Which came first, customer or employee experience?

Which came first, customer or employee experience?

If we look at customers as the environment and employees as the capabilities, employees are key to the evolution and survival of a business. We are hearing more and more how we need to look after the health, wellbeing and creativity of our people, something we started to discuss at our last session on leading from the middle. So how do we do this?

In this episode of ExperienceCast, we dig in to this question with the help of Stewart Bromley, COO of Atom Bank, Rob Philips, Customer Experience Manager at Overbury, and Kathryn King, Head of Employee Experience at LV=. Key insights include: 

  • Take some time to really understand what your business wants from employee experience before embarking on a strategy.
  • It is increasingly important to try and personalise benefits to meet the expectations of individual employees.
  • Managers must be supported to use their use their judgment on issues that affect employee experience instead of just following process.
  • Most business that are good at employee and customer experience have several measures running concurrently, and are not afraid to change them.

What are your thoughts about the discussion? We’d love to hear them, so why not leave us a comment below?

What is human middleware? And how can you profit from it?

What is human middleware? And how can you profit from it?


At the last two sessions of The QoE, we’ve been exploring the emerging concept of ‘human
middleware’. The aim of these sessions has been to first define the concept, and then determine
how it might help us tackle issues of organisational complexity.

We’ve found that human middleware provides a valuable tool in the toolbox of operational design.
Below, we build on the insight of QoE participants to respond to the main questions that enable us
to develop a clearer understanding of human middleware. We also consider its implications for
long-term organisational sustainability, and the changing impact it is having on the people working
in our companies.

So what is human middleware?
• a temporary bridge between people, systems or processes
• a way to generate new ideas through horizon scanning and looking outward
• the glue that holds everything together while new systems and processes are developed
• a buffer between the company and its customers

Human middleware can be understood primarily as the action(s) of an employee to enable essential
communication between people, systems or processes that would otherwise not connect. It is
a capability that fits into many positions within the end-to-end service experience.

Download our white paper on human middleware to read the full output, or why not listen to the discussion on our ExperienceCast podcast?

How can complexity be an engine of innovation?

How can complexity be an engine of innovation?

A customer’s journey is often made up of both intended and unintended outcomes, but customer experience is ‘the real outcome’. Or to put it another way, what actually happened rather than what should have happened. But as complexity increases in large organisations, it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify and control all the variables that can impact on the customer journey.

This issue arose during our March QoE discussion which focused on The Art of Simplicity in large organisations. The engaging two-day event highlighted many factors that can exacerbate the problem of complexity, including technology, employees, vision, acquisitions, and leadership. But if complexity is here to stay, perhaps what is needed is a shift in our perspective to help us tackle the problem from a different angle. If we can view large organisations through a new lens, perhaps we may be able to derive value from complexity and use this to improve customer experience.

The hierarchical model of workplace organisation that emerged in the early 20th Century continues to shape the structure of large organisations. But the suitability of the hierarchical model for an era of hyperconnectivity that has been instigated by the internet and mobile technology is increasingly under scrutiny. It is becoming increasingly apparent that we are attempting to solve complex, 21st Century problems with solutions derived from last century’s industrial model.

So how can we take a different perspective? Consider for a moment that a large organisation is not a hierarchy of people, but is instead a collection of networks. This is the perspective put forward by Christopher Vitale, who proposes that in order to cope with a hyperconnected age we need to view our reality as networks of networks. Informed by research on complex systems science, Vitale observes that complex, dissipative systems ‘consume energy and turn it into waste, dissipating potential in order to produce ordered complexity’ (Vitale, 2015, p.23).

If we adopt this perspective, we can interpret a large organisation as a complex system, dissipating much of the potential of its employees by forcing them to operate under a hierarchical model that is poorly suited to the complexity of the modern world. But if we shift our perspective to view an organisation as a network of networks, then every employee is a participant in a multitude of networks incorporating other people, information, and systems. An organisation consists of networks of employees, information, and systems, and the organisation itself is part of a network of other organisations and systems. In this network-centric paradigm, the actions of the organisation have an impact on the networks both within and outside the organisation.

How does this help? Well, according to complex systems science a complex system also contains a huge amount of ‘energetic potential’, and this energy has the potential to transform and enrich its immediate environment. If we view a large organisation as a complex system then the implication is that complexity is a positive force, and tapping into the latent creative potential of the network will provide opportunities for creativity and innovation . What is needed is a way to effectively harness the energetic potential of the network in order to drive innovation, and a way to understand those areas of the organisation benefit from complexity (e.g. R&D) and those that may be damaged by it (e.g. customer experience).

Vitale also highlights the principle of ‘robustness’ in complex systems science, which can be understood as a way to produce more and better forms of growth. Sustainable growth is both an aspiration and a priority for almost every large organisation, and it is therefore possible to argue that achieving and maintaining a state of ‘robust complexification’ should be a key strategic driver. If we shift our perspective to view an organisation as a complex network of networks, an important aspect of leadership in large organisations then becomes how to achieve and maintain a state of robust complexity. By taking complexity to be an asset consisting of the creative potential residing in all employees, there are significant opportunities to harness this potential in support of the aims of the organisation.

If customer experience is the ‘real outcome’ of an organisation’s efforts, then it is essential for leaders and managers to understand where problems of complexity in their organisation are having negative impact on the customer journey. By viewing the organisation as a network of employees, each containing creative potential and each having a unique insight into specific areas of the organisation, there is scope to mine this wealth of knowledge and use it to improve the customer experience.

Positive energy = profit, so why not measure that?

Positive energy = profit, so why not measure that?

What do all successful customer-focused organisations possess?

  • Drive
  • Enthusiasm
  • Focus
  • Willingness

You can feel energy, so its tangible.

So why not measure positive energy?

Definition:  a person’s spirit and vigour

Synonyms:  activity, animation, application, ardour, birr, dash, drive, effectiveness, efficacy, endurance, enterprise, exertion, fire, force, forcefulness, fortitude, get up and go, hardihood, ini9a9ve, intensity, juice, life, liveliness, might, moxie, muscle, cooperativeness, pep, pluck, potency, power, punch, spirit, spontaneity, stamina, steam, strength, toughness, tuck, vehemence, verve, vim, virility, vitality, vivacity, zeal, zest, zing, zip

Antonyms:   idleness, inactivity, laziness, lethargy, tiredness


  • Energy can be a positive or a negative force
  • Its direction is influenced by other people, process and technology
  • Positive energy is the essential element of every successful organisation

Energy generators in people:

  • Personal belief ‐ alignment to values, purpose and behaviours
  • Personal development – knowledge, understanding and cultural
  • Empowerment -­‐ the ability to act on your own thoughts and decisions
  • Ability to influence – trusted adviser, seeing ac9ons that result form your input
  • Autonomy – self-activation, successfully rising to challenges
  • Pride – reflective satisfation perpetuates confidence and ability
  • Belonging to groups or communities -­‐ sharing experience, knowledge and love
  • Being part of something that is recognised as good quality, creative and valued
  • Inspirational and relevant leadership
  • Behaviours of those around you

Source of energy can be split into three:

  • Personal
  • Projected from people around you
  • Projected by the organisation

Can we identify energy…

  • Drainers (Sinks)
  • Capacitors
  • Generators
  • Hotspots
  • Magnets
  • Wasted energy
  • Base line for sustainability
  • Time-sensitive peaks and troughs
  • Net energy score
  • Economic value of energy

Net energy score: How much an individual / group / organisation stimulates, minus how much they drain from others.

Positive energy = profit

Using complaints to identify and drive action

Using complaints to identify and drive action

By viewing complaints as another form of contact, organisations can change their attitudes and helps businesses extract information to guide improvements. But there is a difference between learning from and responding to complaints – do we need formally to separate these activities?

Many organisations separate product and service failure to simplify root cause analysis. Making product managers responsible for fixes also enhances proactive actions.

It is imperative to find ways for information from complaints to flow, rather than trickle, though an organisation. Inadequate policy communications with customers and staff is often the root cause of complaints – clarity and simplification are recommended.

What can be learned from a complaint may not be in proportion to the severity or escalation route of an individual case – care must be taken not to overreact or prioritise.

  • Do we measure and learn from complaints that don’t require further action?
  • What do we do with positive ‘complaints’ or the positive elements of a complaint?

Simple reporting is most effective, especially when accompanied  by real example. And bBeware of complaints that are dismissed or filed for another day, their accumulative effect may hold the key to what next and how.



Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash