… get the internal dynamics right for a superior customer experience
Three things are very essential in developing and implementing a successful experience agenda. These are your employees, customers and leadership. Understanding the connection and getting this right will be a game-changer for your business. Can your business survive without profitable customers? How about the long-held assertion that the customer is King? How do you guarantee a great experience for your customers consistently to keep them coming back? Jan Carlzon, the former CEO of Scandinavia Airlines, asserts the pivotal role of employees and how they connect to strategy. He said: “If you are not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is”. As you think about customers, think also about your employees.
To deliver consistency on your customer journey, you need a good understanding of the human chain enabled by engagement, technology and processes. Any break in that link will play out in your customer experience. To keep the delicate balance, you need your teams fully-aligned with your business strategy. Pennington (2016) asserts that employees are the other side of the customer coin; therefore, if we want to treat our customers right then we must draw from Carlzon’s lesson by ensuring employees are served well to serve customers. According to him, the key is to engage with the customer and ensure that the customer agenda is integrated into day-to-day rhythms of company life seamlessly.
Organisations naturally operate in silos, known commonly as functions (departments) – all of which are focused on key outcomes largely aligned to their specific roles. Therefore, those responsible for managing finances of the business will focus on different priorities from the sales and marketing teams; as will be the case with others such as Human Resource, Operations, and Technical functions. Unfortunately for us, the customer is hardly interested in the intricate designs and activities within the business responsible for delivering the outputs they patronise. Dale Carnegie explains: “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic but creatures of emotion”.
Therefore, we must learn to walk in the customers’ shoes to be in tune with their needs. A few things we must focus on are: who your customer is (internal and external); what you do for your customer; measuring the Voice of Employees to accurately understand their sentiments.
The (Internal and External) Customer
Your colleagues who work with you within your company – these could be employees, partners who deliver your products or services to the end-user, the external customer – constitute your internal customers. They feed on your outputs daily and deliver ‘services’ mutually within your organization, playing varying roles along the customer journey. Also included (perhaps less obvious but still very significant) are stakeholders and shareholders. Although they may or may not purchase your product or service, they engage with your business regularly and thus ultimately have an influence on your external customers variously.
The people that pay for and use the products or services your company offers are your external customers. When running your internal processes (both backend and frontend) managing challenges and proffering solutions, these customers are who you are delivering to. An external customer is a person who is not directly connected to your organisation other than by purchasing your product or service. This could be a one-time purchaser or a person with whom you have worked long-term, and to whom you provide a range of solutions and or products. They are known as ‘clients’ or ‘accounts’. So, if I walk into a car showroom and leave with a car I purchased from the transaction, I am your external customer.
It is essential to treat everyone as a customer, as this encourages employees to take each other just as seriously as they would address a referral or complaint from an external customer. What’s needed to make the customer experience thrive is a positive work environment. Typically, this will include kind and empathetic leadership, fair and equitable pay, comfortable working conditions, the latest technology and so on.
The argument is that the higher employee morale, the more those employees work with integrity and productivity. Google takes the experience a notch higher with benefits such as free chef-prepared meals, an onsite beauty salon, nap-pods and a host of other benefits. Perhaps this is a bit of an out the world experience, but the lesson here is if employees feel so motivated they won’t mind going the extra mile in their work. Guess what that means to your customer experience.
What you do for your customer
To serve your customers effectively, you must focus on designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed their expectations – leading to greater customer satisfaction, loyalty, and turning them into advocates. Your goal is to manage the customer experience in a coordinated way. Avoid taking a fragmented approach, as this causes unsuccessful customer experience management. Taking a more organisational and holistic approach to a customer experience strategy leads to more customer satisfaction and loyalty. If staff are not engaged, the customer experience is sub-optimised.
According to recent research, a great customer experience is easy and fast. But it is also built with empathy in mind and reflects customers’ values. In the developed world, most customers want to buy from companies that offer quick and easy online transactions, while others want to buy from companies which prioritise diversity, equity and inclusion in their communities and workplaces. This appetite for technology is now pervasive and therefore applies regardless of where you are. The quest to digitise our economy attests to how understanding of the new experience paradigm has caught up with us, and is influencing a growing wave of high customer expectations.
Here is what the experts say: The role of a customer experience team is to ensure the company meets customers’ needs and expectations. This might include sharing customer feedback the customer service team collects across the organisation to solve pain points. One way of doing this is to deploy your Employee Journey Mapping (EJM) tool. This underpins your customer experience work and ensures that you have the best possible conditions for customer experience improvements to deliver real differences.
The EJM reflects on the relationship between a company and its staff. It is used to highlight the sweetspots in the employee journey where employee engagement levels can be raised to drive real value. The primary purpose is to establish those sweetspots where injecting a strong customer component into the employee interactions can be directly connected to improvements in the customer experience and customer outcomes.
A few benefits accrue here. You inculcate a culture of customer-centricity across the organisation right from your induction process, emphasising the customer’s importance to everyone in the company. The key benefit of this approach is that you create an end-to-end view of the employee life-cycle. Consequently, other areas of general improvement emerge which contribute to further employee engagement. Ultimately, the need to put needs of the customer first becomes obvious to everyone. A culture of customer-centricity is birthed.
Measure Voice of the Employees (VoE)
Every great company invariably links success to its employees. Employees constitute both the biggest cost and greatest resource; an engaged and motivated workforce can be a significant contributing factor in a company’s success. Motivated and effective staff are quick to associate success of the company with their own success. Conversely, unhappy and demotivated employees are slow and ineffective.
According to industry experts, the way companies can escape from or avoid getting into situations where there is a ‘disconnect’ with employees (leading to potentially bad customer experiences) is to provide them with a ‘voice’. This comprises various feedback channels which can be used by employees to communicate their feelings with management and put forward suggestions for improvement. Channels for communication between companies and their employees can include satisfaction surveys and engagement surveys – often provided in software form by an experienced survey platform.
Employee feedback may seem intangible; however, it can easily be quantified by using a ranking system or using a system of weighted questions. This way, one can easily measure the extent to which they are providing employees with a voice and seize the opportunity to listen to the wisdom of that voice. Many employees shy-away from such opportunities, as they are apprehensive of how this may affect their future in the organisation. Thankfully, with the deployment of digital feedback methods this should not be a major concern, as feedback methods vary from convenience, anonymity, security and measurability of the results.
Applying a standardised design, data can easily be processed to show results in graph or diagram form, while question formats offer enough flexibility by providing space for individual comments and other information. A picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes; graphical representations and diagrams tell the story, very vividly, of your employee sentiments. There are great lessons to draw from good practice. Leaders keen to adapt or right-size with their customer experience can pose the following questions to begin the journey:
- How well do we connect all employees to the end customer?
- Do we have an employee proposition?
- Does our culture encourage customer focus?
Don’t hesitate, start the conversation now and let the employee journey begin. Get the agenda right and your customers will stay loyal!
|The writer is a Management Consultant. He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected],|