Forget Customer Experience. Employee Experience Matters Most.

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Article by Mike Esposito

It appears that ‘customer experience’ is still a trending topic in the auto industry. Manufacturers and dealerships continue to pour dollars into focus groups and market research, all to answer the question: How can we design, sell and service cars so our customers purchase from us instead of our competition?

But they’re asking the wrong question. The right question to ask is: Are my employees happy?

If you think this sounds too simplistic, consider that global business leaders like IBM and Forrester, as well as technology companies airbnb and Adobe (along with hundreds of other companies) are funneling dollars from Marketing and Human Resources budgets into the creation of Employee Experience departments. This is the hot new business trend for 2017.

The primary purpose behind this trend is not about recruiting. Sure, becoming a ‘Top Workplace’ or a ‘Best Places to Work’ does not hurt those efforts. However, the driving force behind creating a great ‘Employee Experience’ is summarized by Adobe on its website:

“A great customer experience starts with your employees.  Whether it’s an individual who cares about the customer in front of her or him… or a large group of employees who shape the experience of thousands of customers… employees who feel high levels of engagement in their roles will invest more effort into providing a quality experience. Researchers such as Gallup have proven the correlation between higher employee engagement and positive customer ratings.”

Or, as author and business guru Simon Sinek said: “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

It’s that simple. Yet simple in concept does not always translate to simple in execution. It takes time and effort to create a workplace and culture that delivers a memorable employee experience.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Define Your Mission, Core Values and Vision

Employees want to feel part of something. They want to understand how their role is going to help the company succeed. They want to collaborate with like-minded people towards a shared vision. Without a defined mission and without a set of core values to guide decision-making, your business is devoid of soul and purpose. Your employees will feel it and they will lack purpose too.

Measure Your Employee Experience

There are many formal ’employee engagement’ measurement tools, but one of the easiest ways to get feedback from your employees is to enter a ‘Best Places to Work’ type competition offered by your local Business Journal. Or you could try the Automotive News’ ‘Best Dealerships to Work For’ competition.

Your employees will be surveyed and their anonymous responses will be supplied to you. Be prepared to read things that you don’t believe are true. Check your egos at the door and believe them. Then address the concerns that are mentioned more than once. Enter the competition every year to gauge whether your employee experience is improving.

Measure Your Customer Experience

The best way to measure customer experience is with the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Don’t rely on your Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) because we all know that both customers and employees game the system and the numbers don’t mean anything. NPS is simple to use and delivers a score that accurately reflects whether your customers like your company well enough to refer you to their friends.

Create A Cross-Functional Employee Experience Team

You don’t need a formal employee experience department and you don’t need a big budget. Form a team that includes at least one employee from every department. Ask them to meet once a week and task them with improving the employee experience.

When it comes to creating a great employee experience, it’s not all about providing employees with free lattés and beanbag chairs. According to Workplace Dynamics, the organization that runs the annual ‘Top Workplaces’ competition, the ten factors that drive the highest levels of employee happiness are:

1) Leaders of the organization care about their employees’ well-being (this can’t be faked by the way)

2) Being able to trust what the organization says

3) Having confidence in the leadership of the organization

4) Being paid fairly for the work performed

5) Feeling valued in the organization

6) Understanding the long-term strategy of the organization

7) Being treated like a person, not a number

8) Having adequate staffing levels to provide quality products/services

9) Employees liking the type of work they do

10) Retirement plan benefits

Reviewing this list, it doesn’t seem like employees are asking for a whole lot, does it? Yet dealerships continue to experience high employee turnover.

To this list, I would add:

11) Leaders of the organization recognize employees who do a good job. As a leader, you should know when a particular employee has gone the extra mile.

This doesn’t have to be a formal award or a spiff. It can be a public ‘atta boy or a company-wide email.

12) Leaders of the organization listen to and value employee feedback. When decisions are made, leaders are transparent about why they chose to include or not include employees’ suggestions. Employees may not like your decision, but they will respect it if you are honest with them about your reasons.

13) Organization provides employees with the tools and training they need to do their jobs. Many dealerships are behind when it comes to incorporating technology into their every day processes. Too many ‘old school’ employees resist change, thus dictating their inefficiencies as the ‘right way’ and passing their bad habits to new employees. This hampers productivity across the entire dealership.

Leaders must make an effort to discover the best, most cost-effective technologies that are designed to improve the customer experience. They must then mandate these technologies and demand accountability.

The Bottom Line

Of course the customer experience matters. But many businesses approach this goal in a backwards manner. Their management priorities are: shareholders first, customers second, employees third.

Try reversing your priorities to: employees first, customers second, shareholders last. Happy employees take better care of customers. Loyal customers add more to the bottom line. Shareholders are happy. It’s not magic. It’s just the way it works. No focus groups or market research required!