20 August 2019

Bringing your people closer to your customers

A recent breakfast event really got us thinking about the now inextricable link between employee experience and customer experience.

Our Client Development Manager Lucy has delved into the relationship between customer and employee experience…

Although nothing new for the forward thinkers at Synergy, it was reassuring to read a report from Temkin Group claiming that leaders in customer experience (CX) tend to be up to five times more likely to earn “good” or “very good” employee engagement ratings than those lagging behind.

And the good folks at KPMG Nunwood back this up in their ongoing customer experience excellence research too. Their annual report continues to show that every outstanding customer relationship has a universal set of qualities, now well-known as The Six Pillars:

  • Personalisation
  • Time and effort
  • Expectations
  • Integrity
  • Resolution
  • Empathy

Time and time again, brands well-known for their customer experience, who are thriving as an organisation, exhibit a great understanding and demonstrable ability to excel at each pillar. The most recent Power to the people 2019 research highlights that the lessons of each pillar can also be directly applied to employees.

When colleague experience is a key part of company culture, it feeds into employee behaviour which then benefits customer experience. With each capability area united and moving in the same direction, measurable business outcomes can be seen.


Key business outcomes from improved employee experience in numbers:

  • Happy employees produce 37% more sales
  • Happy employees are 12% more productive
  • Companies with a happy workforce outperform the competition by 20%
  • Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ enjoyed a raise in stock prices of 14% per year from 1998-2005, compared to 6% for the overall market

In order to fully engage employees, a company must focus on any number of things: the environment, culture, purpose, development and reward opportunities. In addition to this there’s the challenge of bringing employees, particularly those in non-front-line positions, closer to the customer. Building the understanding and empathy that will encourage innovative thinking helps to build better products and services, improve processes and ultimately deliver memorable, positive experiences to customers.

So how are brands going about bringing their people closer to their customers and what can we learn from them? Here I share my top 5 examples from recent reading:


Air New Zealand

Following the largest loss in the history of Air New Zealand, Sir Ralph Norris was brought in as CEO. He immediately set about implementing a new customer-focused strategy centred around a change in mindset: from “we fly planes” to “we fly people”.

His first step was to engage his top 800 leaders to find out what customers valued and what they disliked about the flying experience. Insight suggested that customers loved the friendly, outgoing and tongue-in-cheek humour that typifies Kiwis. As a result, employees were encouraged to engage customers in a warm and friendly manner: when people feel that they can bring their whole self to work and be who they truly are, they tend to feel more secure, happy and loyal to their organisation which has a positive impact on customer experience.

Air New Zealand’s celebration of Kiwi-ness and its staff’s personalities is clear on all flights and provides customers with an unforgettable experience. They even got the All Blacks to feature in their playful safety video! 



Customer Experience Specialist, Kris Ablett, spent much of his career at Sainsbury’s building an understanding of the correlation between employee engagement and improved performance scores and ultimately, improved customer service.

As a store manager he quickly learnt that spending more time on the shop floor with his people, communicating company purpose, asking questions and trusting people to deliver generally led to improved results. As Customer Service Lead for 30 stores, he taught process-driven store managers to bring a human element into their work, encouraging them to celebrate everyone and recognise that simple things can go a long way.

From introducing £10 instant recognition prizes for staff, to gathering employees for stories and tastings of the food they sold, the mantra Kris sold into his store managers was to know everyone, learn their family situation and find out an interesting fact about them. Team competitions and recognition were a great way to build loyalty, pride and comradeship. And finally, never underestimate the value of celebrating with cake!

There was no silver bullet at Sainsbury’s, but an ongoing commitment to going that bit further in the little areas that matter to employees, contributing to happy staff and therefore improved customer experience. 



The Third Age Suit has been used by engineers at Ford since 1985 and is now in its third generation. Built for Ford engineers and designers, most of whom were (and still are) relatively young and healthy, the suit allows people to experience what it’s like to be an older driver. The suit is aimed at those with little or no customer contact, using weights, restraints, gloves, googles and headphones to imitate the effects of ageing on the human body.

The suit is helping engineers to better design cars for older generations and the technology has gone on to inspire changes in placement of the ignition key, automatic brake technology and door handles. Ultimately, it has brought the engineers closer to the customer, leading to design changes which will help to keep Ford customers driving and loyal to the brand.



Welcoming over 115 million guests each year, ODEON Cinemas Group is Europe’s largest cinema operator, with 360 cinemas throughout the region. ODEON’s vision is to create inspiring entertainment experiences for every guest. To make this vision a reality, they needed to ensure all employees were embracing their values.

For the last five years, we have worked with ODEON to develop an annual creative communication campaign, reinforcing their vision and values with their diverse, multi-generational workforce of office and cinema-based staff. The month-long campaigns are designed to create experiences that promote learning in a fun and memorable way, encouraging colleagues to share their stories Europe-wide via their internal social channels.

One of these campaigns involved sending 40 giant touring scrapbooks around each region, passed from cinema to cinema, all tracked online on a dedicated website. The storybooks travelled a total of 3,000 miles and were filled with over 700 colleague-produced stories about delivering a great guest experience. The ongoing campaigns have supported an increase in engagement score from 52 to 76 (OHI) and a leap in NPS scores of over 10%.



Even though Lush have operations in over 50 countries, the brand focuses on a very localised strategy to support their brand values, highlighting the negative impacts of globalisation. They source products locally, abide by fair trade practices, and help local producers to improve their economy and business.

Employees are given a very generous discount which encourages them to try a wide variety of products and then share those experiences with customers to help them decide on the best products for them. Training is thorough, with employees quickly learning the product qualities, ingredients, origins and benefits, along with the stories behind many of the products. At the start of shift you get “chatted in”, finding out how the store is doing and specific goals of the day.

A great employee experience is summarised with the staff motto “let’s keep LUSH weird” and allowing employees to accessorise their black uniform to match their personal tastes gives them a chance to bring their personality to work. This brilliant product knowledge and ability to be themselves at work results in a well-informed, friendly and genuine customer experience. 


With the link between employee and customer experience getting ever smaller and the advantages to the bottom line more tangible, we’re talking to more and more clients about how they can improve their culture, drive employee engagement and bring their employees closer to their customers. Not sure where to get started? Get in touch

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