Mind the gap. I remember it like it was yesterday. My first time taking the Long Island Railroad into New York was a fresh experience for me, having grown up in a small town in northeast Texas.  Signs on the platform were written in large letters – MIND. THE. GAP. Likewise, once on the train, conductors were profuse in reminding passengers to mind the gap as they exited the train. The “gap” in this case, was the distance between the platform and the safety of the train. Navigating across merely a few inches, passengers unaware of the gap nonetheless risked injury or harm. Thus, repetitive and simple declarative reminders were everywhere. Mind the gap, or in other words – be careful of the distance between where you are now standing, and where you will soon be. Don’t get stuck in the “in between.”

This admonishment rings true for the distance between your employee’s experience of your company, and that of your customers. Mind the gap, seriously. The idea of creating an ideal customer experience isn’t new. Companies like IDEO have been at Design Thinking and Customer Experience Design for years. They’re awesome at it and have helped reshape organizations around the globe to think about their customers in a new way. But, what I’ve seen far too often is neglect for the internal experience that feeds the customer experience. How you treat your employees (mind the gap) is as important, if not more important, than getting it right for the customers outside your doors.

A commonly held misconception lies in the perspective that these two experiences – that of the customer and that of the employee – are distinctly separate, or different. They aren’t. The reality of the dynamic between your employees and customers is that of an ecosystem. Both groups support and reinforce each other, and both groups are impacted and influenced by each other. Your goal is to create harmony and balance between the groups that facilitate an awesome experience for both. 

If there is discordance between the employee and customer experience, you’ll see and feel it. Inside your company, it will show up in the way work gets done and how decisions are made. Do you see an overabundance of process or lengthy turnaround times to consider new products or change? Externally, you may see a disconnect if you are spending more money to get new customers than the degree of effort put into serving and retaining your existing customer base.  As a result, the experience – for those you care about inside your walls, and those you care about outside them – is incoherent.

What you want, instead, is coherence. Aligning your employee experience with the expectations you have for your customers will result in coherence – inside and out – of what people engaging with your company see and feel.

This is part two of a multi-part series exploring coherence in work and life. Read last week’s entry and check back next week for more on how to create and embrace it.