Customer engagement and customer experience are often confused and frequently relegated to the care of the marketing department. In both cases, that’s a major error: customer experience should be a part of everyone’s job description, and engagement is starting to become an all-hands responsibility as well.

customer experiencesThat fact will only contribute to the ongoing confusion about what the two terms actually mean. They tend to be used interchangeably, which further sows confusion. Let’s straighten the matter out right here: customer engagement describes the customer’s direct interactions with the business, either those initiated by the customers themselves or by the business brand. A customer support call is a chance for engagement; so is an offer to attend an event.

Customer experience describes the customer’s overall impression of the business as a result of all those encounters, built on every interaction and including every step within the customer journey. In other words, your efforts at engagement provide the touchpoints that will determine how good or bad a customer experience ends up being.

If the customer interacts with an employee – either because of a customer need, or because of an initiative from the business – the impact on experience is contingent on the employee. And that can be a problem. According to the most recent polling by Gallup, only 32 percent of employees say they are engaged in their jobs. More than 17 percent of employees are “actively disengaged.” If those employees interact with your customers, what’s the effect on the customer’s experience? Cumulatively, according to Gallup, the cost of these disengaged employees is $370 billion a year in the U.S. alone.

As businesses start to consider the impact of customer experience and engagement, they’re also starting to examine the ingredients for success. One of these is to work toward increased employee engagement, which is not the same thing as employee happiness. Don’t think that raining perks on your employees is the secret to effective engagement. It can be part of the mix, but it’s not the only thing that helps create engaged employees.

Those things stem from much more elemental aspects of the business, starting with the structure of the organization – how people are managed, how their tasks are handed off within the organization, and how well fellow workers collaborate on solving important problems. Good leadership and management play a massive role in this, according to a Dale Carnegie study – 70 percent of employees who lack in the abilities of senior management are not engaged. More directly, 80 percent of employees dissatisfied with their direct managers were not engaged. Failure to engage at the top means disengagement at the bottom; if your sales managers try to improve performance through threats and intimidation rather than coaching and collaboration, you should be concerned about a disengaged sales force laying the groundwork for a generally disengaged customer base. The flip side of this is a leadership team that works hard to be present for the workforce, both as people and as leaders who can explain the company direction and the thinking behind the things the company is doing.

Employee engagement also includes a big dollop of self-interest. If an employee can answer the question “what’s in it for me?” in a way that is personally rewarding, they’re more likely to be engaged and thus more likely to perform. That reward is often monetary in the form of commissions (for sales) or bonuses (for nearly everyone, potentially), but it can come in other forms as well. The possibility of advancement, professional recognition and even things as seemingly inconsequential as rewards delivered through a gamification platform can keep employees engaged.

Finally, before you start drawing lines between customer and employee engagement, stop and realize that we’re talking about the same species of animal here. What works to keep employees engaged is often the same as what works with customers – so if something you’re doing is resonating with customers, replicate it internally. The same goes for customers; if you’re successful in keeping employees engaged, you can re-use the idea to engage customers. Similarly, if you’re doing customer engagement correctly, you’re generating data on how effective your efforts are. There’s no logical reason to apply an analytical approach to customer engagement but continue to guess about the effectiveness of your employee engagement efforts. “Voice of the Customer” is a concept that can be used to understand anyone who is a customer – including employees who are internal customers of other employees.

To learn more about how CallidusCloud can help you better understand the Voice of the Customer, check out Clicktools. And to discover ways to engage your employees in ways that go beyond monetary compensation, visit Badgeville.

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