Thursday, November 29, 2018

Is Your Business Neglecting Its Most Important Audience? - Forbes

Experience is the new battleground in the modern-day business world.

The Transformative Age is all about removing friction from and building the optimal experience for audiences who engage with your brand across multiple touch points. Fail to do this and you risk losing customers, market share and reputation.

Creating the secret sauce is hard — every C-level executive is hyperfocused on how to approach this challenge already. Many are investing significantly in transforming their businesses into digital enterprises so they can create consistent and elegant experiences — in the on- and offline worlds — that charm their customers.

The problem is, when it comes to experience transformation, the customer is only a part of the equation.

There’s an alarming trend among companies from almost every industry sector spending billions of dollars in reimagining the customer experience but failing to match the same effort for their employees — leaving a significant experience gap between the two.

What does the employee experience mean exactly? In this case, the entire ecosystem in which employees operate — from the physical environment to the company’s culture to the digital tools and technologies that aid their ability to get stuff done. And oftentimes, the customer experience that a company spends so much time and money perfecting far outpaces the experience that is offered to its employees.

The gap between the customer and employee experience is real and perilous. Poorly designed or neglected employee experiences make it harder for organizations to attract and retain the best and brightest talent, while those left behind become frustrated and, at worst, disgruntled. And it doesn’t take much for those negative emotions to seep in and taint an employee’s ability and willingness to do great work.

On the flip side, experiences that enable employees to teach, nurture, collaborate and innovate are a recipe for a thriving enterprise in the digital era.

Take this example. Let’s say a utility company has technicians servicing homes throughout a state. The company has made significant investments improving the customer experience through smart devices, analytics, mobile apps that enable customers to track energy usage and a digital platform for on-demand scheduling of service and repair appointments.

But, the technicians — who are often on the front lines dealing with customers in their homes — are still working with legacy tools and systems, making effective communications and differentiated service a challenge for employees. Consequently, the customer’s experience dealing with technicians suffers dramatically in comparison with their experiences using the company’s smart devices and mobile apps. This experience gap leaves both the customer frustrated and the employee disgruntled.

You get where this is going. What’s good for the employee (experience) is good for the customer (experience), and businesses should more closely align the experiences that they offer their customers and employees.

So what should they invest in first? Is it all about integrating advanced technologies?

Closing the gap between the two experiences is actually as much about empowering your people as it is about introducing new technologies. Creating that modern, digital experience I spoke of is key, but you also need to ensure your employees feel valued. And, as your business moves to keep up with the pace of change, you want them to feel like they’re a part of that transformational experience.

One of the primary ways to do that is to invest in the employee’s professional development. Online, on-demand learning is a great way to upskill employees who lead busy lives and have limited time to pursue outside education. A performance management system that provides regular feedback so employees can learn, pivot and improve in real time will also go a long way with employees who are putting in an effort to evolve with the business. Above all, make sure that leadership is engaged with employees at all levels. Idea and knowledge transfer is a must. Innovation no longer only takes place in a lab; it thrives in the trenches where leaders and employees are collaborating to solve complex problems.

Business disruption is all around us, so start thinking today about whether you’re giving enough attention to your primary audience. Remember that if you don’t give your employees an incentive to digitally engage — they won’t. And neither will your customers.

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