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CX and EX – 39 years and counting

Two hands

In a nutshell

  1. Customer experience (CX) is an acknowledged driver of competitive advantage in companies across every sector. 
  2. With the Skills Consulting Group, we have been able to get a sense of New Zealand’s level of workplace wellbeing in 2021. The data clearly shows the imperative of aligning CX and EX.
  3. A system-based wellbeing model is more relevant to EX which relates directly to motivation and effectiveness.

In 1989, Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote, "Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers."

Has it really taken thirty-nine years for this idea to grow into a fully operationalised and C-Suite level mindset? Did we bury a time capsule that we just found? 

Fast forward to the last decade and we see the exponential growth of half of that idea. Customer experience (CX) is an acknowledged driver of competitive advantage in companies across every sector. The more advanced organisations have taken it to the next level and adopted a customer-centric framework to ensure that CX is embedded in all parts of the business – marketing, retail delivery, customer support and product development. 

The other half of the idea – employee experience (EX) – has not had the same momentum. With the Skills Consulting Group, we worked to understand why – and as a result, learned what workplace wellbeing looks like in 2021. 

The Marketing Challenge - To Own ‘Experience’ 

There is a widely held belief that CX sits firmly in the Chief Marketing Officer’s area of responsibility. Indeed, we have seen many CMO roles relabelled as Chief Customer Officer. 

“Customer experience is emerging as a key driver of growth opportunity by serving as a competitive differentiator for an organisation. And it is the fundamental role of the CMO to shape, guide and continuously improve this business solution for the entire organisation.” - Deloitte, ‘The Evolving Role of the CMO’

Having reached this point, time is accelerating as a few even more forward-looking organisations are seeing marketing’s new role as the owner or master of ‘experience’, taking companies from customer-centricity to a broader concept of people-centricity. 

Loud Carbone, the man who coined the term ‘customer experience’ in 1994, recognised that it’s not the function a business provides, but the effect it has on customers’ lives that creates value. 

What’s the difference? What shifted? A light bulb moment of recognition that CX and employee experiences are as intimately entwined as the DNA helix. And it’s not just theoretical. It has a dollar value. 

Amount by which companies that invest in employees outperform those that don't
Source: The Employee Experience Advantage, by Jacob Morgan (Wiley, 2017)

Employee experience - a paradigm to a grow model

Employee experience has traditionally been seen as a lever to reduce talent churn and pressure on salary costs. Engagement was the measure that seemed to best address how ‘sticky’ your staff were to your business. Organisations are spending large amounts on employee engagement programmes, yet scores on engagement surveys are low and not improving. Even Gallop, the global leader in engagement surveys, describes engagement scores as “abysmally low”. 

The primary goal of engagement was cost reduction (recruitment costs, training and unengaged employees who were more likely to see wages as the main reason for staying). It is a cost-saving frame of reference. 

With the rise in the perceived value of CX has come a focus towards EX – as a critical driver of the former. This isn’t just in customer service and support, but for those involved in product development, marketing, engineering and production. All have an impact on overall CX. 

In these enlightened organisations, the goal of CX programmes is more about revenue increase than cost-saving. So, EX has evolved to be about business success from a growth and revenue perspective. However, traditional engagement measures are still often used to measure EX. This model doesn’t look at the inputs of EX because it focuses on a company-centric output metric. 

Engegement Metric
Chart 1. The Engagement Metric


As mentioned at the opening of this article, to deep dive into EX we have been working with The Skills Consulting Group, a full-service international consultancy focused on developing people in the workplace. Through this work we have learned what workplace well-being looks like in 2021. And what we see is that a system-based wellbeing model is more relevant to EX which relates directly to motivation and effectiveness.

Genuine Care

Genuine care is what people want as the biggest input into the experience they have, not just as an employee but in their wider lives. This results in higher levels of motivation and effectiveness because workplace wellbeing spills over into home lives, health and emotional wellbeing. There is a huge opportunity for marketers to own the broader meaning of ‘experience’ in their organisation. Moreover, not owning it puts marketing success at risk. The reality is, CX is not a standalone experience. Customer and employee experiences go hand in hand. Why would you let someone else take control of something that has the potential to throttle your marketing efforts in the CX area? Especially when we know there is a mismatch between what HR teams think and what employees feel. 

“There is an undeniable link between customer experience and employee experience – and brands can’t improve one without improving the other.” - Forbes

Graph of Overall Employee Wellbeing Score
Chart 2. NZ Overall Wellbeing Score - 2021


Through this work with the Skills Consulting Group, we have been able to get a sense of New Zealand’s level of workplace wellbeing, which stands at sixty-two. What do you think your workplace number would be – and who is going to drive the improvement that will supercharge your customer experience? This is a time of change and that creates opportunity. 

The Skills Consulting Group data shows that a wellbeing culture can engender a feeling of ‘ a job that makes me feel worthwhile, taking us some way to achieving one of the indicators of a motivated and effective workforce, which we know is an essential driver of customer experience. 

“At present, you’ve got employee engagement on one side of the fence, and you’ve got customer experience on the other side of the fence. Both of those topics are being seen to be important to the business. Both of these strategies are becoming common now. But I don’t see a lot of organisations pulling them together.” - Colin Shaw, Founder, Beyond Philosophy CX consultancy

NZ Employee Motivation and Effectiveness Score
Chart 3. NZ Employee Motivation and Effectiveness Score - 2021


Greater satisfaction means higher employee motivation and effectiveness


The data clearly shows the imperative of aligning CX and EX. Who should take charge? Do you want to have marketing take charge or let someone else dictate the strategy? 

CX and EX are total company responsibilities. Collaboration across marketing, human resources and customer service functions is critical. 

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This article was originally published in our tenth issue of Frame magazine. To request a copy, complete this form.

Colleen Ryan
Partner at TRA
Colleen has a curious and strategic mindset fueled by 40 years of experience in business across Europe, North America and APAC countries. With a fascination and deep understanding of what it is to be human, specifically applying principles from cultural sociology, social psychology, behavioural science, and cultural analysis, she brings breakthrough insights to brand strategy, creative development and customer centricity.

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