Tiffani Bova Says That the Key to Having Happy Customers Is to Improve Support for Employees

Tiffani Bova.

Businesses of all sizes know they need to provide excellent service to customers, but their efforts often fail to bring about better company ratings because of the lack of appreciation for the role of workers in delivering that service, says author Tiffani Bova.

Tiffani Bova Argues That Many Leaders Lack the Mindset to Connect the Experiences of Their Employees to Customer Satisfaction

Tiffani Bova, author of “The Experience Mindset: Changing the Way You Think About Growth,” has written 262 pages explaining something that should be obvious to the leaders of every organization: the mindset of how employees feel about their experience of their work (which she calls EX) largely determines the experience of the customers (CX).

“An increased focus on employee experience can increase revenue more than 50%, and profits by nearly as much,” she told Startup Savant. “Companies with high CX and EX have a three-year compound rate of growth of 8.5%, which is almost double that of those with low customer and employee experiences. While startups clearly have a better understanding of both groups in the beginning, as they grow they are not immune to falling into the operating philosophy of most businesses, which is to focus on customers even at the expense of employees.”

Bova delivers her message in a unique format that will aid overworked entrepreneurs and C-suite executives to grasp the essentials of how to improve and balance better support for both groups, such as putting in bold, italics, and caps key points: “By strategically pursuing an exceptional, balanced experience for ALL stakeholders, you achieve a sum greater than its parts, magnifying growth many times over.” At the end of each of the 10 chapters are several Chapter Takeaways and Conversation Starter Questions. (“Are the metrics used to manage your employees focused on task productivity, the value they provide to customers, or the overall business?”)

Bova knows whereof she writes and speaks. She has spent over seven years as a “customer growth and innovation evangelist” at Salesforce, leading sales, marketing, and customer service for startups and Fortune 500 companies. Prior to this, she served for a decade as a research fellow at Gartner Group, advising businesses on growth strategies.

Her first bestseller, “Growth IQ” (2018), outlined 10 ways to achieve sustainable and repeatable growth. It was while she was delivering a keynote about this that she mentioned that Salesforce was ranked as one of the best places to work in the world, as well as the fastest-growing enterprise software company and a top innovator. In that moment, she realized just how closely these were linked, she says. 

Most of the best companies had been making serious efforts to improve customer service, but there has been a lack of hard data to link the improved customer experience with how the workforce felt about their tools and rules to be able to deliver that, she wrote. The latter clearly drives the ability to recruit and retain great employees, which requires creating a culture of innovation.

She spent the next two years studying these links and talking to hundreds of leaders during the COVID pandemic, which suddenly made clear how unhappy so many workers were as companies of all sizes in every industry were forced to rethink their business and management models.

Bridging the Gap Between Leaders and Their Front Line

As organizations grow larger, leaders become less aware of what their workforce is experiencing. Bova reports that 71% of C-suite executives believe their employees are engaged with their work, while only 51% say they are. 

Some 70% of leaders believe their employees are happy at work, while only 44% of workers say they are. 

And 70% also are sure employees have “access to what they need to grow in their company,” while just 38% of those doing the work agree. 

Likewise, 52% in the C-suite believe they offer “a lot of training and development options,” while only 36% of employees agree. A survey of workers in different industries found that only 33% in B2B agree that “career development is a core priority of my company,” just 18% in B2C and 23% in retail. 

The perception that there is internal mobility for career advancement results in those companies’ workers staying an average of 5.4 years, compared with 2.9 years for businesses that struggle with this. 

“The cost implications of losing talent are significant, typically one-and-a-half to two times the annual salary,” said Bova. “U.S. businesses are losing $1 trillion a year to voluntary turnover.”

Yet top leaders are out of touch with the priorities of employees, which leads them to leave. They claim that the biggest reason for exits is because of compensation, but the No. 1 is actually being able to balance work and personal life (only 9% of employees say that salary is the most important thing about a job).

But if leaders can do something to improve the EX experience, the results can be spectacular: Bova reports that employees with positive workplace experience are 16 times more engaged with their jobs than those with negative EX and are eight times more likely to stay at the company. 

“Unfortunately, most C-suite executives focus on output metrics, such as KPIs [key performance indicators], rather than input metrics, leading indicators of your eventual output metrics, which have a better chance of overcoming systemic problems,” she wrote. 

She lists examples of these output questions:

  • What percentage of our calls are resolved during the first contact?
  • What is our average sales win rate?
  • How many leads is marketing generating for a given period?
  • How many customers are we gaining/losing quarterly?
  • What are the top three reasons customers call in?

“If your customer service agents are rewarded based on how quickly they get customers off the phone, their decision-making process is unlikely to be focused on the best customer outcome,” Bova wrote.

Creating a Culture of EX Excellence

Bova says that people, process, and technology were the traditional three ways one could bring about change in an organization. She would add culture, “which refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how employees and management interact both internally and externally with other shareholders.”

She argues that human resources should have a much more strategic role in helping to transform how employees experience their work rather than being viewed as having little role except in the hiring process and in their administrative role. The Chief Human Resources Officer should be in close collaboration with the other leading executives. 

“HR leaders of the future need to be bigger, broader thinkers, speaking on behalf of what employees need and want across the board, especially those in customer-facing roles,” Bova wrote. “They need to be tech-savvy and data-savvy, understand a five-generational workforce, be capable of creating flexible working arrangements, and reach across leadership ranks to form cross-functional partnerships and work groups.”

She recommends a number of ways for top leaders to hear from everyone who wants to contribute, such as a dedicated email for ideas and feedback and an Experience Advisory Board with members from across the company to put ideas from employees and customers into action. An Employee Journey map, similar to ones that are common for customer service, can help anyone who wants to understand where processes can be improved and can easily visualize them. An Employee Resource Group can provide peer-to-peer support and give executives the front-line perspective. 

When it comes to process and technology, employees widely report that simple tasks that should be automated are often not, while training on new tech is typically inadequate, often making processes worse. Top leaders rarely actually use the same technology as the workforce, so they have a limited understanding of the issues.

Astonishingly, a ranking of where employees are empowered with seamless technology has the US at just 24%, while Mexico is 48%.

Bova notes that the fact that culture can make a huge difference in the employee experience is shown at companies like Salesforce, Apple, Airbnb, Starbucks, Hilton, Ritz Carlton, Best Buy, and many others, but the reality is that most large organizations do a poor job of creating EX and CX. 

There is the opportunity for smart small-to-medium companies.