Why cultivating a strong employee culture is critical to great customer experience

Great Customer Experience

The Situation: Customer experience (CX) leaders must cultivate a strong employee experience (EX) culture and strategy for CX success. Arbonne relied on its partner CXperts to ramp and expand during a time of tremendous growth and disruption; putting EX at the heart of this strategy was the recipe for success.

The pandemic’s onset in early 2020 fueled a rapid surge in eCommerce sales at natural wellness product company Arbonne. However, with that opportunity came a tremendous challenge: Its contact centers were understaffed, and none of its agents had ever worked from home. Arbonne’s CX leaders asked the questions that so many others asked for the first time: How do we stay connected to our teams? How can we keep people engaged? As a company relying heavily on the office vibe to keep employees happy, Arbonne searched for these answers amid rapid growth.

CXperts, Arbonne’s CX services provider, shifted all its current agents to work from home (WFH) and ramped up to double its existing staff and onboard them quickly, including providing a three-week training program to ensure phone readiness. A strategy combining the right tools, processes, and, most importantly, employee experience enabled Arbonne and CXperts to meet the challenge. In this fully remote model, productivity has increased 30%, and employee satisfaction improved tremendously without any detriment to customer service levels.

We found that the tools weren’t the greatest challenge. People’s mindsets were the great opportunity… It’s not about motivation; it’s about inspiring people in a remote environment.

—Rolando Salinas, Head of Global Customer Care, Arbonne

Having EX-focused values is part of the “Secret Sauce”

Arbonne is a 40-year-old firm steeped in core values such as environmental sustainability, affordability, and wellness. Arbonne’s distribution model is multi-level marketing (MLM), and its “customers” are, in fact, the company’s consultants. Its contact-center interactions are high-touch, and customer experience is crucial. The incoming calls are not from one-time callers but brand ambassadors with a strong affinity for and loyalty to the brand. Arbonne’s experience-focused approach to empower the contact center agents for well-informed, great customer experience has always been a core value.

Arbonne’s approach is proving to be a popular one for enterprises. The top two outcomes driving services adoption in 2021 were improving CX and improving EX (tied for first place!). It’s clear that enterprises now realize that both experiences need improvement and are inextricably linked. In a recent roundtable, CX leaders from Global 500 organizations ranked training, re-skilling, and empowering employees as the top initiative aligned to improving customer experience.

Exhibit 1: CX leaders believe training, re-skilling, and empowering employees is the top initiative to improve CX

Strong Employee Culture
Sample: 15 CX Digital Round Table delegates
Source: HFS Research, 2022

While adopting new technology ranked as the lowest initiative, technology does have the role of an experience enabler, and it held a significant role in the ability to ramp and scale Arbonne’s business in 2020-2021. For employee onboarding, CXperts uses its tool NIA, a digital assistant that makes the process more efficient and enjoyable for new employees and recruiters, facilitating the onboarding processes and pointing out the tools and documentation they need. NIA facilitates decisioning in recruitment not only for candidate skill sets and experience but is also specifically designed to help make the right cultural and value-aligned choices. The NIA tool is focused on finding the right candidate for the job as well as ensuring that the candidate feels like a fit. NIA continues to become more sophisticated, identifying commonalities among successful recruits and profiling agents. It also takes a gamification approach to some training elements and generates customized interactions, making the tool more engaging for agents to use. NIA and its surrounding methodology have been an enabler of excellent agent retention and employee engagement.

CXperts’ culture focus helped Arbonne sustain unprecedented volumes

While it was critical to ramp up and scale to meet demand, it was equally important to have a long-term plan for retaining and empowering these agents. Employee experience and culture are worth their weight in gold when agents stay on and become even more knowledgeable and valuable to the brand. For CXperts, this process starts with hiring and ensuring the right people are brought on board. But beyond that, understanding and improving EX begins with listening to the employee. CXperts and Arbonne perform regular surveys and eNPS (employee net promoter scores) to keep a pulse on how people are feeling and what improvements can be made.

Particularly in the beginning, there was much concern about how employees’ isolation would affect EX. For CXperts, ensuring peer-to-peer communication on various channels was a big priority for engaging people and preventing burnout. CXperts shifted typical office events to virtual events and sought to make them even more meaningful; for example, using these public settings and virtual events to reward recognition for excellent performance. CXperts was sensitive to some cultural nuances to EX; in certain geographies, employees appreciated their families being involved in events and recognition. The company also helped empower managers and trainers to improve EX on difficult conversations by providing training on how to administer performance improvement plans more effectively in a remote environment.

The Bottom Line: To supercharge your CX potential, you must invest in a foundation of employee experience.

While KPIs such as CSAT are table stakes, they are the net result of experience centricity and outcomes-focused partnerships. CXperts and Arbonne have shared goals aligned to achieving outcomes. Salinas said, “many companies’ values and mission look good, but the difference is made by measurable appraisals on how they uphold the values of the company and encourage the behaviors we’re looking for in a mindful and consistent way.” Working from home will be a matter of preference and strategy; Arbonne has embraced the model long term because of the evident positive results that having a solid EX background can achieve for its CX goals.

To hear from Salinas and a CXperts executive in more depth, check out our “unfiltered” videocast here.

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