How Can Internal Communications and Employee Experience Lead to Better Customer Service?
Award-winning Sr Communications Strategist
13 Feb 2024
While it’s long been acknowledged that treating your employees well translates into them providing better customer service, and hence improving your business results, the reasons behind how this happens are less well understood.
In this article, I’ll explore the key ways that internal communications and employee experience can ultimately lead to happier customers, and healthier top and bottom lines for your organization. I’ll also provide quick tips for how you can start to make immediate improvements in both areas.
Understanding of individual role in customer service
Fundamentally, internal communications is about ensuring your employees understand your business strategy, and their role in delivering on it. It helps your people to see the connection between their day-to-day work and the bigger picture of your purpose, vision, mission, and strategy.
Effective internal communications, then, are focused on what your business is trying to achieve and the individual employee’s important role in that. Your people should have a clear line of sight between what they are working on and how that supports your organization’s goals.
Internal communications help employees to see the direct impact they have on your customers, and therefore your business. Without this awareness, it’s easy for people to think that what they do doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. And people want their work to mean something. A global survey of 26,000 LinkedIn members found that 73% of its participants want a career in which they feel that their job matters.
This connection is especially important in customer service, because very often it is an intimate, one-on-one interaction, and powerful internal communications help employees to understand the importance of everything they say and do. With this knowledge and understanding, your people are more engaged with your business, and far more likely to empathize with what your customers want and need, go the extra mile, and deliver better customer service.
- Quick tip
Provide a template for your people managers to help them connect every team member’s job to your business strategy.
Feedback to continuously improve customer service
The best internal communications are based on two-way dialogue. This means constantly listening to your people so they can give you feedback on a wide range of topics, including sharing ideas for how to improve your business through better customer service.
Internal communications should be providing channels and forums that empower your people to speak up, especially those on the front line dealing with customers day in, day out.
That way, challenges can be spotted early, remedial measures put in place, and longer-term improvements set in motion. No one knows your customers better than your people who deal with them every day. This two-way dialogue is essential not just for addressing issues fast, but also for making sure that your employees feel heard, and their views acted on.
In fact, the transportation and logistics industry has one of the lowest engagement levels – with just 28% of employees feeling engaged at work. Listening is the cornerstone of employee engagement. Your internal communications must involve speaking to your people on a regular basis to maintain engagement and create a healthy culture of giving and receiving feedback. Both will help you to generate new and better ways to delight your customers.
Every piece of research on this topic (such as this one) has the same main takeaway – increasing engagement improves business performance. That’s why it remains such a high priority for organizations, no matter what size, maturity, or location.
- Quick tip
Have a variety of feedback channels open all the time. Some people prefer face-to-face, others online. Regardless of the channel, ensure they are promoted, and that views are collated, and analyzed, and that you clearly communicate what you are doing as a result.
Help to build a customer-focused culture
While company culture is set by the behavior of leaders, and reinforced by systems, symbols and processes, internal communications can help to cultivate a positive, healthy culture that is oriented around customer service.
It can do this in many ways. For example, making customers part of internal events (town halls, kick offs, conferences, etc), having them share their stories of what it’s like to interact with your company. This gives you invaluable feedback on how you can improve your customer service, as well as reinforcing that the customer is your number-one priority.
Amazon is widely recognized as the world’s most customer-focused organization. Its founder, Jeff Bezos, famously left an empty chair in meeting rooms to represent the customer, who he believed to be the most important person at the meeting. Internal communications can help to raise awareness of symbolic acts such as this, and through the power of storytelling can remind your people who they work for and reinforce your customer-focused culture.
Furthermore, internal communications can, often in partnership with HR, use recognition programs to focus on highlighting and acknowledging those who have delivered exceptional customer service. Using important, high-profile systems such as recognition demonstrates to your people how much you value customer service, builds a common language and understanding of what great looks like, and, again, by sharing winners’ stories you can send a clear message about your culture and values.
- Quick tip
Get the back office involved. Everyone has a role to play in customer service, so if you want to improve, focus on how to involve your non-customer-facing employees. For example, can they do a phone call with a customer once a quarter, or shadow a sales call or visit? Anything that gets them closer to the customer and gives them a deeper understanding of their pain points will help them deliver better service.
Employee experience (EX)
Make it easier for your employees to serve customers
Employee experience (EX) is all about enabling your people to thrive at work. It involves mapping the journey that an employee goes on with your company before, during, and after their time with you, and making it as positive, consistent, and sustainable as you can.
Due to its breadth, most companies decide to tackle EX by focusing on a number of key ‘moments that matter’ to an employee (onboarding is a good example).
One common complaint among employees worldwide is the proliferation of tools and platforms they need to use just to get their work done. According to a Harvard Business Review study, employees switched about 350 times between 22 different applications and unique websites over an average day, which means that they’re spending more time switching between them than working.
For customer-facing employees, this is a massive headache and has a direct impact on how well they can serve customers. Even for your back-office people, it means the support they can provide to frontline workers is being affected.
Working with your employees who are closest to your customers, you can identify a moment that matters, analyze the key pain points, and co-create an EX that simplifies their job and makes it easier and faster for them to deliver better customer service in that moment.
- Quick tip
Constantly ask your people – how can this moment be redesigned so it makes your job easier? Don’t be afraid to streamline or strip out any systems or processes that are not helping your people to serve customers.
Make your customers part of your solution
As we said with internal communications, bringing customers into your organization can give you incredible insights, build trust, and ensure that you are addressing real problems. In fact, some thinkers believe that EX is now the key driver of CX (customer experience) and that involving customers in EX is an essential part of connecting the two.
Much of the work in EX is about co-creation. This means collaborating with the people you’re trying to help to develop a better overall solution.
On EX, you can invite groups of customers to round tables, workshops, whatever format it may be, and, if they are clear on why they are there and what is in it for them (better service), then in my experience they are usually more than happy to participate.
To start this work, it helps to have an idea of the problem you think you are trying to solve (identified through speaking with your people, looking at customer data, etc) and then validating this with your customer group. What you thought was the biggest issue may not be for them. To be successful, it’s also important to keep a tight scope, so it can be helpful to regularly remind everyone that your focus is on how you can deliver better customer service.
One of the reasons EX can be so powerful when it comes to improving customer service is that it involves persona work. By building a customer persona based on in-depth online and in-person research, you have a much clearer picture of the problem you’re facing and the human impacts of that. As such, you can design more relevant, tailored, and successful interventions that reflect the real-life concerns of your customers and employees.
- Quick tip
Choose a range of customers to involve in your EX – friendly, vocal, long-standing, new – to give you the broadest possible spectrum of views.
Invest in internal comms and EX for better customer service
Internal communications and EX are critical drivers of better customer service. The more your people understand their role in your business, are engaged in their work, and feel empowered to make decisions, the better your customer service, and therefore financial performance, will be.