If I had a nickel for every time I read or talked about the importance of employee feedback during the past few months, I’d have an upsetting amount of change. Thankfully, the hype makes sense. Every employee in a company either directly or indirectly affects the customer experience, so every employee can offer some insight to help improve that experience.  

I highlighted a few good examples of companies using employee feedback in a new report on overall voice of the customer trends. This research and my ongoing conversations on the topic got me thinking more about what kinds of employee feedback customer experience pros should incorporate into their efforts. I see three basic levels of the voice of the employee (VoE):  

  1. Customer observations. This is the most obvious category for customer experience. Essentially, firms turn their customer-facing employees into customer listening posts by giving them the tools and training to record what they hear from customers. Many companies do this by having employees categorize customer service calls as they come in or by running call center notes through text analytics engines. Other companies have dedicated tools set up for employees to log interesting insights they get from customers. This category has two big limitations: Only customer-facing employees can participate, and insights don’t leverage employees’ contextual knowledge.  
  2. Improvement suggestions. This category takes  advantage of employees’ unique mix of customer and company insight to identify solutions as well as problems. If an employee notes that customers get irritated with the time it takes to complete a particular transaction, for example, that’s valuable. But it's more valuable if the employee mentions that the transaction takes so long because it requires the employee to click through three different screens — that points to a solution. Companies like Dell and Fidelity are using internal online communities to continuously gather this kind of feedback. Even internally-facing employees can participate, as long as they have a good understanding of customers.
  3. Employee engagement considerations. This category stems from the idea that employee engagement drives customer engagement, a theme I’ve seen ring true across several organizations. Firms are starting to incorporate employee engagement insight into their customer experience efforts to make sure employees understand the brand and customer experience vision, feel empowered to deliver on the concepts, and have the motivation to behave accordingly. Just this morning, I spoke to customer service execs at a large utility company that has used this type of feedback to improve morale and productivity without increasing compensation in the call center. Interestingly, they see a consistent relationship between their employee and customer loyalty indexes: When employee loyalty falls in one month, customer loyalty falls in the following month; when employee loyalty rises, customer loyalty also follows.

I just kicked off a report to take a closer look at VoE and how it works within an overall voice of the customer (VoC) program. I’d love to hear about your experiences using employee feedback or your thoughts on the three levels of VoE I proposed here. Feel free to share in the comments section or contact me directly. Look forward to hearing from you!