Customer experience (CX) is where companies compete today, and everyone is aiming for a feeling far greater than mere satisfaction: they want loyalty, an experience that connects the customer to the organization beyond a transaction. CX is a bit of a puzzle, requiring deep knowledge of the customer not just to exceed expectations but also to make the experience distinct, something unique to your organization. And that’s why a brand is such a useful frame to think about these moments – both for customers and for employees.
Brands are the perceptions of experiences that motivate specific behaviors in the target audience, forging bonds of identification and loyalty through shared values. They attract a certain audience by strengthening associations, creating distance with others as a by-product.
Brand strategies, frameworks, and standards are how we define and coordinate deliberate and consistent experiences to shape brand perceptions.
Employees deliver these experiences to customers, but employee experience (EX) itself has emerged as a priority for organizations looking to attract, retain, and grow the highest caliber of talented workers.
Brand operates in the same manner with employees as it does with customers, but with a different value proposition: that of a good job, a growing career, work with a purpose, contributions to something you believe in, the experience of accomplishments and exercising skills, and the community and camaraderie of the workplace. This has the potential to be a far richer, more meaningful engagement than almost any possible customer experience.
The touchpoints are every moment in the employee lifecycle and each moment in their workday and into the time beyond that – reflecting in their work, their career, and their opportunities – a timeline measured both in hours and in years.
Frequently called the “employer brand,” in contrast to the “external brand” or “customer brand” discussed above, the internal perceptions of the brand are made by employees who experience the value proposition for working at that organization. Ultimately, there is only one brand, and in strong brands, all the perceptions by different stakeholder groups align and reinforce one another.
For years, organizations have been focusing on creating engaged employees, but there are levels beyond that. Today, leading organizations seek to inspire their best talent and are doing so with a focus on what employees experience at every major touchpoint.
As with customers, these touchpoints should be differentiating, compelling, and uniquely meaningful for employees. They are moments that make them feel not only like they are part of a great company, but like they are also part of something unattainable at any other organization. They are moments that connect with them in a distinct, emotional, and personal way. They should be your moments of truth with your people, and they should be informed and directed by your brand.
Brand connects CX and EX
Brand experiences are the output of the culture that produces them. That culture is an aggregate of the behaviors of those who work there, and those behaviors are the result of decisions based on values.
The employer facets of your brand need to be as strong, clear, and compelling to employees as your customer brand is to customers. You may need to dig into it and explore the purpose and meaning of the work with employees.
Shaping employee experiences through the framework of your brand helps to find and retain the best and most committed talent for your organization. It attracts those whose values align with yours, who possess an intuitive understanding of the brand, and who have an ability to interpret it at every customer touchpoint. This creates an improved customer experience.
It helps filter for the individuals who will reinforce the aspirational ways of working, who will participate in the culture, and who will live the values in their behaviors.
Research demonstrates that brand perceptions are a co-creation between the firm and the customer, with interplay between them. By that logic, it is essential to ensure that the people you onboard to your organization identify with the brand so their work aligns to create that distinct brand experience.
Using your brand to design employee experiences helps to attract and retain those individuals, to signal the underlying values of the brand, and to reinforce and celebrate what is most important in your culture. It can help workers feel like part of a greater whole and part of the team that delivers on your purpose for customers.
It helps find the people who believe in that purpose and who are moved to fulfill it, who share the values from which it derives, and who can collaborate in the culture. Just as importantly, it communicates what you stand for and what you value to those who aren’t aligned, so they can choose not to waste their time and yours, thereby protecting your culture, your clients, and your bottom line from the costs of mis-hires and turnover.
Think of EX and CX as one continuous brand value chain. There are some practical steps to apply this thinking in your organization:
- Have Marketing work with employee communicators to extend the brand in ways that are meaningful for internal audiences. As Marketing owns the brand in most organizations, they are the brand experts, but employee communicators and their third-party partners (similar to the marketing agency) are experts regarding internal audiences, communication needs, and channels, and they are needed to get this right.
- Form a partnership between HR, employee communicators, and the brand owners to define EX.
- Create an employer brand strategy and employer brand guidelines. Consider how the brand needs to live and be used inside. Extend it to meet the cultural needs inside your organization, then open and share it internally so it is used widely, contributing to a diverse but unifying employee communication experience.
- Assess the employee lifecycle for key stages and events and prioritize these for a redesign from both a brand experience and an employee experience.
Brand is a key to unlock the uniquely compelling moments in CX and EX, aligning the entire organization to create experiences grounded in values that unite customers and employees.