Does Your Frontline Understand the Customer Experience Better than the CEO?

Frontline customer facing employees are a vastly underutilized resource in terms of understanding the customer experience. They spend the majority of their time in the company-employee interface, and as a result tend to be unrecognized experts in the customer experience. Conversely, often the further management is removed from the customer interface the less they truly understand some details about what is going on.

One tool to both leverage frontline experience and identify any perceptual gaps between management and the frontline is to survey all levels of the organization to gather impressions of the customer experience.

Typically, we start by asking employees to put themselves in the customers’ shoes and to ask how customers would rate their satisfaction with the customer experience, including specific dimensions and attributes of the experience. A key call-to-action element of these surveys tends to be a question asking employees what they think customers would most like or dislike about the service delivery.

Next we focus employees on their own experience, asking the extent to which they believe they have all the tools, training, processes, policies, customer information, coaching, staff levels, empowerment, and support of both their immediate supervisor and senior management to deliver on the company’s service promise. Call-to-action elements can be designed into this portion of the research by asking what, in their experience, leads to customer frustration or disappointment, and soliciting suggestions for improvement. Perhaps most interesting we ask what are some of the strategies the employee uses to make customers happy – this is an excellent source for identifying best practices and potential coaches.

Finally, comparing results across the organization identifies any perceptual gaps between the frontline and management. This can be a very illuminating activity.

And why not leverage employees as a resource to understanding the customer experience? They spend most of their time in the company-customer interface, and are therefore experts of what is actually going on. Secondly, employees and customers generally want the same things.

Customers want… Employees want…
To get what they are promised The tools/systems/ policies to do their job
Their problems resolved Empowerment to solve problems
Their needs listened to/understood More/better feedback
Knowledgeable employees; adequate information More training; more/better feedback
Employees to take the initiative, take responsibility, represent the company Empowerment; clear priorities; inclusion in the company’s big picture
The company to value their business Clear priorities; the tools/systems/policies to do their job


Click Here For More Information About Kinesis' Employee Engagement Research

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About Eric Larse

Eric Larse is co-founder of Seattle-based Kinesis CEM, LLC, which helps clients plan and execute their customer experience strategies through the intelligent use of customer satisfaction surveys and mystery shopping, linked with training and incentive programs. Visit Kinesis at:

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