Like so many of us, I’ve spent the past two years filling out my pandemic bingo card:

  • Binge-watched a TV show [check]
  • Invested in a home gym or virtual workout routine [check]
  • Began (and then promptly abandoned) sourdough bread baking [check]
  • Revised my work wardrobe (hello sweatpants!) [check]
  • Reconnected virtually with far-flung friends and family [check]

It’s not entirely clear what will stick. But I’ve found some businesses have responded to shifting consumer values like my own to be smart and convenient. For example, it’s so easy to work out at home now. I almost can’t believe it isn’t how things have always been done.

And then there’s the house buying process.

I bought a home during the pandemic, but I guess I did it the “old-fashioned way,” visiting the house with an agent. I didn’t fully realize how technologically facilitated the process had become until one of my out-of-town friends asked me to scope out a local property with her agent.

When I showed up to do my in-person sleuthing, the agent had already begun video-chatting with my friend, slowly walking around rooms and pausing to answer questions, or shifting the view to the floorboards, out the window and so on. I felt somewhat redundant. This 1:1 real-time video tour with the agent did a great job of giving my friend a sense of the space.

Towards the end of the tour, I wondered aloud about the challenges of virtual house selling (weren’t houses things people would want to physically walk through and experience before purchasing??). Much to my surprise, the real estate agent said she’d had some of her busiest, most productive months during the pandemic.

The role of tech adoption

My friend’s virtual real estate experience made me reflect on a particular quirk in our recent research. In “The Great Marketing Declutter,” we looked at how leading marketing organizations responded to pandemic-related changes in consumer values. This investigation revealed a noticeable differential in employee energy levels: Marketing organizations that viewed consumer value changes as opportunities to rethink their businesses (rather than constraints) tended to have employees who felt far more energized (vs. burnt out).

It would be logical to deduce that marketing organizations with more energized employees prioritize the employee experience in all decisions.

However, we found that those who reported having energized employees placed less emphasis on “improv[ing] employee experience” when driving tech adoption.

Strange. If prioritizing employee experience didn’t make for more energized employees, what did?  
There’s no straight or easy answer to this. Still, it’s worth noting that twice as many marketing organizations with energized workforces were more focused on tech adoption to “help solve for customers’ needs”—rather than to “improve employee experience.”

Could these organizations have inadvertently improved their employee experience by improving the tech tools they provide for their customers’ experiences?

Employee experience is key to customer experience

I don’t think that means employee experiences can or should be ignored when it comes to tech adoption or anything else. I’m sure being able to give virtual house tours at the height of the pandemic was a huge relief to real estate agents everywhere; countless research and anecdata suggest this.

One IDC survey shows that 85% of business respondents agree that an improved employee experience benefits the customer experience. Accenture’s Better to Belong study shows how crucial attention to employee experience is to unlocking human potential. For example, leading companies can unlock up to 5x more human potential by paying attention to employees’ experiences.

But maybe there’s something else here about what contributes to making humans feel energized—something we’ve all experienced throughout the pandemic: a desire to feel useful and effective (instead of useless and ineffective/immobilized). A desire for purpose. I’m talking about a desire to help others (to feel part of something beyond yourself). As various reports illustrate, almost half of consumers have been rethinking their purpose. For many employees (56%), this has manifested as a desire to contribute more to society.

Though the pandemic has been a doozy in so many ways, some businesses have taken stock of these new values and rethought how they’ve always done things. They’ve adopted new technologies that better serve customer needs to benefit both the customer experience and feeling of employee effectiveness.

Though my friend didn’t purchase that particular property, the agent—armed with your basic video technologies—was more than capable of providing the authentic property tours necessary for clients/customers to decide.

People-first thinking solves problems

If we’re still ticking bingo boxes, I might add “Experienced technology as a way to solve human problems.” This continuous thoughtfulness about what the human experience is—considering technology as a conduit that can help employees focus on what they do best (exercise creative expression, empathy) is something I hope sticks around. Check.

Ivy Lee

Associate Manager – Accenture Research

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