- Learn about customer needs and insights from all parts of your organisation
The quest to become Customer-centric is commonplace in most businesses where customer-facing is a core activity. Many of such businesses are quick to tag themselves as customer-focused and invest great effort and resources to make this known to the whole world. A good place to start from if you have this goal and desire is to examine the processes that support your customer engagements to find out how organised you are in terms of your internal capabilities and focus on customer-facing activities.
You may end up satisfied that you have done more than enough to make your customers happy or you may find out you are significantly short of the mark. Either way, there is plenty of room for improvement. Wherever you find yourself in this journey one thing rings clear as confirmed in the words of Robin Sharma the Canadian writer and public speaker, ‘Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.’ So, pick yourself up whatever stage you find yourself in and take steps to drive your organisation towards customer-centricity at your own manageable pace.
How ready are you for the change that will birth a fit-for-purpose customer experience strategy? To implement an all-encompassing Customer Experience programme, you need to adequately prepare your people for a campaign that will drive your whole organisation to deploy a sustainable change strategy. The preparation is essential because the less ready you are for this next step the more difficult the change process will be. Ian Golding the renowned Customer Experience expert recommends that we adopt the Customer Experience Readiness Scale.
The goal is to enable you to plot your customer experience readiness to assess the organisation’s customer-centricity status. Using his proposed model, you will be better able to assess your preparedness as an organisation to deliver out-of-the-world experiences to your esteemed customers. In short, you want to determine your as-is situation as a business, simply put perform a diagnostic assessment of the status of your business. Knowing this is the first step in your journey towards an enhanced experience strategy.
Remember the old Chinese adage, ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ however difficult a task it may seem, starting the journey puts you on the sure path of progress.
Taking a cue from the army where inspections are conducted frequently to check battle readiness, your CX strategy must include built-in routines for consistently reviewing the goings-on within the organisation concerning your customer engagements. Ian Golding suggests 3 phases (rounds he calls them). Round one – Identify the key stakeholders and decision-makers in each function. Round two – identify two or more managers in each function and interview them. Round three – repeat the exercise with the ‘troops’, colleagues at the lower level of the organisation.
Identifying key stakeholders
Customer-centricity in short is organisational culture. Being customer-centric means across your business everyone has an eye for the needs of the customer. Start by making a list of every function in your business. The obvious ones will be sales, service, and marketing. Their actions in designing and delivering services along the customer journey make them directly involved. They are the ones managing your frontlines, and regularly engaging with them.
The functions not directly engaging with the customer include IT, HR, Logistics, Internal Communications, and Production among others will need to be factored in your assessment of the state of your organisation’s customer readiness. They may not be directly involved with your customers however their actions influence the environment, context, and culture within which your business operates therefore by definition they are a key part of how you engage customers. Omitting them will have dire consequences for your customer-facing processes.
The first phase of your assessment is to have a conversation (conduct interviews) with the decision-makers in each function. This will enable you to discover how focused they are on the needs of the customer and their preparedness to address gaps if any. If possible (and I will personally recommend this) start with senior executives in your company because they are responsible for executing your business strategy. These will include your Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), and Finance Director (FD). They are less in touch with your customers so your questions to them might prove a little difficult but I am sure they will understand it is for a good cause.
Some of the questions to ask are; what role do customers play in this business? What benefit will be managing customer experience deliver to this business? How good is the customer experience today? Describe three things that are either enabling or preventing a focus on customer experience. These questions are aimed at bringing conversations around the customer to the doorstep of every key member of your organisation and ultimately everyone. The feedback from this process will be very insightful as it allows you to gauge the different views and sentiments about the customer within your business.
Interviewing line managers
To understand how important the customer is to your business you must have an honest conversation with the ones who manage your business strategy. Once upon a time, brilliant marketing was a way of obscuring any weaknesses your business might exhibit internally or competitively. While marketing is still important today, you gain credibility when the message aligns with the actual customer experience you are delivering to customers. If your marketing is great but customer experience is poor then your marketing will be ignored or received with a pinch of salt.’
At this stage, it’s about numbers and the opinions they carry. You will be interviewing two or more-line managers asking them the same questions you asked the top managers to get a balanced view of customer sentiments from the wider public in the organisation. The benefits of this process are immense. This will lead you to discover silos in the organisation of customer feedback. their insights at this level provide a succinct view of the organisational culture’s readiness for moving towards a customer-centric culture.
|The Customer Experience Readiness Scale|
|1||Acknowledge: The role
of and benefit of customer experience in your company
|Benefits not acknowledged at any level in the organisation||Benefits acknowledged at lower levels of the organisation only||Benefits partially acknowledged at the leadership level||Benefits are acknowledged at all levels of the organisation.|
|2||Diagnose: Recognize the strength and weaknesses of the current state and underlying drivers.||No recognition at any level of the organisation.||Partial recognition at lower levels only||Partial recognition at the leadership level only||Complete recognition at all levels.|
|3||Improve: Commit to a series of appropriate actions to embed strengths and address weaknesses||No commitment to act at any level of the organisation.||No formal action – employees make a tactical decision at a functional level.||Partial agreement and investment in addressing specific burning issues.||Priorities identified and investment and resource allocated.|
|4||Embed: Commit to a roadmap with ongoing investment to embed capability and continuously meet changing customer needs.||No specific focus on continuous improvement at any level of the organisation.||Need for continuous improvement recognized but not actioned.||Investment in some areas, but with a finite scope, budget, and timescale.||Customer Experience continuous improvement embedded.|
Source: Customer What? – Ian Golding
The emphasis of the unit’s SOPs will offer you some deep insights into the thinking and goings-on in different departments. The HR department for example may be focusing on core HR functions encompassing hiring performance management and promotions.
These are all important for the bigger picture however that big picture must include the customer. Be that as it may, would it not prove worthwhile if HR is willing to support the frontline by negotiating performance contracts with an emphasis on motivating them to serve the customer optimally.
Furthermore, we can draw from John Maxwell’s poignant declaration that ‘everything rises and falls on leadership.’ Peter Drucker the management guru of blessed memory had this to say about leadership in Japan.
In a typical training session, there is a “trainer.” But the real burden of training is on the participants themselves. And the question is always: “What have we learned so we can do the job better?” A new tool, process, or organisation scheme becomes a means of self-improvement. Taking a cue from the Japanese model driving a culture of internal learning is a useful strategy to enable colleagues to share experiences from the organisation’s touchpoints.
Interviewing the Rest of the Organisation
Finally, repeat the exercise of interviewing stakeholders at the operational level and again not just the customer-facing roles but colleagues from all the other functions as mentioned earlier. Remember to include your leadership line and immediate colleagues.
It can be tricky but you need to justify this by selling the benefits hard. To get the buy-in you must not just tell them about the importance of CX but also be willing to listen to them and even empathize with them.
You might find out at the end of this exercise that stakeholders are polarized in their view. The recommendation is that you create separate versions of the Readiness scale by different functions or levels of seniority. You then culminate it in a summary version depicting business readiness as a whole. Golding, the architect of this method, explains, that the objective of this exercise is to create a sustainable always-improving customer experience.
Whether the responses are straightforward or less so the tool helps you to assess the thinking frame of your organisation to prepare the way for you to address gaps that undermine an excellent customer experience regime. Your internal mechanisms are now better placed to deal with the challenges at your touchpoints and even improve further where you appear to be doing well already.
Over time you will gain a better understanding of where your key stakeholders sit in terms of their support for your customer engagements at all your touchpoints. What you need is an organisation that THINKS CUSTOMER TOP TO BOTTOM the rewards are limitless, not least is the phenomenal impact on your bottom line.
|The Writer is a Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected], https://www.linkedin.com/Kodwo Manuel|