The Impact of the Employee Experience on the Customer Experience (and 5 Areas You Can Start Improving Today)

Max Kenkel
Max Kenkel

If social media has taught us anything, it’s that a majority of Americans demand a VIP experience with every brand interaction. What is a VIP experience, you ask? Well, it’s being treated like a star, of course. Comps, value adds, free drinks—maybe even a free tote. But at a minimum, a positive experience.

There are currently thousands (yes, thousands) of Facebook groups that have been created to share bad (and a few good, I suppose) customer service experiences. Every day, there is a new video clip on TikTok, Instagram or Facebook showing a customer/employee dispute or an employee not demonstrating the values of the company—on occasion, an employee doing something amazing that customers love.

The customer experience (CX) is being closely monitored by customers now more than ever, because of the tools they have. Everyone with a smart phone and internet is a freelance investigative journalist now. This has been really good in some respects, but all it means for business leaders is that every customer interaction has the potential to show up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok—you get the idea.

What needs to be remembered is there’s always an employee at the center of that equation. This is even more critical during time of disruption.

Consider these factors and their potential outcomes given the current COVID-19 pandemic:

infographic comparing employee experience to customer loyalty

In a media-heightened society, one review, one encounter or one social media post can make a significant impact on your organization—both positively or negatively for their brand experience. The outcome depends on the interactions your customers have with your employees.

This is why it is so critical to create a working environment where employees are committed to improving customer satisfaction.

You don’t need a customer experience program if your employees are focused on customer experience. That is your program.

The only way to achieve this is to ensure your employees actually have a positive employee experience.

The way organizations treat employees has a direct and indirect ripple effect on your customers’ experience. If you want a thriving workforce, successful business and happy customers, you need to start with your employees. In fact, given the current climate, if you don’t have a plan right now to focus on employee experience, your inaction could be sabotaging future success for your company.

Research (and countless organizations known for excellent CX) has shown that you cannot expect a great customer experience if you don’t also have a great employee experience. 


1. Provide a sense of security and safety.

Do your employees feel safe coming to work right now? What is the psychological toll this pandemic has taken on them? Do you have a plan if they get sick? Can they afford to be sick? Have you enacted measures that make them feel safer dealing with customers? Some manufacturing facilities have put up Plexiglas between work stations and sanitize each station between shifts or rotations. Some businesses are limiting exposure with remote work (which might pose other problems you need to address.) There isn’t a singular answer or right way to do it. Source ideas from employees and survey them regularly.

2. Make the work more meaningful.

Based on recently released research from marketing firm CMB, we’ve found that Identity Benefits are actually the top driver of employee engagement, highlighting the need to continually foster employees’ pride, self-esteem and sense of belonging. This could come in the form of initiatives like recognition programs, volunteerism opportunities and company-sponsored time to think about new strategies or new processes, to name a few. When people feel they belong, they're more motivated, engaged, productive and 3.5 times more likely to contribute fully and innovatively to reach their potential.

3. Give your people what they need to do their job—and grow professionally.

Encourage job shadowing so your team members can get exposure to areas outside their day-to-day environment. If someone decides to make that experience permanent, make sure you show your support so others who might be looking elsewhere will be inspired to see what their current organization can offer. Consider creating a hierarchy within your hierarchy to enable smaller promotions and signal progress and increased proficiency (e.g. Project Coordinator I, Project Coordinator II, Project Coordinator III, etc.). Ongoing training and education continues to be a major focus for organizations and is a great way to show you’re invested in your employees’ success, too.

4. Gather and use employee feedback.

Improving the employee experience is not a one-time activity that you can mark complete—it’s always ongoing. Like any uncharted adventure, start off by letting yourself experiment with new and different strategies along the way. Maybe assign a cross-functional team responsible for vetting ideas and driving strategy to support employees.

Or crowd-source ideas from employees for improvement—many of the greatest CX successes were sourced from customers, not sales and marketing. Conducting regular surveys and having discussion forums can be some of the ways to encourage employees to share their honest feedback.

5. Encourage connections among team members.

Almost 40% of respondents to EY's Belonging Barometer study said they have the greatest feeling of belonging when colleagues regularly check to see how they're doing, both personally and professionally. Make sure you enable that type of connection among your people. The extra moments you spend paying attention to emotions in the workplace, considering the emotional impact of the decisions you makelistening to your employees, helping them resolve whatever issue they are dealing with, and dissipating or absorbing the negative emotions they experience can help reduce the number of emotional issues in the workplace and improve the broader emotional culture of your organization.

If you want to make significant improvements to customer experience strategies you’ll first need to focus more on engaging your own workforce. Learn more about five proven co-located and remote employee engagement secrets that work for all of your people.

Max Kenkel

Max Kenkel

Max’s favorite work pastime is looking at data and figuring out how companies can monetize it. He even does it with his band, by looking at Spotify heat maps and targeting shows in cities with higher volumes of streaming. He firmly believes that you can make a decision based on intuition, but it’s a lot easier to justify it to the shareholders when you can back it up with data. He really does like talking about leveraging data, and quoting Star Wars.