- Ensure that you have got the balance right by addressing all the right levers
The natural inclination of any business is to position itself aptly to compete on key areas of price, features and benefits, and post-sales services among others. Additionally, it seeks to improve operational efficiency by removing waste and investing where there is return on investment. All these are very laudable pursuits leading to outcomes that favourably enhance the bottom line.
The risk here is that focusing on these outcomes though very ideal in the business sense may put you on the risky path of being a ‘navel-gazing’ business. Ultimately this approach (knowingly or unknowingly) ignores customer sentiments with the risk of ending up in a race that could lead to the bottom of the industry table. Everyone aspires to be at the top we are no different. However, our quest for excellence must address the balance between business outcomes and the customer’s needs however difficult this is.
Your response to this is a Customer Experience Management process that ensures that you provide your customer with a unique experience that they value by focusing on developing internal operational processes to reduce costs and deliver meaningful impact on your customer agenda to satisfy their need and more importantly to address why they chose you above others in the first place.
Gary Batroff a CX consultant captures the Customer Experience Management process as follows;
He opines that these are not new ideas. However, a good Customer Experience programme works consistently to refine concepts, aligns the strategy, and informs the implementation of Customer Experience projects in a manner that makes the process more purposeful and focused. To run a purpose-driven, holistic, integrated, and aligned Customer Experience programme requires careful planning and a commitment to executing the plan in a learning and trusting way.
This brings clarity to the process and ensures that you undertake the journey with a focus on outcomes that inure to the mutual benefit of both the customer and the business. Remember that the age-old focus of marketing has always been on delivering value to the customer and deriving value in the process, a very mutual endeavour. Experts recommend that to drive a fruitful Customer Experience Management process we must focus on three things namely; Customer Service, Customer Focus, and Customer Centricity.
Customer Service assists and advocates for the customer throughout the process of purchasing a product or service. It can be provided variously through channels such as human agents and self-service options leveraging technology (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.) to enhance the experience through personalized interactions. Successful outcomes in customer service may include prompt response times where customer issues are resolved in a timely way ensuring that the relationship with the customer is kept warm.
According to a recent Zendesk Customer Experience Trends report, 60 percent of customers say speed is the most important aspect of good customer service. Additionally, most customers are quite happy to talk with friendly customer service agents who show empathy in resolving their issues. Remember that customer experience weighs heavily on how customer sentiments play up during interactions. Furthermore, it has been discovered that many customers prefer contacting support agents over popular channels in use today such as Facebook, Messenger, and WhatsApp.
The lesson from the above developments is that the opportunity to engage with customers regularly must not be taken for granted. If your organization values customer services, then it will ensure that those in customer-facing roles are empowered to deliver excellent services that match customer needs. Empowering customer service agents with the right toolkit could range from capturing insights and analytics of call centre data (where applicable), addressing staffing needs carefully, providing bespoke training and coaching.
Using digital platforms will enhance this capacity as it makes easier and convenient the means to leverage Key Performance Index (KPI) metrics to set both internal and industry benchmarks for quality and efficiency. Industry experts recommend the use of Functional Benchmarking where data is lacking for direct benchmarking. This means benchmarking functionally across different industries.
A few examples of functional benchmarking. A telecom company benchmarking customer satisfaction metrics against the IT service industry as opposed to other telecom companies. A local gym benchmarking its brand recognition against local restaurants relying on available data to drive best efforts towards envisaged outcomes. A Spa benchmarking its administrative overhead costs to the hospitality industry.
The key is for the CX leaders to ensure alignment in the relevant areas such as stakeholder leadership of the service, product, and marketing teams and using the existing customer feedback tools to do their work. Top-tier companies with excellent customer service use this approach frequently to keep them attuned to customer needs consistently.
In customer-focused organizations, the customer’s needs receive premium attention at all touchpoints from in-person to advertising. All efforts are directed at ensuring that every customer touchpoint is aligned with the organization’s quest to ‘deliver value in exchange for value.’ A truly customer-focused organization provides as many channels for customer interactions. These may include call centre, retail outlets, online stores, mobile apps, social media, and partners.
A well-orchestrated voice of the customer programme is in place to provide feedback and insights across the business. The feedback metrics provide customer insights to enable every part of the organization to gain a good understanding of customer sentiments to improve the customer experience while measuring the primary customer service KPIs. Here the role of the CX leader is to provide data-driven use cases for cross-functional suggestions for changes to processes, products, and services in response to customer feedback.
According to the CX researcher Zendesk, ‘Customer focus means putting your customers’ needs first. Customer-focused businesses foster a company culture dedicated to enhancing customer satisfaction and building strong customer relationships.’ Culture they say is how we do things over here. According to the renowned management guru Peter Drucker (of blessed memory), ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. By not aligning your culture with customer orientation you undermine value creation.
A few traits of the customer focus include the fact that customer support is a responsibility that falls on all parts of the business. It is not just the responsibility of only customer support, or any single team. It is for the entire business. The customer experience resonates across the organization at every touchpoint in the customer’s journey. The posturing of the customer-focused business truly reflects values that are demonstrated in; the honesty of their marketing campaigns, transparency of pricing models, ease of their sales cycle, and the quality of their actual products or services.
According to Jonathan Brummel, Senior Manager, Premier Support at Zendesk “Customer focus is the lens by which you analyze all your interactions with your customers,” he goes on to say, “It’s a core value to who you want to be as a company and how you want your customers to feel about you.” Customer focus aims to leave positive memories from every encounter with the customer.
A customer-centric organization is one where decision-making is done from an ‘outside-in’ perspective, driven by customer understanding. There is total empathy for the customer with business results aimed at providing customers with more personalized services. To meet this aspiration an organization will have in place a Chief Customer Officer role overseeing a CX team which may include a Voice of the Customer Progarmme Manager, `Journey Mapping Operations, and an Insights and Analytic Business Analyst.
In a customer-centric business organization every individual is on board the customer programme. The culture runs through such that even those at the backend right up to the board level are thinking about the customer and applying themselves to keeping them happy in their unique roles. The customer experience is influenced by each person, a customer-centric culture drives every activity and engagement within the business.
Recent research has proven that customer-centric organizations are more profitable compared to companies that are less so. According to Deloitte Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable compared to companies that are not focused on the customer. Again they assert that they enjoy increased Customer Retention, 80% of customers gradually gained loyalty for a brand over time, due to experiences with excellent products, service, reviews, advice, etc.
A customer-centric organization has an organization-wide strategy supported by all employees. Customer-centricity does not happen in an organization that operates in silos. Leadership in the organization focuses on influencing employees to think about and positively influence the customer experience. A customer-centric business builds teams and encourages everyone to think about everyone else in the organization.
Collaborative working ensures that there is support from all parts, all working towards the attainment of shared goals. Everyone’s perspective is respected however different it may be from others employees are encouraged to provide input to enhance the experience. There are actions and activities that people will need to keep doing, and ones you want them to stop doing, as well as those they need to start doing.
Your mission in Customer Experience is to deliver out-of-the-world experiences. The key is to be deliberate about how you engage in and sustain your quest to be customer-centric. Being deliberate about it and investing in the thoughts, processes, and actions that bring things into being is what is ultimately rewarded through the loyalty of customers. Keep at it and sustain the drive and trust me your customers will stay loyal to you.
|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|