- Ensure that you are aligned with your customer’s needs by influencing an outside-in thinking culture
The quest for profitability is what motivates the average business to pay attention to well-crafted strategies ultimately leading to successful outcomes. Undoubtedly the customer is a big part of this quest, hence, the need to work through the not-so-simple task of developing an end-to-end journey that will synchronise with the sentiments of the customer. Your goal is to engage the customer, turn him/her into a loyal follower, and have him/her coming for more.
The requirement of prioritising customer experience changes when your organisation is dealing with competing needs, most of which require significant investments in time, effort, and finances – understandably is not very simple. As CX lead, you will find that gaining buy-in for your journey to address customer needs succinctly can be an uphill task convincing the powers that be, of the need to focus on the customer when other business needs are calling for urgent attention.
What makes the task even more challenging is the fact that you are dealing with highly variable outcomes as you plan for and engage with the main actor – the customer. This journey has many iterations and requires both short-term and long-term planning and execution as you deal with the changing needs of a customer whose influence is driven more by feelings and emotions than rational thinking. The picture with large companies is not exactly rosy. According to recent research, 59 percent of large companies say they generally ignore or have just begun to explore CX efforts.
Renowned CXPA professional, Ian Golding, articulates it thus: “The capabilities required to deliver the roadmap are not purely customer experience strategy capabilities. They are the wider organisational capabilities which underpin the customer journey and make up the business ecosystem”. One lesson we can take away from here is that your customer experience strategy must draw strands from your other organisational initiatives, and must be an all-inclusive strategy that draws every Kofi, Kwame, and Ama in your organisation into the fray.
This is where we have to draw the line between what is popular perception and what is the real situation confronting us. Ordinarily what shows up in the business domain are the easy answers for addressing customer issues. Customer service catches the attention of the average business. Where your focus is on supporting customers both before and after they buy and use your products to help them enjoy their patronage. It has great value in ensuring that you retain them after the purchase and beyond.
Customer success comes in when we work proactively together with customers throughout their time as customers to help them get more value out of their purchases. The feedback they share is valuable as it keeps us attuned to the fact that our product or service is meeting their needs. These are both very laudable and must be given the needed attention for mutual gain. However, in the experience agenda, both customer service and customer success are part of a bigger frame where we engage the customer through a lengthy iterative journey.
This is against the backdrop of favourable statistics supporting the fact that a whopping 87 percent of companies report significant impact from their customer experience initiatives. Therefore, you shouldn’t be surprised if you are selected as the change agent in your organisation, be quick to seize the opportunity and strive hard to bring the customer experience conversation to the fore in your quest to drive business success.
Where do you begin if your organisation entrusts you with the task of driving an agenda that prioritises customer needs such that your internal processes are primed to serve the customer throughout the journey. Here are a few suggestions to start this process. First, ensure that you have a good understanding of the customer’s journey end-to-end such that the customer has your full attention throughout the engagement at all your touchpoints. Leadership is best expressed when one has the courage and conviction to lead oneself; therefore, as a business, prepare yourself internally to manage the employee experience.
Next pay attention to your employees, they will replicate the experience to your customers when their experience is a desirable one. A final tip here is to be deliberate about developing internal processes that warm to the needs of customers and is recognised from the top to the shop front.
Managing the customer journey
Here is where we use visual representations to depict the stages customers go through when interacting with our company from buying products at the shop front to online purchases, to accessing customer service on the phone, to airing grievances on social media. The point of departure for our journey mapping exercise is to go right back to the first principles. What is our brand purpose? How does it enable us to create and keep customers?
Again, here is where we observe when a customer first chooses to connect with our business. Our focus is to understand how they choose to do that, and aim to engage them with the view to leveraging the first interaction to be the start of a long and prosperous relationship. Creating the journey map can provide insightful information for all departments, from sales reps who need to figure out the best ways to interact with potential customers to managers looking for insight on which touchpoints customers use most.
Additionally, it highlights gaps or pitfalls such as gaps between devices when a user moves from one device to another, gaps between departments where a customer might get frustrated, and gaps between channels, where the experience of going from social media to the website could be a better option. The customer journey is made up of several components namely: customer stages encompassing inquiry, comparison, purchase, and installation; often a fifth stage is added – loyalty or advocacy.
The buyer persona is used by CX teams to predict customer behaviours and sentiments during their journey across touchpoints. The customer journey map includes touchpoints that a customer is likely to use at each stage in the journey. For example, during the installation or service stage, a customer may use phone calls or chatbots to communicate with a brand, and emotions, one of the main goals of creating a customer journey map is to predict the customers’ emotions and feelings. This helps to pinpoint potential pain points and successes.
Managing employee experience
Employee experience starts from the moment someone looks at your job opening to the moment they leave your company – everything that they learn, do, see, and feel contributes to their employee experience. Management must listen to its people at each stage of the employee lifecycle, identify what matters the most to them, and create personalised, bespoke experiences. The employee experience is foundational to sustaining customer experience efforts, improving products, and building a strong and reputable brand, all requiring the help of your employees.
Ultimately, it is their experiences (positive and negative) that will impact how hard they work, how much they collaborate, or whether they are committed to improving operational performance. Jacob Morgan, author of ‘The Employee Experience Advantage’, puts it aptly: “In a world where money is no longer the primary motivating factor for employees, focusing on the employee experience is the most promising competitive advantage that organisations can create”. Every employee goes through a lifecycle where she/he learns, does, sees, and feels at each stage of the employee lifecycle.
The lifecycle covers hiring, including how the job was advertised, the interview process – in other words, the entire candidate experience. Next, is the onboarding, an effective onboarding process translates one’s initial enthusiasm for their new job into a more meaningful, long-term connection to the brand, and a commitment to doing great things while they are there. Employee development within their roles includes their productivity, ability to be team players, and promotion aspirations.
By offering them the chance to expand their skill sets, employees looking to have a ‘portfolio career’ find fulfillment in many different experiences. Once employees are fully ramped and integrated into the organization, a strong people retention strategy emerges, enabling you to keep them performing, developing and contributing to the company’s success, as well as ensuring they are inspired by and connected to the company’s core vision.
Customer experience strategy
It all comes together in your CX strategy. When a customer engages with your brand, they are generally acting human, something we can all attest to. Remember the last time you visited a store in your neigbourhood or the supermarket. When you reflect on the encounter, you are likely to remember a few details about yourself such as your perception of the service or how you were feeling (moody, excited, happy …), or perhaps even the fact that the salesperson was very chatty and helpful. “Customer experience is the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with an organisation over the life of the relationship with that company or with that brand.”
This explains why delivering a great customer experience is hugely important for any business. When customers enjoy their interactions with you, they are more likely to come to you again. How they assess the experience has no real pattern to it; the better experience customers have, the more likely they are to refer you to others, offer positive reviews and become an advocate for your product or service. Being deliberate about your customer engagement is imperative as it leads to increased customer loyalty, satisfaction, and better word-of-mouth marketing, positive reviews, and recommendations.
Using a range of methods and tools, you can position yourself in a way that makes you accessible to your customer. Strategy is about planning, therefore your CX strategy will empower you to lay out carefully a plan to listen to your customers as a top priority, leverage customer feedback to develop an in-depth understanding of their needs, consistently collect feedback, analyse it, and act on it regularly. By doing this you reduce or minimise friction, and solve your customers’ specific problems and unique challenges. Your goal is to use these insights to plan how you meet your customers’ needs uniquely.
Change is not always easy. It involves difficult choices. The question of whether you fix the basics or differentiate is a choice you have to make when you are faced with the challenge of dealing with conflicting customer requirements. Lee Kwan Yew couldn’t have said it better, “I believe that life is a process of continuous change and a constant struggle to make that change one for the better.”
|The Writer is a Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected], https://www.linkedin.com/in/km-13b85717/|