- listening to the right voices will ultimately pay off by effortlessly driving growth
I walked into my bank the other day to change my bank card, as the one I had was quickly defacing. It was a Friday afternoon so I was not surprised to find the bank official who attended to me in a good mood. I made a quick joke about the time of the week and how the weekend was just around the corner and that brightened her up; she served me well, and in a few minutes I was done and out of the place. While sitting there, I read a customer experience message on a pull-up situated in the banking hall – signposting distressed customers up to the Bank of Ghana. Customer experience on the corporate agenda.
Ian Golding in his book identifies a few challenges that companies could face if their data is not properly managed. He uses a ‘what-if’ scenario to assess what this means for a small business lacking capacity to track the Customer’s voice with sophisticated processes; and for large businesses where formal roles exist to advocate for the customer internally. The underlying issue here is that managing customer data for insights is critical regardless of the size or scale of operation for any business. And so pay attention to it we must, at all costs.
When the data is used optimally, it is highly advantageous to the business. The fact is that tracking the data may not necessarily require sophisticated processes; however, the right metrics must be tracked. Data is in abundant supply, transforming the data into actionable insights is where the challenge is. A customer-centric culture where the customer’s voice rings loudest is not a random occurrence. It is the outcome of deliberate efforts and organised processes to ensure that every touchpoint is under strict scrutiny.
Not only are the touchpoints carefully monitored, but there is also a willingness to listen to concerns of the customer and make necessary adjustments in response. An internal culture supportive of the customer must have certain fundamentals in place. A Customer Experience role with enough influence to drive changes; reporting systems that quickly identify pain-points for quick action; management buy-in; and a suite of voices to keep customer needs in focus – from the employee through to process and ultimately customer.
Customer Experience lead
Renowned leadership expert John Maxwell famously said: “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. CX leaders understand customer needs and have great empathy for them. In their role within the business, they strive to establish a unified view of the customer and bring their influence to bear on every customer-related issue, ensuring the customer’s concerns are given top priority.
They do this by facilitating Voice of the Customer (including employees and stakeholders) initiatives through the design and monitoring of journey-maps to establish a unified view of the customer across all touchpoints. They see very quickly how a consistently good customer experience can boost loyalty and promote growth. In our world today, customer expectations are quickly rising – coupled with their capacity to influence outcomes in their favour by using a plethora of channels from social media, online outlets to traditional (brick and mortar) models.
Many businesses are failing to make headway in this quest because they ignore the most important factor in the business equation – the customer. A genuine customer-centred organisation nurtures all its relationships and is driven by a desire to serve all its customers to the best of its ability. According to industry practitioners, an effective Customer Experience lead ensures this by working with managers and leaders to help them understand what they are trying to achieve and why.
They promote an all-inclusive culture, in that they are willing and ready to ask for the help of their fellow managers in working with or generating support from other departments, and with senior leadership in turn. They listen consistently to feedback and look for solutions together that could inspire and influence others to see the CX light.
Effective Reporting Systems
To drive a customer-centric culture, one needs a strong business case for the changes required to influence management and leadership. The point here is not to generate nice-looking graphs and reports. The ultimate goal is to provide great experiences for your customer. One of the key requirements of managing customer experience is the ability to listen to where experiences are happening. Today, there is no shortage of software tools to help you listen in all the right places; be it your website, social media, apps, or physical locations. Reporting from the variety of sources available to you enables you to develop a good picture of the customer’s concerns.
In a recent report from KPMG, it was discovered that everything about the customer is changing – due largely to the impact of COVID-19. These include motivations, connections, expectations, time and purchasing power. Consequently, according to the report: “What was previously considered to be a great customer experience is no longer good enough; and almost all businesses have been thrust into reorganising their approach to customers”.
Businesses that don’t detect these shifts, and respond quickly by building strategies based on the new realities and lives of the customers they serve, will struggle to remain relevant in today’s marketplace. In our world today, the fast pace of change requires a different learning approach to keep pace with the change. With good reporting systems, you can keep an eye on all the essential metrics. The new reality customer believes that a great customer experience is no longer good enough; so firms must respond by investing more in customer relationships.
Efficient reporting will ensure that almost all businesses recognise their approaches to customers need significant adjustment to stay relevant. According to Julio Hernandez, Head of Global Customer Centre of Excellence-KPMG International: “Experiences in the new reality need to be immersive, emotionally connective, and overtly safe. This demands a connected organisation where every capability is symbiotic and digitally-aligned front to back to deliver an intentional customer experience.”
Getting executive buy-in for customer experience has always been a challenge. According to Shaun Belding, author of The Journey to WOW!, executives are more committed to launching new initiatives than listening to the Voice of the Customer and making the customer experience a true priority. According to him, leaders are heard regularly expressing frustration and variously failing to act on the customer agenda.
According to him, frustrated CX leaders are heard saying any of the following: “We just report our Net Promoter Score results, but don’t do anything”; “All we’ve done is have endless committee meetings”; “My VP doesn’t want to hear customer feedback”; “I don’t think our CEO knows what CX means”; and “We were in the process of implementing the CX vision when marketing surprised us with a new one.” They link this to one factor, which is the confusion between customer experience and customer service.
Tavsan and Erdem (2016) assert that any organisation looking to implement a customer-centric agenda will need top management that is more focused on transformational leadership as opposed to transactional. The reason is that to transform an organisation one needs to influence the entirety and not just engender a few individual behaviour changes. Transformational leaders will foster positive employee attitudes, develop employees, delegate – and focus on entrenching new values to drive organisational growth with the long-term in mind.
Listening to the right voices
There are three main voices we must listen to if we want to excel in customer experience. These are the voice of the Customer, Voice of the Employee, and voice of Process. Voice of Customer’s feedback is used to describe your customer feedback about their experience and expectations of your products or services. Key questions arising here include customer needs, expectations, understanding, and product improvement opportunities.
For example, you could run a survey to understand how customers feel about a new initiative to introduce a subscription plan offered to them by your insurance service. By constantly gathering data to hear their voices, you will be better placed to shape their product roadmap and decide which features to release at various stages in the product lifecycle. Or as a bank, by performing a comprehensive analysis on customer feedback across your official channels and social media you will be well-placed to gather data from customers, using a hashtag-based campaign regarding what they love and hate about the bank.
A bank in Johannesburg decided to use VoC to perform a comprehensive analysis on customer feedback across all its official channels. The campaign was able to generate two Named Entity Recognitions, or NER, which were then used to conduct sentiment analysis by allocating sentiment scores to the different comments. These scores allowed the bank to identify which areas and issues most needed their attention.
According to a report by CIPD – the professional body for Human Resources, Voice of the Employee is how people communicate their views to their employer and influence matters which affect them at work. Using this approach helps to build open and trusting relationships between employers and their people, which can lead to organisational success. The lesson here is that involving employees in customer decisions leads to buy-in on the Customer Experience agenda.
A Skills and Employment Survey conducted in the UK during 2017 found that formal ways of organisational participation (for example, consultative meetings held by management) declined between 2012 and 2017; but the proportion of employees reporting high influence over decisions that affect their work increased. If your front-liners see their inputs in customer policies, imagine what that will do to their morale.
The Voice of the Process (VOP) highlights how the process communicates with the organisation on performance against customer needs and expectations. This communication takes place through process measures which are descriptors of how the process is performing in its current state. According to health experts Moran and Duffy (2011), Organisations must develop a reliable process to collect regular and timely data for the performance of their most important processes.
These processes must be satisfying for both internal and external customer needs to ensure survival of the organisation. A quote from Dr. W. Edwards Deming sums it all up: “In God we trust, all others bring data,” – and this is very applicable to the VoP. The general opinion is that too often we think we know how the process is performing through intuition. However, intuition is not good enough.
|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