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  • Danny

Product Lens on EX

Updated: Jul 3, 2023


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I am sure you all have some form of product, service or experience you pay for on a monthly or annual basis in your life - Netflix, Spotify, Adobe, Milkman, Butternut Box, car insurance and so on. As a customer, you make a choice if to opt into these services daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly

Employee experience is no different, just like a consumer with a great product or service, employees buy into a great employee experience (EX) and like a customer they make a choice daily, weekly, monthly or yearly if they are going to continue with your product. Below is a non-exhaustive view of some touchpoints to bring it to life.

I am going to share my product Venndorly to give a little insight into my experiences so here is a little bit of background on my platform

Venndorly was a simple platform and marketplace built on a subscription model, it allowed vendors to pay monthly or annually to use the product. The pricing models were based on a simple subscription model and while this may not have been the best option for us as a start-up, it did allow customers to try the product out and also leave if it didn’t meet their needs and expectations.


Example 1 - Customer/Employee Acquisition

One of the priorities for any new product is customers. If you’re a provider in HR tech you will know how crowded that space is, to be seen and stand out you must be super savvy - The first thing you need is attention.

With Venndorly we started by using gorilla marketing, appearing on podcasts, and guest articles. We also started to take a proactive social listening approach to what was working for other products outside of our industry in places like Product Hunt, Reddit, Twitter etc.


Over time once we started to gain customers, we started to look at the value paid ads could offer us, in fact, we looked at it many times. In the back of our minds, we were always thinking about the customer lifetime value (CLTV) vs the customer acquisition cost (CAC) every time we reviewed it we decided paid ads were not the way to go

Apply that thinking to the EX and instantly you can see how attracting customer “employees” links to the business's external brand and its EVP, instead of looking on Product Hunt, the EX-customers i.e. “the employees” will use the likes of LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Instagram.

You can even take this one step further. Why wait for people to leave university before we try to attract new customers? I once worked at a large telecommunications company where we knew we weren't the biggest or most exciting name around. However, we had a hypothesis that if we could reach future talent earlier than our competitors we would have a much better chance of attracting them later on. Rather than waiting for people to graduate, we started working with local communities and high schools. Our goal was to make our business name so familiar to potential future employees that they felt connected to it long before they had to decide where to work.

Guess what? It worked! By the time the young adults were ready to leave school, we already had so many new "sign-ups" for the business. So, while we weren't the number one place to go for new talent, we instantly became a competitor against the other bigger names. We noticed that some of the bigger-name competitors around us were friend-requesting us, tapping up our networks, and so on.

Reflecting on it now, it reminds me of the Avis vs. Hertz campaign.

Avis decided to lean into being ranked second and looked at the challenge differently. The tagline they came up with was "We're second best, but that means we try harder for our customers." As a result, they attracted new customers. Now the question is, how do we make them take the plunge and fully commit?



Example 2 - Customer/Employee Onboarding Onboarding is a critical stage in the customer/employee journey because it sets the tone for the rest of the experience. Venndorly's onboarding process was an adventure that balanced guided exploration with self-service. A chatbot and an email automation guided users through their first week on the platform. Every day, users received a little golden nugget of insight and a one-minute video showcasing a feature or benefit of the platform. Venndorly also had a mini-community of vendors and decision-makers and appeared on the podcast. A similar approach was taken with the Mindchimp podcast and community.

Onboarding new employees is a critical process that can greatly impact a company's success. Creating a welcoming environment through a buddy system and regular check-ins with managers can help new employees feel comfortable and confident in their role. Providing resources to prevent newbies from getting lost to helping them feel safe while still enabling their curiosity


Example 3 - Customer/Employee Listening At the beginning of Venndorly, we built a platform that allowed for continuous discovery and listening. Our goal was not only to observe behaviour but to also identify areas for improvement in the user experience and uncover any opportunities.

To achieve this, we used tools such as Hotjar and conducted real-time surveys. The Sean Ellis question was a significant part of our survey, particularly once our customers had passed the honeymoon period. While we also tracked various other metrics, achieving product/market fit was our primary focus. By listening constantly, we were able to prioritise the customer experience, reduce churn, and address any issues before they could lead customers to look elsewhere.

A great example of this is the RFP function. It was not supposed to be on the roadmap for another year, but we received a lot of demand for it. To test its desirability, we set up a simple experiment on the page, often called the "fake door" (which I will explain later). Together with user testing and focus groups, this gave us the confidence to invest funds in building the feature earlier.

When it comes to listening for the Employee experience, this can vary a lot. Some organisations have managed to set up a continuous employee listening approach, while others are still in the process of creating an annual employee survey. Unfortunately, many of the outcomes that come from the "listening strategy" are superficial and do not drive any real impact. This is usually due to poor design or alignment to action. Like a platform, a good listening strategy should focus on employee feedback, sentiment, and behaviour. This means collecting feedback across all the employee touchpoints. Ideally here you would be looking how you can sweat any insight from internal products such as social listening via Slack and Teams, Voice of the Employee (VoE), focus groups and hotspots, as well as employee service and journey maps are all critical. This topic could be a whole post by itself.


Example 4 - Customer/Employee Churn We knew with our product customers will always have reasons to leave the product or service. This could range from your product not helping them do the jobs they need to do, to frustration with the experience of using your product. It could also come down to poor business modelling, bad pricing strategy and many other factors. There will always be something new and shiny for customers to try out, so the goal is for you to reduce their desire to switch to another product by providing everything they need to overcome their challenges. At Venndorly we structured a simple workflow that gave customers a warm goodbye but also nudge them a week later letting them know we were thinking of them and hoped their new alternative was everything they hoped for… but if not we were here for them.

Now with the employee experience hopefully you've arrived here understanding that the same applies to employees. There will always be competition who wants to pull your customers (employees) away. This becomes extra easy if your customer is already one foot out of the door. As an employer, your job is to make it as hard as possible for your competitors to entice your employees away by delivering a product, service, or experience that not only meets but exceeds their wants and needs. It is worth bearing in mind and asking what the CLTV is of your employees.


One thing to note is that many organizations overlook a well-designed exit. The peak-end theory shows how we often recall an experience. We remember the peak moment, but more importantly, we remember how it ended. If you design the exit well (similar to a warm goodbye) you can potentially create an environment ripe for alumni and boomerangs. To achieve this, you need rich experience design.


Here's the rub

Adopting a perspective informed by innovation and product management, along with service and experience design, and mapping it over employee experience. It becomes clear that the employee experience doesn't need to be something thats over-engineered, nor does it an abstract concept.

Instead, it's simply an array of products, services, and experiences which can all be thoughtfully designed to attract and retain top talent.


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