In this final installment of our series on the Customer Experience (CX) principles and practices that propel Employee Experience (EX) efforts, we explore where differences in approaches across EX and CX are warranted. To be clear, I strongly believe that the similarities between EX and CX far outnumber the differences. But, I have observed organizations misapplying certain CX practices to their EX efforts and I hope to provide clarity on a few common ones in this piece.


Three Situations in which EX Management requires its own approach 

In drawing the CX and EX distinctions that follow, it’s important to recognize that the relationships between employees and customers with their organizations are fundamentally different. While customers are buyers of an organization’s products and services, employees are sellers of their time and services. Moreover, in most industries, customers’ interactions with organizations are heavily based on specific transactions, such as purchasing products and receiving services. Employees, on the other hand, have far more varied experiences and the transactions can be innumerable, making the relationship less transactional and more relational in nature.

In certain cases, this means that we must apply different experience management (XM) practices to customers and employees. Here are three of the most common situations that I’ve observed over the last few years.  

  • Linking identifying respondent information to feedback. The linking of operational and experience data is central to the discipline of XM. Within CX, it is crucial for organizations to tie customer feedback directly to identifying customer information. This enables rich insights and targeted, closed-loop actions. But this can be disastrous if applied to employee feedback. While there is nothing wrong with conducting analyses of employee feedback at the employee level, this must be done with strict governance in place to remove identifying information from being discovered by other people within the organization. The reason for this difference is simple – organizations hold a significant amount of power over their employees relative to their customers. When employees perceive that their feedback could be linked back to them (and possibly used against them), they will either not provide feedback or significantly distort their feedback
  • Using forced-choice rating scales. Within CX and market research, it is often advantageous to force customers to make a choice. For example, when evaluating a proposed product enhancement or rating the effectiveness of a call center agent, CX professionals may strategically remove neutral responses from rating scales, forcing customers to respond positively or negatively. I have seen examples of organizations inappropriately applying this same logic to employee feedback. For the majority of the relational feedback we request from employees, neutral feelings are perfectly possible and appropriate. In fact, a large body of research has been conducted on this topic and when neutral midpoints are removed from employee measures, scores tend to be artificially inflated. In short, neutral midpoints are essential for the vast majority of employee perceptions and attitudes we measure.  
  • Applying CX-specific metrics to EX. In an effort to get the attention of senior business leaders, some EX professionals cleverly adopt similar metrics to those used within CX. And in other cases, HR leaders reason that in order to statistically link EX and CX data, they must use similar metrics. The most common example of this is the adoption of Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) as a key EX metric. At their core, both NPS and eNPS measure advocacy and there is certainly nothing wrong with measuring employee advocacy. In fact, you will find such items in many validated employee engagement and experience measures. This becomes problematic, however, when organizations adopt CX metrics like eNPS as the sole measure of EX or make the incorrect assumption that perfect alignment across metrics is necessary to statistically link them. This is simply not the case. It is far better to leverage EX-specific metrics that are internally meaningful and directly actionable. Check out this tool for more specific advice on building an EX specific metrics program.


Bottom line: Employees and customers have fundamentally different relationships with organizations and in some cases, these differences necessitate slightly different XM approaches. 

Benjamin Granger, Ph.D., is an XM Catalyst with the Qualtrics XM Institute