strategy Advisor Tanya Fish and I discuss the convergence of employee experience and customer experience.

Max Kenkel
Max Kenkel

As Customer Solutions Manager, Max leads our Customer Solutions line, ensuring all six components of a successful loyalty program deliver for our clients. With more than ten years of experience in strategy across customer, channel and employee loyalty programs, he’s seen a lot. You’ll often hear him talk about how important data is to brands. In his words, “It’s easy to make decisions on intuition, but it’s a lot easier to justify to shareholders when you can back it up with data.” Beyond his professional passions, Max plays bass in a pop punk band, visits as many national parks as he can and is an aspiring poet, publishing his first book in 2023.