Is talent management evolution part of your customer experience strategy?

By Carolyn Baird

Brands across industries have spent the past decade reinventing the customer experience (CX) for the digital age. They’re using mobile apps to drive brick-and-mortar sales and leveraging in-store behavior to drive online purchases. They’re tapping into location data and experimenting with virtual reality. They’re integrating data from various channels to push targeted, personalized messaging. However, most companies are forgetting one key strategy for improving the CX: improving the employee experience (EX).

For “The experience revolution: New teams, new rules,” the third installment in the IBM Institute for Business Value’s yearlong CX study, we surveyed 600 executives about the talent management evolution happening at their companies. Though most of them have CX strategies in place, the majority aren’t as focused on EX.

That’s a big mistake. The financial “Outperformers” in our study — those with the greatest revenue and profitability — strongly believe EX influences CX. They are almost twice as likely to measure the correlation between EX and CX (53 percent versus 28 percent of other respondents). Nearly half (45 percent) said their CX strategy includes a focus on improving EX, and 62 percent are reallocating budgets to make EX a priority, whereas only 35 percent of non-Outperformers are doing so.

How are these Outperformers realigning their organizations for the digital age?

The management evolution

In 2011, when the IBM Institute for Business Value published its first CMO report, it was titled “From Stretched to Strengthened” because CMOs were overwhelmed with all the digital channels they suddenly needed to master. Five years later, the pace of change hasn’t slowed. If anything, it’s accelerating. Part 2 of our CX study, “Mobilizing to Win,” lists 11 digital CX technologies companies were planning to launch in 2016 that could radically change how people engage with businesses — again.

However, today’s CMOs are not likely to be leading the CX charge alone. New C-level leaders — chief digital officers, chief experience officers and chief customer officers — are also taking pieces of the CX action. Quick to recognize the need for executives with deep expertise in digital, data, CX and innovation, the Outperformers in our survey were far more likely to have established these positions more than five years ago. Though they were faster to take some CX responsibilities off the CMOs’ plates, they are more likely to leave their marketing departments intact.

More than one-third of non-Outperformers think their marketing functions will merge with digital services, customer service or customer insights over the next two years, if they haven’t done so already. Meanwhile, Outperformers tend to take a separate but collaborative approach. Marketing and other customer-facing departments work together to provide a seamless, integrated CX, but each team maintains a keen focus on its area of expertise. This enables them to build deep capabilities and hire employees with specialized skill sets.

The employee evolution

It’s not just C-suites that are adding new talent. Organizations are looking to beef up digital skills across their workforces. Survey participants were asked about the types of professionals they’re currently hiring, and their responses included the following:

  • User experience (UX) professionals (62 percent)

  • Interactive/digital designers (59 percent)

  • Experience strategists (48 percent)

  • Data analysts (48 percent)

  • Application developers (53 percent)

  • Systems engineers/architects (54 percent)

  • Social media specialists (48 percent)

  • Customer strategists (42 percent)

  • Data scientists (41 percent)

With digital skill sets in such high demand, executives are facing the war for talent they’ve been struggling with for years. Roughly half are revising employee succession plans and incentives, and 53 percent are forming new ecosystem partnerships to attract the talent they need. Executives also plan to offer new opportunities for career advancement, more flexible work schedules and other employment perks.

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The war for talent isn’t the only reason the Outperformers are focused on empowering employees and improving morale. They also understand that employees deliver the brand experience. If you have disengaged, cranky or uninformed employees, customers aren’t going to care that your mobile app is awesome or that your marketing messages are spot-on.

Simply put, it’s nearly impossible to deliver a great CX without engaged employees. And, without the right tools, training and corporate culture, it’s nearly impossible to deliver a great EX. In our study, 74 percent of Outperformers felt confident that their employees were personally invested in making customers happy, while only 45 percent of non-Outperformers could say the same.

This will be an important question for leaders in 2017 and beyond: Are your employees personally invested in making customers happy? If not, your CX will suffer until your EX improves.

To learn more about the business trends and mobile technology that are reshaping the CX in the digital age, read the three reports in our “Experience revolution” series.

Download “The experience revolution: New teams new rules”

Written By

Carolyn Baird

Global Research Leader - Customer Experience & Design, IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV)

As a seasoned business consultant and thought leader with IBM's business strategy think tank, Carolyn specializes in the design of omnichannel customer experience strategies. Her experience spans nearly 20 years in digital development, content strategy, corporate communications, marketing…