Enhancing your experience strategy:…Be agile and collaborative for good effect

Kodwo Manuel

To achieve great things like changing your organization you need to create an army of believers who will join you not only as believers but also be willing to take ownership and help drive your agenda forward.

The key is to use agility and collaborative strategies to guarantee success. Being quick to think and drawing conclusions quickly, having the power of moving quickly and easily will be the fine line to cross in your experience agenda. To begin with, your quest to drive your organization towards the culture of listening and reacting to the customer’s needs requires the bold step of changing your culture and gaining buy-in for investment in your customer experience projects.

Experts opine that transforming the organization is not directly comparable to the work of remarkable people like Nelson Mandela, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi, or Dr. Kwame Nkrumah but you too like them are influencing the world uniquely when you set out to change your business.

The late John F. Kennedy is quoted to have said famously, years ago, that ‘Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.’ His view of an ideal future was realized when man first landed on the moon via the Apollo 11 mission on 20 July 1969, a feat that looked almost impossible when he launched the programme. Great achievers in the history of our world in their desire to create change had to work through loneliness at times and perhaps felt powerless at times but with the right motivation, they kept themselves going pursuing their journey to success relentlessly.  The lesson here is that we also have a great chance of succeeding, with the right motivation, tools, and engagement, we have a great chance of making our business a more customer-centric place.

In any change agenda, we face the daunting prospect that there are only a few of us dealing with the challenge of winning allies to drive our agenda forward. Great! You just got the nod and some money for your projects. Like many other teams, you probably have an aspiration to improve the end-to-end journey of your customer with a limited number of team members to accomplish your goal. You can’t do it all by yourself, you need to collaborate with others to move your agenda forward. You will need cross-functional teams engaged and working effectively. Management buy-in is essential but your best allies are the entire organization. Consultant Olga Potaptseva European Customer Consultancy, recommends 5 engagement principles to get all colleagues on board. Customer Experience as part of life, not an extra burden, listening in a non-disruptive way, leveraging customer insights, and letting them own their customer experience.

Customer Experience as part of life not as an extra burden

By making your customers enjoy a better experience you are also ultimately improving your bottom line. Those who have already spent money with you are essentially the lifeblood of your organization. A recent study by Harvard Business School showed that customers spent an average of 40% more money on their sixth purchase than their first, and an average of 80% more on their eighth. Therefore, keeping customers happy and coming back is crucial to creating loyalists and staying profitable. Tom Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos, an online shoe and clothing company, said, ‘we believe that customer service shouldn’t be a department; it should be the entire company.’ A customer-centric organization ties customer experience to its performance agreements holding everyone accountable for quantifiable metrics such as C-SAT (customer satisfaction) and NPS (Net Promoter Score) among other KPIs. Establishing benchmarks either from using internal data or leveraging external research based on similar brands and industries helps generate information that is exacting about your customer behaviours.

Every employee has an impact on some part of the customer journey. Regardless of where the person works, this could be in IT, Customer Care, Sales, Marketing, or another department, everyone needs to understand CX best practices and how to apply them. There are varying approaches to your strategy of inclusion. Some companies offer CX training in-house while others have partnerships with training organizations, institutions, and consultants. Both are good options as long as employees get trained upon joining the organization and continue to increase their skills over time.

Endeavour to read survey responses and solve customer pain points as a team. Do not hesitate to celebrate successes too, if a customer mentions an employee by name, thank the individual and consider rewarding him/her. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, the more management recognizes good behaviours, the greater the likelihood that employees will do right by customers even when their boss is not watching. One way of sustaining this mindset is to fit around their agenda by demonstrating how CX could help them achieve their goals and using existing forums to avoid meeting fatigue.

Listening in a non-disruptive way

Henry Ford the father of the automotive is (alleged) to have said, “If I had asked what people wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Steve Jobs shared similar sentiments when he said “A lot of time, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” The truth is, listening to customers is essential for your business as it leads to active improvements. The question is, how important listening to customers is. Do we overestimate or underestimate the role of listening in business success? There are two good reasons why listening to the customer is important for every business. First, customers are the best testers, No matter how many rigorous tests you do, your customers will find increasingly more creative ways to break your products or find loopholes in your services. If you listen to customers, you may learn surprising details about your products, services, and business overall. Second, it is said, that the path to customers’ hearts lies through your ears. By fine-tuning your ears to the voice of your customers, you strike the tone of empathy.

It begins with active listening customer feedback keeps you informed whether customers are (not) happy with the product or service you deliver. If customers don’t believe you make the effort to try to understand them, they, in turn, become disinterested in your services. If you do listen to them, you can start improving the experience for all your customers and, as a bonus, get perceived as an amicable business-owner. Blockbuster could have avoided its downfall if the company knew right away that customers were leaving the stores upset. If customers could leave feedback, they might have complained about movies being out of stock or the newest titles not being on shelves, multiple inconveniences associated with an in-store rental model. Listening to customers, helps you keep your finger on the pulse of your business.

However, it is crucial to get the balance right. It is widely believed for example, that generally, people feel bad saying you did something wrong. This is similar to how most people would not complain about their cold soup, the saying goes, “there are 26 customers who don’t voice their complaints for every customer who does.” So get the balance right between listening to your customer and guiding them when needed to help them make the right choice ultimately.

Leveraging Customer Insights

Choosing your customer insights provides the bits of the puzzle they are missing. Recent digital advances have positively influenced businesses, helping them to know more than ever about the intentions of consumers, in terms of whether they are shopping online or in brick-and-mortar stores (physical store locations). It is easier now to track consumers researching or shopping for personal goods such as apparel, footwear, or accessories. In the US, 50% to 60% of shoppers report knowing upfront the category (sneakers or jeans, for example) that they want to buy. Men are the most decisive shoppers, 50% say they know both the category and the brand they want to buy before they shop, compared with about 35% of women. Only 5% to 10% of shoppers have the exact item in mind before they buy it. This leaves a lot of room for companies to influence purchases. Some of our major supermarkets in Ghana have set sights on customer insight through their loyalty card schemes arming them with credible information about their customers’ shopping habits.

Unfortunately, most companies are unable to capitalize on that opportunity. For example, when consumers shop online they leave a digital trail, giving companies vital insight about where to reach them, data on things such as their interests, habits, and choices, which may correlate to shopping decisions, and how to predict and influence future behaviours and purchases. This information often remains locked up in the customer insight (CI) function, never making its way into business decisions. By not leveraging findings and observations about the customer many companies are saddled with a gap between CI functions and business operations.

CI practitioners must work collaboratively with business managers to share customer insights such that executive decisions and marketing strategies are largely guided by customers’ needs. Advisedly they must focus on the following key activities; Defining leadership and commercial roles in part on customer metrics, participating first-hand in qualitative research and mystery shopping, frequenting target customers’ social and cultural events, spending time in customers’ markets to understand their needs, devoting weekly or monthly executive and leadership meetings to customer topics, and making simple gestures such as starting meetings with a focus on customer needs and strategy.

Letting them own their customer Experience

Let your key actors take the credit for improving the customer experience. Your implementation approach must be one of shifting from cascading information to empowering teams in order to generate the clarity and commitment your new strategy requires. Leadership would normally roll out new strategies using the “cascade” approach, working hard to craft a compelling message at the top and sending it on its way. It is usually a one-time, one-way flow of expectations, priorities, and targets from the top to the bottom of the organization. Typical strategy cascade often fails to generate the level of clarity, commitment, and action required to move a new strategy forward.

When teams take ownership, they feel empowered to make key decisions with clarity on what they are responsible for, which decision rights they own, what inputs they can count on, and who is depending on them to deliver, preparing them to move confidently into action. The real work of strategy execution lies in teams, not in the leaders. No organization can afford a single day in which employees do not have a working hypothesis about where they contribute most. If you truly believe that your people are your greatest resource, letting them take charge of their customer experience primes them to be their best in their team role.

Orga Potaptseva shares the following insight, “Effective CX believers are your allies in delivering winning customer experiences. To keep them engaged you need to demonstrate how CX initiatives help them to achieve their objectives. Applying a business lens to what you do, effective engagement methods and agile working practices will create, ‘a team beyond the team’ that organically ensures CX focus becomes standard practice across the organization.”

By using cross-functional teams the message about the customer spreads widely very quickly. The opportunity to participate in teams with clear daily objectives, accountability, and SMART weekly objectives, clearly demonstrates progress and a sense of achievement to the team members who are your CX believers who do the work.

The Writer is the Managing Consultant at Capability Trust Limited a People and Learning Organisation serving the market with Talent Acquisition and Management, Leadership Development, HR Outsourcing, and General HR Advisory, Training, and consulting services. He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected]/ www.linkedin.com/in/km-13b85717





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