The employee experience and customer experience are becoming more and more intertwined as we head into 2018, driven by the evolution of companies that are going from “product first” to “customer first.” As everything begins to revolve around the customer, the technology choices for employees center on their ability to enable employees to meet customers’ needs. To get a better handle on this, we sat down with Tony Jones from Avanade, one of our key partners in both employee and customer experience transformation. Tony is a Digital Marketing Technology professional with a primary skill set focused on the strategy, design and delivery of web, social, and CXM/CMS/WEM enterprise applications.

What is your vision of the digital workplace?

Tony: The digital workplace is how your employees interact with digital technology and how they are able to deliver great customer experiences beyond and including digital. We see a lot of organizations right now making massive investments in customer experiences – but forgetting that your customer experience influenced by your organization’s internal employees who they may interact with. There is a Zero-Moment-of-Truth in which an internal employee must have great internal tools and insights to experience that help them understand the customers experience and then interact with that experience appropriately. If you have great CX externally, why are you not bringing that internally so your employees can interact with customers and each other more effectively? Your employees should feel as connected to those experiences they are delivering.

For us, Coveo is one of the key technologies that enables you to improve the experiences in the workplace. A lot of the tools that are in workplaces today just don’t deliver an experience you would ever provide for your customers. You need a greater experience and the insights from a search and relevance solution like Coveo (without a full rip and replace overhaul of your system) for your employees to make intelligent decisions at the zero moment of truth interaction with customers and in decision making.

It’s also important to meet employees where they are at. Search is a functionality that your employees use every day outside of work. You can’t ignore how transformative it could be for them in the workplace.

What’s the effect of upgrading the employee experience?

Tony: Your employee experience is your foundation of everything. You’re nowhere without your employees, and by extension, your employee experience. That being said, we’ve seen companies see results in the places you would expect: increased employee satisfaction, higher productivity, efficiencies in the workplace.

But there’s another area that leaders need to think about: how the employee experience is affected and is lead by CX innovation. When you enable people to be more effective and to collaborate more easily, you are fostering innovation. When your employees have more access to insights and knowledge within the workplace, you are going to speed up your cycle of innovation.

How does the employee experience connect with the customer experience?

Tony: Unhappy employees create unhappy customers. You have to keep in mind that your employees go home at night and use tools like Facebook, Slack, Whatsapp. They are used to having everything they need in their pocket with their smartphone. Technology is a part of who you are, how you interact and how you view your place in the world.

When they come to your work and use something they hate, or feel frustrated that they can’t find what they need, it affects them. No one wants to feel like they work at a place that doesn’t value them and isn’t investing in their satisfaction. When you do feel that way, it permeates everything you do – including how you view your customers and their needs. When you do have what you need, you collaborate more, innovate, think strategically.

What’s the first step in upgrading your employee experience?

Tony: I can’t say this enough: understand what your users need. Approach it from a user experience perspective. Figure out what they are trying to do depending on their role. You also need to align how their current digital workplace is affecting the customer experience they are able to offer. When you have an employee that is very frustrated and used to being frustrated all day, and that person gets on a call with a customer, what do you think happens? It’s all about consistency.

How should business leaders be thinking about the user experience of the tools they bring to their employees?

Tony: You shouldn’t have to “train” a new employee on how to use a digital workplace product. You may need to show them some of the intricacies of your system, but think of it this way: did anyone sit you down and “train” you to use Facebook, Amazon and other tools?

A lot of tools today that are not intuitive stem from a belief from IT that users not being able to use a tool is a user problem. At this point and where we are with technology with our consumer lives, if users aren’t getting things done internally, it’s a problem with the digital solution. Think of all of the things you are able to do as a consumer with digital tools. Does that knowledge and savviness disappear when you walk into work? Look, this is a new age problem. You can’t ignore that there are three year olds using iPads and people who have grown up using search their entire life. They know what they’re doing. If you are struggling to get these people to adopt and use your technology correctly, it’s time to accept that it’s a technology problem, not a user problem.

What is the “technology problem” that you see most frequently at these organizations?

Tony: The problem is that a lot of these tools are not experience-first tools. They’re built around a functionality, a product. You’re expecting your user to fit the product, rather than thinking about the experience you want your users to have and finding technology that can deliver that. This is why we say that transformation requires more than a product. Your customer experience drives everything else; customer and employee experience is greater than your user experience is greater than (and often drives) your product or platform experience.

What I mean by that is that too many organizations think about solutions in a silo. Consider a website selling something, like an ecommerce site. The site is functional, consumers find exactly what they are looking for, find related products, etc. They’re happy. Now remember, I never said it had to be a beautiful site. New trends in simplicity and single-page-application models certainly aren’t looking to be the best looking, but the most functional and relevant.  Amazon is an excellent example of this. The “user experience” and design of the website isn’t going to win awards – but it helps the customer get what they are looking for and drives conversion. You can have a beautiful, completely non-functional website. They’re everywhere actually. There are also organizations who have put their stake in the ground that they don’t want to understand the customer experience. Don’t put the visuals and design ahead of the job your customer is looking to get done.

Additionally, other companies put “platform experience” ahead of their customer and employee experience when it comes to the workplace. They put the technology and product first. Anyone who has used an intranet knows this. IT has become complacent in delivering the basics of what a customer (employee) needs. Rather than going a level of what the customer really needs and really understanding them, you’re just checking boxes.

Why upgrade and invest in your customer and employee experiences now?

Tony: There’s a hurricane coming in the Digital Workplace. Are you better off preparing when the hurricane has hit or a few days before? Look, you can’t ditch or ignore your investments in technology within your workplace. You can’t leave town either way. Don’t wait until the hurricane hits. Look for quick but critical wins around relevancy and insight before you are behind the storm and out of options.

Are you on track for your customer and experience hurricane in 2018? Find out how XERO was able to connect both – and drive tangible ROI – with our latest on-demand webinar, “How Xero Improves the Customer Experience by Improving Agent Proficiency.”