- Establish a firm footing by keeping a keen eye on the right levers
Mahatma Gandhi may be known as a political figurehead whose role in India, arguably has been pivotal in that country’s political and economic progress. He is credited with the following quote surprisingly, “A customer is the most important visitor in our premises. He is not dependent on us. we are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by allowing us to do so”.
This underscores the universal principle that the customer is the most important variable in any business. We ignore the customer at our peril. Whether customers stay with our brand or not will depend on the experience they are getting from us. If the experience is positive they will be motivated to stay with us. Therefore, driving a campaign to ensure good CX will promote customer loyalty. CX is vital for business growth and sustainability. By focusing on CX and delivering great end-to-end journeys our business will be positively impacted and consequently set us apart from our competitors.
Forbes highlights, “Customer experience is today’s business benchmark.” Putting the customer first is essential. Today’s customer demands excellent experience at every touchpoint as they journey with your business. As the marketplace has become more competitive customers now more than ever have more brands to choose from. They are quick to move on if they feel they aren’t valued. According to recent research by American Express 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience.
Being intentional about customer experience is imperative, it is not an option. A customer-friendly business thrives on customer loyalty as its reward. To be intentional about our CX there are a plethora of initiatives that will potentially propel the business to new levels. First, connect with your customers to become a top-of-mind brand. Second, be intentional about your customer experience. Third, influence a customer-centric culture in your business. Fourth, drive the momentum internally to sustain the experience agenda.
Connecting with Customers
Our goal is to ensure that the customer’s journey with our brand leaves memories that keep them coming again and again. An excellent journey will turn them into loyal customers who will willingly retain their relationship with you. As we have learned time and time again it is more cost-effective to retain customers than to win new ones. By prioritizing customer satisfaction, you will grow an “army” of loyal customers to also become your brand ambassadors recommending your products and services to colleagues and associates.
The Temkin Group a leading customer experience research and consulting firm recently published a study and found that companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within 3 years of investing in customer experience. That is a 70% increase in revenue within 36 months! How do you build this connection progressively? One way to do that is to collect large amounts of customer information to make it easy for you to personalize experiences and increase customer engagement opportunities.
A note of caution here is that there is no shortage of data hence it is vitally crucial that you have readily available data that is fit for purpose, to connect with customers to make them feel like regulars. Michael Gerber author and motivational speaker share how personalized services led him to patronize a specific hotel brand in a state where he often traveled on business. They knew what newspaper he read, what breakfast preferences he had, and even learned his preferred room style. Even if you only interact with customers online, you must find ways to form emotional connections that may be easier to form in person.
For example, walking into a restaurant and hearing the attendant or waiter ask, “Are you having the usual?” is a simple pleasure that only loyal customers get to experience. How often do you return to a service provider when the reception has been dry and drab? You want a welcoming environment, we all crave a friendly atmosphere where you are made to feel special. Know what your customers yearn for by deliberately finding out through research and data analysis. Use the information to proactively engage them.
Being intentional about customer experience
Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) have discovered from customer intelligence research that 59% of people believe that companies have lost touch with the human element by focusing too much on technology. These days with social media and a plethora of technology platforms exacerbated by the Covid-19 Pandemic Global lockdown, human-to-human interaction is gradually becoming a weakness. This may not be that intense in developing countries however the threat of technology is real as people increasingly turn to Apps for services.
There is a growing shift towards the digital experience and employee experience, along with investor experience, supplier experience, and community experience. According to experts, businesses, in recent times have shifted to replacing shareholder capitalism with stakeholder capitalism to serve the interest of all their stakeholders (customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, and local communities). The classic who is the customer question is now harder than ever to answer.
Even businesses that had amassed great volumes of customer data before Covid-19 are finding themselves in the same “cold-start” position as businesses venturing into unknown markets or reaching out to new audiences. We find ourselves now in a new world where change is happening faster than we can keep pace with. To be intentional about customer experience we must build steps upward from customer touchpoints and from the way we design and launch the product or service.
Productivity must be measured by whether customers are getting what was promised. Krista Sheridan a CX veteran says “When your customers are getting what was promised, you are much more productive.” According to her by preventing the need for remedial efforts you gain more time to be creative. In other words, from a shareholder perspective getting it right the first time provides a financial reward.
Driving an internal CX agenda
Differentiate your company through customer experience management. There is a popular story we have used to illustrate the harmful effect of lack of accountability. The story is about four people Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Nobody could have done it but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought Anybody could have done it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. In the end, Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done. The story depicts an organizational context where there is a lack of accountability, lack of ownership, lack of responsibility, finger-pointing, and assigning blame. Ian Golding advises that “anyone leading a Customer Experience Strategy must have a working knowledge of how to influence organizations to adopt the Strategy and be accountable for the actions required to create, evolve, sustain, and embed it.”
Being accountable, responsible, and influencing ownership in your CX agenda is what will help drive customer-centricity sustainably in the organization. Ian Golding has introduced what he terms the RACI model, R – Responsible, A – Accountable, C – Consulted, and I – Informed. The following table encapsulates the model.
|The executive committee, senior executives||Lead on the vision and mission||Whole customer base, organization-wide||Top-line measures, with a named individual owning each item on the roadmap|
|Country and area leaders||Operationalize the strategy||Chosen segment and
|Performance at each step in the journey – perception and operational metrics and named individuals assigned to each one|
|Account Management/sales||Maximize the customer’s lifetime value||Strategic accounts and best customers||Performance on
individual touchpoints to continuously improve the journey
|Supporting roles backstage||Enable front-line teams and leadership||Whole internal customer base, organization-wide||Performance on
required to deliver each touchpoint – operational metrics and internal customer perception
He advises the use of this model to help see clarity in your CX journey as most organizations have their unique governance structures and will therefore approach change differently. He provides an outline to approach this initiative as know, do and remember. according to him, Change is a constant business thus your strategy will be finely balanced against the pressures of the here and now so continuously advocate for change.
Next, give people the insight and tools to make changes. It includes infusing existing business structures with a desire to adopt the CX vision and align with it. Finally, ensure clarity on who owns specific activities in the roadmap. To make sure that you can drive and sustain customer-centricity take this advice to heart. “If your people believe in the strategy as devoutly as you do it’s not you alone influencing the doubters, it’s every person in your business.”
Sustaining the momentum
Loic Le Fouest a CX Consultant recommends several steps to ensure end-to-end value streams in the execution of your business model. According to him, you must address it in the following way. First, start by taking a persona-led approach to help you understand the current and future needs of your customers (and employees!), and allow you to target customer segments successfully.
Second, look at your organization’s end-to-end value stream (the series of steps an organization takes to provide value to customers) and the business architecture that underpins the CX. Identify quick-win opportunities to create a positive sustainable impact while understanding the limitations of your current business model and strategy. Third, define the business capabilities that need to be put in place to drive the change (e.g. R&D, or circular experience design) and how you will drive this mindset shift over time.
Fourth, always keep an eye on the customer trade-off of sustainability with price and convenience, and the internal trade-off of viability and feasibility with profits. Fifth, Develop solutions that go beyond physical & digital products and services and consider the behavioural aspect changes that are required from customers to bring them on the journey. Sixth, empower and educate your employees to spot continuous sustainability improvements; you need those involved in your value stream to feel able to identify additional quick wins and strategic changes.
The key is to be deliberate about your CX planning and execution. Ian Golding has put it aptly in the following words “We must be patient and sensitive in understanding all the issues, behaviours, and mindsets of people we work with.” Customer-centricity is a mindset and it pays to run an organization where this mindset has been embraced organizationally to ensure that the customer’s needs are everyone’s concern.
The Writer is a Management Consultant. He can be reached at 059 175 7205, [email protected],