Article: Employee experience or Customer Experience: Which comes first?

Employee Engagement

Employee experience or Customer Experience: Which comes first?

Why not take the same approach using design thinking tools and techniques inside your organization to deliver exceptional employee and customer experience.
Employee experience or Customer Experience: Which comes first?

Perhaps the oldest debate in life is — which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Similarly, a vexing question long debated by savvy leaders is whether: 

  • it is my customer's experience or my employee's experience first?
  • employee engagement leads directly to business successes, higher profits and customer loyalty or vice-versa?
  • it is employee disengagement or a customer experience strategy no one can identify?
  • manager or employee - who is responsible for employee engagement?


All these tricky questions, is like the chicken or egg first debate, right?

Remember, people buy from people 

So where do you stand as business leaders — who is #1, employee or customer? The answer is quite obvious – it must be the employee, even if it’s just a slight lead than customers. 

Here’s why: Irrespective of your business or industry, you serve a client need, and they interact with your employees in one way or another:

  • Your product and engineering team create top-quality products that meet their need
  • Your marketing creates brand and product awareness, and salespeople make the sale
  • Your customer service empathizes with clients and assists them in making correct use of a product. 


Without your employees, you cannot provide customer experience. If employees are not engaged and satisfied, they cannot provide a “WoW” customer experience. And if customers are not satisfied and served well they will not keep coming back; it impacts the bottom-line, employees will not have a job (or the resources will not exist to serve them best).

So, if you want to be prosperous and build a sustainable business, you have to put your employee's experience first. By leaders treating employees with respect and loyalty, they are more likely to deliver the excellent service that keeps your customers delighted and coming back for more.

Employee experience matters

“Connect the dots between individual roles and the goals of the organization. When people see that connection, they get much energy out of work. They feel the importance, dignity, and meaning in their job.” –Ken Blanchard

We have established the fact that employee experience matters. So where do you begin? How do you make certain that the employee experience within your organization is optimal?

When it comes to designing employee experience, it should answer these questions from each employee's perspective:

  • What's in it for me?
  • Why should I care?
  • Why should I believe?


It's not much different from designing a great customer experience. You must first understand the employee – because you cannot transform something you do not understand. 

These four steps become the basis for designing a great employee experience:

Develop employee personas

Employee personas are semi-fictional characters that help create realistic representations of the most significant employee groups. The input is derived from both qualitative and quantitative research and includes vivid narratives, interviews, Voice of Employee surveys, images, and other information that help companies understand the needs of their employees. It also outlines their fears, motivations, goals, behaviors, constraints, likes, dislikes, challenges, objections, and interests. To bring the persona to life and humanize them, so people can clearly relate, give each one a human face and name.

It also includes details about their job role, department, tenure, career goals, age, educational qualification, accolades, interests, and more.

Develop employee empathy maps

The empathy map tries to understand for each employee persona:

  • What does the employee think and feel? What do they value and what do the perceive?
  • What does the employee see from us, market and their peers, subordinates and leaders?
  • What does the employee say and do – their behaviors towards others and social media?
  • What does the employee hear from boss, co-workers, stakeholders and influencers?


It helps you to learn and get into the hearts and minds of employees to engage them. You can also use it for 

  • providing insight into how employees can engage across different touchpoints along the customer journey
  • crafting vibrant employee stories
  • finding ways to improve your leadership strength and employee retention etc.


Chart the employee journey from Hire to Retire, and for numerous tasks that they do every day

Employee journey mapping creates attentiveness for the steps that an employee takes to do whatever they are trying to achieve within your organization. The crux is to explore all major tasks, how technology can enable real-time engagement and identify the key moments of truth at various touchpoints and across the employee relationship overall. 

It’s significant to understand not only how well the experience functions at certain points in time in the employee-employer, employee-customer relationship, but also how the employee experience works in the big picture and how it all fits together. These maps must be shaped with the employee voice and have to be validated by employees. 

It helps facilitate the culture transformation in your organization i.e. becoming employee centric and customer centric. 

Listen to employees and feed it into experience and process improvements

There are multiple ways to listen to employees: from surveys to conversations to suggestion boxes to retain interviews. The important thing is, you must act on the and keep treating till you get it right. Nothing frustrates employees if no action is taken when they point out that something is wrong or takes too much effort.

With the fundamentals in place, you are all set with the information you need to design and deliver an incredible experience for your employees.

Wrapping Up - Line up tools and resources to get started

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." F. Scott Fitzgerald 1

Having read this article, ask yourself, to put the Employees and Customers at the top of your priority list what actions you can take today. There’s a lot to do, and you will likely need design thinking tools to help you get the mindset shift and to help you build in a continuous improvement loop. 

Ask yourself, brainstorm with your team and ask customers as soon as you can, think about the questions more strategically and from a long-term view. The ideas will flow, and the actions will grow. If you are unsure how and where to get started or what to do, you may need to take the help of a consultant, who can facilitate you through defining your experience strategy, creating employee personas, listening to employees, analyzing the findings, mapping their journeys and putting it all to work.

If you have trouble getting the commitment from senior management, share the outcomes of an engaged employee.

They become raving fans of the brand. Your brand ambassadors (employees) and company evangelists…

  • want to see the organization succeed and grow
  • go out of the way to make that happen
  • provide higher levels of service, quality, and productivity 
  • are more likely to stay
  • recommend their friends and family to work for your brand
  • provide timely feedback, good or bad, to support the business success
  • share their joy and passion with customers
  • are more able to close the sale faster as they believe in the product
  • feel proud to be associated with the brand to show that they are part of something bigger than themselves


Moreover, all this leads to increased sales, higher profits, stakeholder value and customer satisfaction. No one can argue with those outcomes!

Without chickens, there are no eggs, and without eggs, there are no chickens. I do not know about your preferences, but I love both. Why not take the same approach using design thinking tools and techniques inside your organization to deliver exceptional employee and customer experience.

Topics: Employee Engagement, Employee Relations

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