Building an employee experience around the concept of lifelong learning will be key to future business success. Over the course of 2023, this takeaway will be one of the defining business trends related to the delivery of customer experience.
This year’s Foundever™ CX trends report underlines five major steps organizations need to take in the coming months to remain aligned with their customers and to maintain a gap between their brand and competitors.
One of those steps includes adopting a culture of learning and development where achievements are recognized and celebrated, skill gaps are closed and employees learn to share their ideas and perspectives with the wider organization. The combination of these will help employees seize opportunities to innovate and move forward faster.
Alongside the trends report, every year, Sitel Group also commissions a study on consumer sentiment and expectations that connects to themes in the trends report and helps frame the advice and guidance we provide.
Your customers care about your employee experience
Today, one-in-four consumers would be prepared to stop doing business with a brand if that brand was found to mistreat, underappreciate or exploit its employees. In addition, 30% of consumers believe that if an organization is committed to using locally based customer service representatives, that brand must be serious about delivering a positive customer experience.
These are simply two of the findings from “CX Landscape 2022: Evolution or Revolution?”, our newest whitepaper based on research involving over 6,000 adult consumers across Brazil, France, Germany, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S.
The whitepaper includes insights from in-depth studies focused on understanding why consumers stay loyal to an organization or why they chose to leave one brand for another — even when both brands appear, at first glance, to offer very similar products or services. For companies trying to understand customer churn and for those organizations that aim to help brands improve retention, this type of research is invaluable.
Yet, until recently, it was rare for an organization to take similar steps in order to understand why their employees chose to leave. Unless, as our findings show, there was a link between the employee and the customer.
The employee experience is key to success in 2023
But of course, the connection between the employee and the consumer has always been there. Especially when it comes to the delivery of a consistently positive customer experience. It’s only possible to meet customer expectations when the employee feels the organization is delivering on their expectations.
Recent events brought the employee experience to the forefront, and it will need to remain a priority in 2023 for organizations that want to maintain a positive customer experience. Just as the links between CX and business success are clear and proven, so is the relationship between the employee experience and the levels of the customer experience a brand is able to deliver.
Time to address existing skills gaps
Alongside the need for employee support and engagement, the past two years have also highlighted an existing but often overlooked skills deficit in most organizations that needs to be addressed through a combination of targeted recruitment, retention and re-training the existing workforce. This is particularly true within customer service.
Because, rather than displacing traditional CX roles such as contact center agents, the increased use of technology has actually elevated the value of human touch. The attributes that describe the best contact center agents, coaches and managers — creativity, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, empathy, active learning and resilience — are now key in any workplace where connections with colleagues are as likely to be virtual as physical, or on-site as off-site.
Education will cancel out employee attrition
Agent attrition is one of the biggest costs related to contact center operations, and many of the economic issues currently present around the world have been triggered by a lack of human capital. Over the course of 2021 and 2022, record numbers of people across the U.S. and U.K. quit their jobs, tightening the labor pool and forcing organizations to drive up starting salaries to attract new recruits.
A salary that represents the value an employee brings to an organization is a key component of the employee experience. Yet it is just one aspect. Wages alone will not be able to make up for deficiencies in other areas, such as business culture, access to career progression or a supportive and engaging working environment.
The situation has also further accelerated technological investment and adoption as organizations look to automation and AI as a means of plugging productivity gaps. But of course, without the skills and confidence to use new digital tools and processes, returns on such investments will be limited at best.
And yet, in order to remain aligned with customer expectations and focused on optimization and efficiency, over the coming year, organizations will have to make significant investments in their employees and the technologies they are expected to use. And crucially, both investments need to be made in unison as a single, overriding project focused on securing future business success.
Training is part of a wider transformation
Creating an effective training program should start with a learning needs analysis — it is critical in identifying where professional development improvements are required. However, any analysis also needs to reflect the company’s future plans. In addition to their current duties, employees will need to be competent in the use of any technologies, tools or processes the organization wants to adopt in order to improve efficiencies or add new capabilities moving forward.
But as well as reflecting future processes, training needs to reflect business culture. Skills development does not occur in a vacuum and training should never feel like something that has been bolted on to something else. It should feel integrated and integral to the organization and its business philosophy.
This is an area where it’s important to avoid pitfalls. Skill gaps need to be identified and closed. Training needs to be provided so that people can use new technologies. But both need to occur within a culture that reflects and is supportive of this change.
Learning and development will drive technological innovation
Adopting new ways of working should, at a minimum, create efficiencies and optimize existing workflows. But such changes, when occurring in the right business environment, will also lead to further innovation. This innovation is often driven by employees who are using these tools in combination with their own understanding and experience in their role and within the existing company structure.
Any training initiative needs to focus on facilitating innovation. In giving people the autonomy and the empowerment to share not just feedback, but their expertise, new ideas and new perspectives — shaped by experience and diversity — will flow freely through an organization.
This flow will get stronger as employees see an idea being implemented and experience the benefit it delivers. In doing so, they will become more engaged in delivering their own forms of innovation.
These insights prove why it’s not simply enough to update existing content and training methods in order to close gaps or prepare people for a new system or process. Learning, training and development need to be baked into company culture so that it becomes an element of the end-to-end employee journey.
It’s time to elevate the employee experience.