Using CX tools for EX

Can I use my CX system to measure EX?

Michael Carden Employee experience Leave a Comment


Going to Disneyland and working at Disneyland are different.

There is a growing number of providers combining employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX) into the same platform. A very small handful of these providers have been trying to solve for the vexing issue of causation. They are working to tie employee engagement to customer outcomes. This is a problem worth solving. It’s also a super challenging problem, and we’ll come back to that…

But. The majority of CX providers who are now stretching into EX are just looking for market expansion based on parallel tech. If you can deploy a survey for customers it’s not hard to deploy a survey for employees, right? If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

We’re going to look at this in two parts.

In this article, we’ll look at what an EX platform needs to do that a CX platform doesn’t. The relationship between employee and employer is very different to the relationship between a customer and a business. This difference is driving the evolution of EX platforms down a different path to CX.

In the next article we’ll look at that idea of causation. Is linking employee experience to customer preference actually a solvable problem? What might we lose along the way, chasing this hypothesis? And, is combining platforms even the best approach?

1. The employee/employer relationship

The balance of power is different.

“The employee is always right” is not a corporate catch-cry. That’s not because the statement doesn’t have merit – it could provoke an interesting rethink of EX! It’s because in almost all businesses the customer is paramount. Customers have the power of discretionary spending. They can provide feedback with entitlement and with impunity.

Employees have a lot less of this power. In the worst-case scenario, their feedback could impact their livelihood. So, while gathering customer feedback can use blunt force, employee feedback approaches need to be more subtle. They need to focus on psychological safety. Employees need to feel safe giving feedback.

Importantly, this doesn’t mean feedback is anonymous. In fact, if you only ever ask for feedback in secret, it sends the opposite message – that providing feedback is unsafe. Instead employee feedback approaches need to help create a feedback culture. An open environment where everyone feels comfortable giving and receiving feedback. (This is Joyous’ field of expertise, built on behavioural and cognitive science).

The expectation is different.

Remember, it’s called work; it’s not called awesome. The very nature of most work means that there will be good days and bad days. Conversely, the expectation of most customers is that, well, every day is a good day. So EX and CX platforms have a different bias.

The focus of CX platforms is plotting how often that positive expectation is met. In the rarer case of customer chat functionality, it’s dealing with exceptions to that expectation.

EX platforms instead need to handle the varying expectation of work. It’s a textured and nuanced field. An EX system needs to be able to identify and respond to work challenges, in areas like well-being, culture, fairness and inclusion. In short, employee feedback should build transparency. It should create an environment where appreciation flows, and issues that need addressing surface quickly.

The middle

This difference comes into clear focus when looking at the fashion of Net Promoter Score (NPS) in CX. In NPS you ask customers if they would recommend your product or service. You split the answers into three groups. Those that would recommend you (Promoters), those who are neutral, and those that would dissuade others (Detractors). Subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters calculates NPS.

You literally ignore the middle. Customers who are neither Promoters or Detractors are not interesting for this measurement. Because in CX it’s about leveraging Promoters and mitigating Detractors. Meanwhile in most organisations, most employees are in the middle, and always will be. A successful EX approach must ensure that working life is satisfying and productive for these “in the middle” employees. The feedback strategy needs to treat employees in the middle with dignity.

The long haul

These natural ups and downs of work often stretch over many years. The employee record stays persistent, with lots of activity against it. An EX system needs to understand (and respond to) how well-being varies for an individual over time. It should track them as they go through different life stages, managers and business challenges. This is very different to understanding a transient customer’s overnight stay at your hotel, or experience with your electric jug.

It’s complicated

A customer’s relationship with a company is often singular. In comparison employee relationships with a company are complex, and getting more complex. It’s best illustrated by looking at where feedback goes. Customer feedback might go to an account manager, or to marketing, or support. It rarely travels past it’s first port of call. Meanwhile even in the simplest organisation employee feedback typically goes to a line manager first. It then rolls up to more senior leadership. It might also goes to regional management, or to functional specialists in HR or Safety. Now layer in the complexity of Agile or Matrix structures. EX systems need to understand much more complex relationship data than CX systems.


The employee/employer relationship is very different to the buyer/seller relationship. So, EX and CX tools have very different features.

If you are considering a system born out of CX to facilitate feedback in EX ask these questions.

  1. Does the system focus on providing psychological safety for employees?
  2. Does it increase transparency – allowing appreciation to flow, and issues that need addressing to surface?
  3. Does it do a good job of addressing employees “in the middle” rather than just focussing on advocates and detractors?
  4. Is the employee record persistent? Does it track feedback and measures of engagement and experience for the duration of employment?
  5. Does the system connect to all your people data systems? Can it handle complex flows of feedback (eg hierarchical, matrix, Agile).

Check back soon for part two: Causation!

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