Rethinking your experience strategy to step-up growth: Keep doing what works best and aim to improve  

digital marketing strategy
  • Happy New Year dear readers, I wish you all the best of the year. May our aspirations materialise as we apply our best efforts to noble causes with God’s help. The beginning of a new year always brings in its wake apprehensions about what the future holds, and how much of it you can access by effectively planning your next steps in life. At this time, you have reviewed your goals for the last year (or few years) and learned some valuable lessons to help you take some bold steps forward with considerable care.

A few questions you will probably be asking include whether you have within your organisation an army of believers who will join you not only as believers but also be willing to take ownership and help drive your experience agenda forward. How agile are your strategies and what collaborations do you need to guarantee success? A word to the wise is enough, hasten slowly to keep you focused on your goals and motivate yourself and your charges to leverage the lessons from your distant and immediate past as you plan the way forward.

Is your organisation a listening one? How do (or have) you listened and reacted to your customers’ needs, and how willing are you to change your internal processes or even culture to accommodate the concerns of your customers from the insights gained? What Customer Experience projects will support your drive toward your redefined customer engagement quest? What strategies will aid you to transform your organisations to the level that will position you positively in the minds of customers? Do you have a well-knit team in place?

Henry Ford – an American industrialist, business magnate and founder of the Ford Motor Company – is quoted to have expressed the following sentiments: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is a success”. 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. Your efforts to bring everyone along with you are noble. Therefore, do not relent in engaging your internal stakeholders to gain their buy-in. Here are some insights we can draw on going forward.

Consistent experiences – Your ability to deliver the personalised, immersive and interactive experiences customers want. Complex journeys – delivering optimised CX across multiple touchpoints and delivering the right offering to the right customer, in the right context. Visibility and agility – Your responsiveness to customers’ demands by changing quickly, leveraging the information to make effective decisions at speed. Ability to differentiate –uniquely positioning your offering and customer experience.

Turning inconsistency into consistency

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 organisation. A 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 with consistent delivery will keep them coming back to you – thus 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 organisation 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.

Your goal is to deliver personalised, immersive and interactive experiences to your customers. To do this requires every employee to proactively engage in some part of the customer journey with a great understanding of the customer’s needs. 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. Your strategy of inclusion is what will position you appropriately. You may have to offer CX training in-house or have partnerships with training organisations, institutions and consultants. All are good options as long as employees get trained in the organisation 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 recognises good behaviour, 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 can help them achieve their goals and using existing forums to avoid meeting-fatigue.

Simplify your journey by empowering your teams

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 to generate the clarity and commitment your new strategy requires. Leadership will 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 organisation. Typical strategy cascades often fail 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 act confidently in their various roles. The real work of strategy execution lies in teams, not in the leaders. No organisation 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 roles.

According to Orga Potaptseva, a CX consultant: “Effective CX believers are your allies in delivering winning customer experiences. To keep them engaged, you need to demonstrate how CX initiatives help them 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 organisation”. Your goal is to deliver optimised CX across multiple touchpoints and the right offering to the right customer, in the right context

Develop visibility and agility – listen and learn non-disruptively

Henry Ford, father of the production-line automobile, 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 the time, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”. The truth is that listening to customers is essential for your business as it leads to active improvements. The question is, how important is listening to customers? 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 them, 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 keeping you informed whether customers are (or not) happy with the product or service you deliver. If customers don’t believe you make the effort to try and 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 be 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 have let 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 customers and guiding them when needed to help them ultimately make the right choice.

Differentiate by uniquely positioning your offering and customer experience

According to Gary Edwards, a CX proponent, to differentiate customer experience doesn’t necessarily entail making marginal, meaningless changes. It requires making the changes that will impact your business the most. Your customers should be able to notice why you are different instead of you having to tell them. He suggests three things you can do to create a truly differentiated customer experience. He advises, firstly, that you observe what’s happening in your business by taking a step back from the everyday minutiae of your business and becoming an anthropologist for the day.

This will help you see how things function. Interact with customers and ask them about their experience. Observe how they behave and how your employees interact with them. One very difficult experience we generally encounter is at the Pharmacy, where you are compelled to rattle out loudly what your ailment is while others listen. Having the pharmacist ask pointed questions may make it easier to hand things off; however, it could also make customers reluctant to bring up anything sensitive. Think about how your pharmacist can engage the customers in a way that preserves their privacy.

Next, identify what you need to do to make a real impact. He advises finding specific ways you can improve your customers’ experiences with your brand. Customers are loyal to brands, so if you can provide a memorable experience they will likely come back. Making small changes could provide the greatest impact. One way of doing this is to provide a comfortable place to sit while waiting for their turn. This will likely garner goodwill from customers and improve their experience with the Pharmacy’s brand.

Finally, try different approaches to solve the issues that keep you from being the best in your space. This could mean fixing problems you didn’t even know you had – and could also mean changing anything necessary to set you apart from the competition. For example, the pharmacy could provide a place for customers to have some privacy when talking to the pharmacist regarding any concerns they have over their medication.

Find ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors and provide a better experience for your customers. Making adjustments that have a real impact will allow you to provide a truly differentiated experience, and that is really where you want to be.


The Writer is a Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected],





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