Global Consumer Insights Survey 2019
Companies often turn to technology in their quest to provide a better consumer experience, but human beings can be just as important. When asked what would most improve in-store shopping experiences, respondents to PwC’s 2019 Global Consumer Insights Survey ranked “access to sales associates with a deep knowledge of the product range” second.
Organisations are learning that investing in employees can yield a better customer experience. For instance, Trader Joe’s, a US-based grocer, and Starbucks, the global coffee retailer, offer above-market pay and health and retirement benefits for frontline staff. Taking good care of employees can make them happier brand ambassadors and improve the consumer experience. Google gives employees 20% of their time to work on their own projects, which often end up enhancing Google’s consumer offerings; Gmail, Google Maps and Google News are just some of the developments that have resulted from the program.
Even employees who don’t directly interact with customers are important to shaping their experiences. For instance, at consumer product companies, where the connection to shoppers is once-removed because goods are sold through brick-and-mortar retailers or online platforms, employees fulfill needs and build relationships in different ways.
“You have the commercial end of the organisation that’s well-attuned to the consumer. So are marketing, sales and, to a certain extent, the supply chain,” said the e-commerce director of a worldwide consumer products company in a January 2019 interview with PwC. “But with your manufacturing and production, the key performance indicators drift a little bit away from the consumer. But we’re still a consumer-centric company. That’s our core value driver.”
A great employee experience begins with a great culture — as employees see it. That’s an important caveat. The latest Global Culture Survey conducted by the Katzenbach Center of PwC’s Strategy& revealed significant differences in the way management and rank-and-file employees view their organisation’s culture. Of those surveyed, 63% of C-suite executives and board members said their organisation’s culture was strong, but only 41% of nonmanagement employees agreed.
How can you close the culture gap with employees? Start by identifying the traits that are unique to your company and that resonate with employees. Next, consider what behaviours you need to cultivate within your organisation to align better with your traits and your strategic and operational objectives. Then, designate teams or areas of the business to demonstrate the new behaviours and thoughtfully respond to resistance to the new ways of working. Informal leaders — those who can influence behaviour without necessarily having an impressive title — will emerge and help lay the foundation.
Being able to generate and harness positive emotional energy is an important component to cultural change because it encourages employees to go above and beyond, regardless of external incentives such as compensation and benefits. And leaders have to exhibit the behaviours they are promoting in the organisation’s culture.
Leaders of long-standing organisations often talk about infusing their companies with an entrepreneurial, consumer-first mind-set, but many are the opposite of entrepreneurial. They’re process-oriented, heavily siloed and built for reliability, not speed. If you’re running an established company, you need to craft a new culture and help employees focus on the customer experience if you want to succeed. You also need to keep the business running while you reorient yourself. To pull off that balancing act, take a gradual approach to transformation.
“You have to build it house by house by house, within a framework,” said Adidas CEO Kasper Rørsted in an August 2018 interview with strategy+business magazine. “Cut it down to meaningful projects and allow execution to take place. If you don’t, you spend all your time aligning yourself instead of getting the job done.” What that translates to in practical terms is creating small task forces with specific, ambitious, time-bounded goals, detaching them from the larger organisation, and turning them loose.
Patrick de Zeeuw, CEO and co-founder of Amsterdam’s Startupbootcamp Global, a network of startup and scale-up accelerators with offices in 17 countries, advocates a similar approach. He’s all for educating the entire organisation about entrepreneurial, consumer-focussed thinking, “but there’s a difference between education and execution,” he told PwC in a December 2018 interview. “There are only a few people within large organisations that actually have the mind, skills and tool set to drive entrepreneurial innovation.”
De Zeeuw favours creating small teams at sufficient distance from what he calls “the mothership,” to be able to draw on its resources without being slowed by bureaucracy. And he emphasises that employee-led innovation needs to be tied to customer experience. “If you don't have the right customer experience, you either will fail or you will miss out on the market’s full potential,” he said. “Why? Because an inferior experience is an inferior product.”