When we hosted a lively conversation with the executives responsible for the customer experience across a diverse range of companies, we learned about the challenges businesses are facing across all sectors, and shared insights on how to power through and succeed. One thing became clear – even across different industries, everyone is facing similar challenges and we're all in this together.

In 2020, the world as we know it changed. As COVID-19 swept across nations, homes became offices and conference rooms, consumer behaviour and expectations shifted, and digital projects accelerated at an unprecedented rate. As the dust settles, companies who’ve come out on top have something in common – they are focusing on the health and wellbeing of their employees and becoming more customer-centric.

Winning the hearts and minds, and wallet, of a customer has become an extremely competitive and nuanced battleground. And what’s more, every single person in your company has the ability to impact (positively or negatively) the customer experience, which is why focusing on employees is the place to start.  Long gone are the days where customer experience is one department's responsibility, it is everyone’s responsibility. It is the collection of all your people, and all the touch points. 

Being customer-centric has to be embedded into your culture. The future’s uncertain, so use this time as an opportunity to reset and reimagine what your company and ideal customer experience looks like. Ginni Rometty, Executive Chairman and Former CEO of IBM once said, “Growth and comfort do not coexist.” Those comfortable tried and tested methods of 2019? Forget them. Leaders have two choices today; go back to the status quo or reinvent the future state of the business based on new customer expectations, market changes and new ways of working.  Research shows it takes 66 days for people to form new habits, and we’ve had well over 66 days of the new normal.


A winning formula

If you want to increase your rate of growth, then let this be the main takeaway from 2020:

Employee experience + customer experience = higher growth rates

And we know this for a fact. In collaboration with Forbes Insights, we conducted a study to track correlation between what employees said about their workplace on Glassdoor.com and the same companies’ score from the Customer Service Index. Those with good scores in both saw the highest rates of growth – up to 1.8 times faster than companies with low scores in fact – so if you want to transform the customer experience, start with the employee experience.

Happy employees are more productive, better brand ambassadors, and more likely to go the extra mile to wow your customers, which in turn increases customer loyalty and ultimately leads to company growth. This same study revealed that 89% of revenue growth leaders agree that there is a direct link between improving the employee experience and scoring higher for customer satisfaction.


How to put it into practice

It’s easy to talk about improving the employee experience – but how do you actually go about it? Well, the dark cloud of COVID-19 has given us a silver lining by forcing companies to adopt better digital tools for their employees to work and service customers from anywhere. Not only that, it’s thrown a spotlight on employee health and wellbeing, and how the right technology can automate tedious manual work so people can focus on more fulfilling and impactful tasks.

Of course, technology is only effective if people are using it. A common reason for low user adoption is lack of integration. No one wants to use a different tool for every task. But the best way to find out what employees want from their workplace tech is simple – ask them. 


The evolution of sales

Let’s take a closer look at the impact of the pandemic on sales teams. With face-to-face meetings off the table, 79% of reps say they’ve had to adapt quickly to new ways of selling, and 58% expect their role to change permanently. You can find more about the State of Sales in our 2020 report.

While a lot of companies have hammered home rigid processes and protocols, reps working for companies who empower the sales team with the tools to serve customers flexibly and independently are happier.

Embedded within the Salesforce platform, we built an app to help sales teams collaborate even more effectively than they did in the office. Salesforce Anywhere has everything your people need to work on deals in real time from remote locations, including chat, alerts, comments, and video calls.

No one can predict the future, but digital sales tools will always give you an edge when it comes to adapting to the unexpected, and the good news is that since people started working from home, 60% of employees are now comfortable with learning new skills online. You can read our full blog on how to sell smarter in the new normal here.

Now let’s take that idea of the seamless selling and make it bigger. To improve the customer experience, you need sales, marketing, and service to be connected and working as one. If you have strong collaboration between teams the customer will pick up on that, so cross-team efficiency is really important. Salesforce Customer 360 gives you full visibility of your customers and powerful tools to help you have more personalised and valuable interactions at every touchpoint.


How to connect with customers

Moving away from face-to-face meetings isn’t the only way customer engagement has changed. In fact it’s not enough to simply engage with them, you need to connect in a more meaningful way that goes beyond your business relationship with them. 

Customers will remember how brands reacted during this global crisis and form an opinion on how trustworthy you are. That means looking at what steps you took to give them a consistent experience, how you protected your staff, and even what your attitude is to equality and mental health issues, for example. Being transparent as a business is really important.

COVID-19 hasn’t just blurred the boundaries between home and the office, things got personal. We’ve all had glimpses into each other’s lives and living rooms. This is the perfect opportunity to show your customers your human side and show your employees that they all have a role to play in the success of your business. Or better yet, get talking. Open up a dialogue and find out what you can do to make life better for everyone.

Discover how the strategic role of customer service is shifting in the State of Service report, and discover what 15,000 global consumers and business buyers think about the new era of customer engagement in the State of the Connected Customer.