Aligning CX and EX: why and how

Why it’s important

In my opinion, intentionally deepening the alignment between employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX) can help organizations:

  • Deliver on their organizational purpose
  • Increase performance in all the ways that matter to their stakeholders, customers, employees, boards, members etc.
  • Be more agile in meeting the changing landscape of the workplace and the marketplace

According to the Harvard Business Review, "Customer experience and employee experience are now two of the driving forces of business. Independently, each function leads to valuable relationships — with customers and employees — but when CX and EX are managed together, they create a unique, sustainable competitive advantage."

We know it’s important. So how do we do it?

I've recently been speaking with groups of senior leaders – CEOs, COOs and senior VPs – about the intersection of employee and customer experience, and how deepening the alignment between them can help accelerate their organization's success. During these conversations, it's clear that every leader in the room gets it intellectually: connecting CX and EX is important.

The challenge is HOW.

How do organizations create that alignment, shift thinking within their teams, and orient priorities to efforts that connect the two perspectives and their mutual impact? This alignment can seem challenging to pursue given that the two entities are often not on equal organizational footing.

  • Customer experience is an evolved, understood and defined space that often lives within marketing or product teams.
  • Employee experience, on the other hand, is just starting to gain traction among stakeholders and within organizations, but it's not yet universally understood.

EX, which is associated with hard to measure outcomes like loyalty, retention and connection to purpose, rarely has a seat at the executive table alongside the more visible, revenue-generating and trackable CX.

5 ideas to get you started

Bringing EX and CX together requires a change in thinking and behaving across your business.

In my executive workshops, we have deep discussions about how leaders in organizations have the opportunity to signal the importance of this alignment to their executive teams and employees.

But make no mistake, this effort constitutes change, and change isn't always easy.

To get started on this change journey, here are 5 ways for you to step in and create opportunities for this alignment:

1. Start with your company’s purpose and drive experiences from your purpose.

Purpose is the ultimate compass in creating the best experiences for your customers and your employees. As leaders in your organization, insist that experiences intentionally connect to bringing your purpose to life.

If your purpose doesn't provide you with the north star you need to make confident EX and CX decisions, take the time to clarify your purpose and then use it to guide everything your team does. This webinar on starting your purpose journey can be a helpful primer if you're not sure how to tackle a purpose initiative.

2. Elevate CX and EX to the highest level in your organization.

There's no better way to signal how important these experiences are to your organization than creating a new accountability (and funding) that will drive them. This could come in the form of a new role (i.e. Chief Experience Officer or EVP of Customer and Employee Experience that brings together a holistic perspective across EX and CX domains.

If that's too big of a leap for your team, a solid interim step is bringing existing accountabilities for customer and employee experience together around a new cross-functional mandate and accountability that jointly reports to the executive team.

Challenge this committee or team to speak to how the organization is creating intentional, integrated and mutually beneficial experiences across the EX and CX landscape.

In our experience this may require a new working model and teams, pulling from HR, People and Culture, Marketing and Operations. These perspectives, supported by human-centred, qualitative methods and quantitative data will provide insight into existing experiences and guide the team in identifying new integrated EX and CX opportunities.

3. Push for dual impact metrics.

Results matter. But of course, they are different in every organization. As a leader, you need to challenge your executives to find new metrics that demonstrate the impact of initiatives on BOTH CX and EX.

Definition: Dual impact metrics surface the interaction between changes to employee experience perceptions on customer experience perceptions, and vice versa.

EX and CX measures are often looked at in isolation, so there is a huge opportunity to develop dual impact metrics that look at the interaction between them.

For example, if your team tackles a known EX challenge by creating more efficient, better and easier to access knowledge bases or tools in the call centre, your team will need to figure out the resulting measurable impact on employees and customers. Marrying an employee's perception of a customer problem and their ability to solve it together with a customer's perception of a problem and their satisfaction with the resolution of it is potentially a very powerful metric.

As there aren't any standards for these dual impact measures (yet), as a leader, you need to drive your team to define the experiences and results that matter to your organization and measure the interaction between them.

Being able to surface these results will provide insight into your organization's "return on experience" perhaps the most interesting concept emerging from our focus on connecting EX and CX.

4. Encourage and support experimentation and learning from unexpected outcomes.

Bringing EX and CX together is still a relatively greenfield space. In this stage of maturity, leaders need to encourage teams to experiment and understand which levers of EX and CX result in changes to your business. Because there's no blueprint for this work, as leaders you need to lean into this new way of learning by signaling that experimentation is ok and that learning from unexpected outcomes is valuable.

We can't accomplish these new insights and the agility that comes from rapid cycles of learning in an environment that demands perfection.

We recommend looking to what we've learned from our agile enterprise work and design thinking to incorporate human-centred design methods into your EX/CX journey.

In our webinar on agile enterprise transformation, you can uncover the essence of the complexity and patience required to enter the new domains of the workplace and the marketplace with an agile mindset.

5. Leverage other organizational priorities to move the EX/CX agenda forward.

If your organization isn't quite ready to install a Chief Experience Officer at the executive table, it doesn't mean you have to give up on making progress towards incorporating EX/CX alignment. I recommend looking for opportunities to leverage existing challenges in your organization to insert a focus on the experience agenda.

If you're like most of our clients, your organization is seeking ways to make progress on critical initiatives such as executing a digital or agile transformation, supporting organizational growth, or improving diversity and inclusion, engagement, attraction or retention.

In the context of these initiatives, leaders can raise the awareness of and set the expectation that integrated EX and CX perspectives need to be incorporated. This more initiative-level effort introduces a way to build momentum and share the value of integrated experiences for employees and customers and pave the way for wider adoption in the enterprise.

Time to get started

As an employee experience design firm, we feel deeply that experience is the differentiator that companies have been looking for. And we are excited about the opportunity we see for leaders to set the mandate of aligning employee experience with customer experience.

If you’re looking for help on anything employee experience related, we can help you find out what your customers, employees and stakeholders experience today, and how you can improve and measure their interactions in the future.

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