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logo Gethin Nadin Author, Speaker, Employee Wellbeing Expert and Director, Benefex
Why a great Customer Experience starts with a great Employee Experience

Why a great Customer Experience starts with a great Employee Experience

It’s undeniable that experiences have become increasingly important to us. We make decisions based on the memory of an experience, not the specific experience itself: a waiter spilling a drink on you can ruin an otherwise excellent evening at a restaurant, for instance. This is because negative experiences are immediately registered in our mind, whereas positive experiences generally require much more time before fully registering in our emotional memory. The small things matter because - regardless of how positive everything else may have been - ultimately, a negative memory will far outweigh everything else. This means it is getting much harder for organisations to create meaningful, positive experiences at work.

Since 1987, the amount of money that Americans spend on experiences has increased by 70%. 78% of millennials say they value experience over products and 50% of young people would take a pay cut in exchange for a better experience at work. As a society, we are placing more value on experiences. Experiences are now intrinsically valued above anything else; experiences are making us happier.

We know from hundreds of studies that when employees are engaged at work, they show higher productivity, lower turnover and increased profits. As modern work becomes about more than just earning money, employers must realise that their people need more than just a pay packet.

The employee experience is the customer experience

Leading HR author Simon Sinek once said that “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” I think this quote sums it up nicely: we must put our people are the heart of everything we do. It is more important than ever that we get their experience at work right.  

An organisation which appears to understand this is the retailer John Lewis, whose 76,000 full-time employees benefit from being partnered owners, not just employees. When John Spedan Lewis opened his first shop on Oxford Street in 1864, he did so with what he called ‘an experiment in industrial democracy’. For more than 100 years, John Lewis has made sure that their employees (or Partners) have been at the heart of everything they do.

Today, John Lewis, Waitrose and their new ‘Partnership’ branding have ensured that the world knows they’re trying to be a great employer and they are trying to make the lives of their employees easier. They’ve identified that employee experience plays a large part not only in their employer brand, but their consumer brand.

The ‘IKEA Effect’

Companies such as John Lewis have utilised a technique named recently as the ‘IKEA Effect’, a cognitive bias which dictates that consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created. Researchers from Harvard, Yale and Duke universities released studies showing that our labour alone is sufficient to a induce greater liking of a final product. This mirrors other research like ‘Effort Justification’; the idea that the more effort we put into something, the more we value it. From owning stock in your company to peer-to-peer recognition, people feel more invested in something when they played a part. As John Lewis and Partners’ new advertising campaign says, “When you’re part of it, you put your heart into it”.

Employers can’t wait any longer

When employees feel they are under-appreciated and ‘just a number’; having no real impact on the business and its mission or future, naturally they lose interest and engagement. As well as having a significant effect on the service they provide to your customers, they’re also damaging your brand. And with the internet and social media at their most powerful, employers really can’t afford to risk their reputation. 

Organisations must start implementing changes to their employees' experience before it’s too late. If not for the sake of your employees’ wellbeing, for the sake of your customers. Because how can we truly expect employees to treat customers with respect and humanity, if they are not being treated likewise by their employer?


Benefex started in 2003 when Founder and CEO, Matt Macri-Waller, wanted to talk to people about bringing a greater range of benefits into the workplace. After a while, Matt saw that the employee experience is about so much more than having great benefits. He saw the need for great technology in the workplace, too. So, Benefex started designing and building their own tech in 2011, and now are more than a tech company or a benefits consultancy, Benefex is a fully-fledged employee experience provider. View our website

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