systems-experience-cropped-ashwin-ballalAs many customer practitioners say, a smooth customer experience begins with a solid employee experience. After all, if a customer-facing employee has trouble finding information for a customer, the employee will likely not deliver an exceptional customer experience.

This helps explain why 53% of customer experience professionals surveyed by West Monroe Associates found that a motivated and equipped workforce are deemed critical to achieving an improved customer experience. 

To probe these issues further, HMG Strategy recently spoke with Ashwin Ballal, Ph.D., SVP & CIO at Medallia, to gather his insights on the connection between employee experience and customer experience. Ashwin Ballal is a chairperson for the upcoming HMG Strategy 2019 San Francisco CIO Executive Leadership Summit taking place on April 25 at The Fairmont San Francisco.

HMG Strategy: Tell us about your focus on the ‘systems experience’ and what this entails?

Ashwin Ballal: Our lives are defined by our overall experiences, both at work and home, as consumers. Therefore, CIOs and IT organizations that recognize these experiences and support their employees in these moments that really matter will get to acquire and retain top talent, increase productivity and collaboration and be innovative so as to win in the future. My fundamental belief is that with any enterprise, small or large, employees are subjected to a large number of systems experiences that are sub-optimal. Most of the systems have been supported and managed by the IT organization. These systems experiences have a large impact on the employee experience which, in turn, has an impact on the customer experience. This is true whether it involves communication, collaboration or any other business automation systems.

Why is this an approach that CIOs and executives at other companies can benefit from?

AB: How you capture feedback from the different stakeholders in moments that matter can and will give the CIO and the IT organization rich insights and empathy for the systems experience that they’re providing to their users. CIOs and their teams need to determine which systems experiences are super critical and know that they can capture real-time feedback at any time and close the loop so that these systems experiences can be great for employees.

What are some of the benefits that you’ve achieved at Medallia from a systems experience mentality?

AB: I’ve been able to take the Medallia platform that captures the essence of each one of my constituents’ systems experience feedback and, in turn, use that feedback to make the necessary strategic changes that might be needed to provide great system experiences. Since we pulse our employees for feedback, it is the Net Promoter Scores (NPS) that matter on how IT is improving the systems experience over time. We have seen a 3X increase in response rates for our request for feedback, an increased visibility within my organization to the pulse of the employees, and an empowered IT team that can take action in the moment that matters to employees.

What are some recommendations for improving the employee experience? 

AB: You have to walk in the shoes of your business user.  Do you have empathy for that business person? Take a salesperson, for example. What systems do they use and how do they access those systems? Do they have to enter data manually? Can that experience be modified or automated to make it better and a delightful experience for them? 

Living a day in the life of our users and understanding how they use a particular technology can help us to enable them to become more competent in their roles.

What are some initial steps that fellow CIOs and other executives can take to shape a systems experience program?

AB: The first step is measuring baseline performance. In many systems experience programs, we want to get the feedback on the top-end systems that most employees engage with and get their feedback on those experiences. 

I’d also recommend putting together a focus list of critical systems to get started and ask about the systems experience of the top ten core systems that employees use and how they feel about those systems and then propagate to other systems after that. Establishing a baseline performance before digging deeper into systems experience is critical.

Any additional thoughts you’d like to share?

AB: You want to ask how you are empowering your organizations to provide improved experiences. We’ve historically been focused on support instead of the overall experience. Try it yourself before you subject your users to the same experience. Changing that reactive mindset to a more proactive mindset can lead to great employee experiences.

To learn more about the 2019 San Francisco CIO Executive Leadership Summit and to register for the event, click here