How HR can support the customer experience

We are undoubtedly in an era of Customer Experience. The brands that are winning with customers are those that are securing loyalty and advocacy by delivering superb experiences consistently. Their challenge is to engage customers in two way conversations, deliver added value product offerings that delight whilst also enchanting customers with service that gets recognised.

In response to this, the marketing press is - quite rightly - full of content around how marketers should map the customer journey, how they should capitalise on the latest digital opportunities to support the customer journey and how they should evolve their role. As a result, the day to day role of Marketing is evolving more quickly than ever with requirements for new ways of working, new capabilities and new models of thinking.

But what is so often missing from this debate is people in all of this, despite people being at the heart of the successful delivery of Customer Experience. Recently at Brand Learning, in thinking about the ways that we can further strengthen the experience that we too deliver to our customers, we took inspiration from a lovely quote from Seth Godin:

"Traditional corporations are organized for efficiency. Or consistency.  But not JOY.  Joy comes from surprise and connection and humanity and transparency and new…If you fear special requests, if you staff with cogs, if you have to put it all in a manual, then the chances of amazing someone are really quite low." - Seth Godin

What’s so powerful in this quote is the delivery of an emotional impact through people. In short, customer experiences are remembered more for the people who impacted you along the journey and how they made you feel – than the “stuff” you delivered. These tangible deliverables were undoubtedly hygiene factors that got you into the consideration set in the first place, but they’re not the ones that get you remembered or talked about.

This creates a powerful agenda, not only for the Marketing Director who is defining and designing the customer experience, but even more importantly, for the HR Director, tasked with attracting and equipping the right people to deliver this experience. Not only just deliver it – but also deliver it in a way that is integrated across the business AND uniquely branded. No surprise then that Airbnb, recently redefined the role that HR is playing in the organisation with the appointment of a new Global Head of Employee Experience.*

So with or without this new role, what are some of the key implications for the HRD in this age of customer experience?

  • HR Directors need to work closely with their Marketing counterparts to deliver a winning customer experience. Their role is in ensuring that the employee experience tightly aligns with the customer experience. Aligning both the brand promise and the employee promise around a strong and inspiring purpose is a great way to get this synergy. The work that Unilever has done on inspiring sustainable living is a great example of this – setting a beacon for both consumers and employees alike that helps create strong and loyal relationships with the business.
  • In creating and delivering the employee experience, HR must embrace skills typically held by Marketing. For example, in an era where workforces contain up to 5 generations, from Generation Z through to so-called “Maturists”, never was a segmented approach to employees more important. Tailoring the overall employee experience in a way that is relevant to different employee groupings is essential - ensuring that the overall employee proposition is delivered in a way that is relevant and motivating to each group and that investment is not wasted on undervalued benefits.
  • Delivering a winning customer experience requires a joined up agenda across the business. For many businesses, this requires change – often in terms of ways of operating – but more usually in terms of culture. HR plays a key role in leading this agenda- creating the vision, enabling leaders to adopt the right behaviours and removing barriers or creating the right triggers to incentivise new ways of working. HR is uniquely placed to lead and broker these changes across the business.

Here at Brand Learning, we no longer work with Marketing alone on the delivery of the customer agenda. More and more often, we join up the agenda with HR, Sales, Digital, R&D and Leadership agendas - keeping the customer at the heart of all things but enabling the delivery of the customer agenda through people - whatever their function. For more information on our work with HR or other areas of the business, please contact us.

Brand Learning: Inspiring people. Lifting Capabilities. Growing organisations.
We work with companies across the world to lift the performance of their teams to drive growth

*HR Grapevine, 15th September, 2015