– be deliberate about CX for business success
The past five weeks have been very engaging and fulfilling as we were privileged to sit at the feet of some CX practitioners and proponents who were kind enough to share their experiences with us on how they are changing the narrative of how we engage customers by focusing on their needs to drive business goals. Undoubtedly all the different stories shared by coaches, practitioners, consultants and corporate champions were consistent about the pivotal role of the customer in planning and customer experience as a deliberate business strategy.
Once again, a big shout out to Esther Dokuwaa Ofosuhene, CXP President and our lead facilitator, for helping us navigate our way through the world of CX to gain more clarity about the concepts and tools available to help drive the customer agenda within the business, and drive the change required to make the customer’s journey worthwhile. Equally enthralling was the privilege to sit with industry practitioners whose fortitude and determination present a fulcrum for driving the agenda forward as Esther and co have sought to pioneer. I doff my hat to my classmates of CX Pro Class of 2023, ayeekoo to all of us!
I recommend this programme for all CX advocates to be enlightened about how we can drive CX across the organisation. It was 5 weekends of intense study, yet very interesting as the process was very engaging – encompassing lectures, practical sessions, presentations and assignments, of which there was no shortage. Our hotel host, though, will need some education on improving the experience. As much as they appeared to be well-equipped, their service delivery leaves much to be desired. That notwithstanding, we did enjoy a glorious good 5 weeks of fun-studying and learning from one another.
The course consisted of 5 modules encompassing key areas, such as cultivating a customer-focused culture, where the focus is on employee engagement from the front lines to the executive suite; and aligning business goals with the customer-focused culture to influence a cross-functional understanding of the customer. By aligning business goals with the customer agenda, you are better able to crystallise the issues that are of concern to customers and to effectively link them with business goals. Enlightening is it not, this was just the tip of the iceberg. There was more to come as we delved further into the content.
In the piece today, I am sharing personal reflections of the learning experience and hope that readers will identify with the reality we face in our part of the world, where customer service is regarded as the periphery for many businesses. Anyone who thinks that business is more about the numbers and less about the customer is treading a dangerous path. Here are a few takeaways for me from the programme that suggests the contrary.
First, a customer experience strategy will ensure that while customers interact with your touchpoints, they remain satisfied enough to stay on the journey. Second, being deliberate about the customer is a necessity if you want to grow your business. Note that customer churn is much more expensive than customer acquisition. Third, being deliberate about the customer experience requires that you make provisions within your business to understand the customer. Fourth, you must invest time and effort into designing the experience. Fifth, develop mechanisms for measuring the experience.
Customer experience strategy
Customer experience (CX) strategy is about assessing and responding to the holistic perception of the experience of customers with your brand. Your customer interactions at touchpoints across all your channels – in-store, social media, online, etc. – from awareness to finding you, learning of your reputation, purchasing and advocacy must be followed through carefully to enhance your understanding of their sentiments, emotions, and decision-making. During the journey, every action from your brand impacts the customer perception and their decision to remain with your business or not.
Having great customer experience management, therefore, is your key to successfully engaging the customer and keeping them aligned with your brand. Learning practical ways of doing this is what the bootcamp has taught me. Using the right approaches and the range of tools available to help you determine how to align your CX strategy to your business strategy and how to go on and plan the initiatives that will operationalise the strategy makes life much more interesting. When you are deliberate about the customer experience, you will ultimately realise the benefits in terms of how it enhances your competitiveness.
You are in a better place when you have internal processes that support your customer agenda proactively. Employees are well-trained to execute their tasks and are very well-aligned with the company’s culture. They are very clear about what is expected of them, such that they respond timeously to customer concerns, and are effective communicators – having developed the right skillset to do well. Customer experience is all about the human touch and aiming at all times to delight the customer or keep them satisfied. It is about going above and beyond, seizing every opportunity to do more.
When your experience strategy is well-managed, you are better able to put the customer at the forefront of every decision you make. It means your business has an understanding of the customer’s needs holistically. It doesn’t matter which branch or touchpoint the customer engages with, the response will always be consistently similar. 3M staff have immersed themselves in the customer’s mindset by opening up their innovation centres to customers; thus, providing them the space to collaborate on product design and testing out new products. In return 3M leverages feedback from users.
This way, they are able to offer relevant products and services to suit their customers’ needs. As Ian Golding shared, never assume what your customers might think or want. The best way to promote a customer-centric culture is by involving the customer as much as possible. Whether it is about your website usability or product quality not ticking the boxes the proper thing to do is simply ask your customers. When they know you are listening to them, they will share openly with you. As a Manchester United Fan, I must say that although the US campaign was disastrous, many of the fans were unperturbed.
The reason is not far-fetched. The rare opportunity of seeing the players in person was all the fans were relishing. They were friendly matches, by the way – just an opportunity for the manager to assess his team’s readiness for the next season. The experience of personal interactions with the players was what most fans looked forward to. The emotional attachment far outweighs the logic of match results. Take time to map the customer’s journey to experience your product as if you were the customer rather than the provider. This helps you identify pain points and respond promptly to keep the customer satisfied.
An effective CX strategy encompasses the element of listening to the customer and understanding their sentiments. In CX, we use Voice of the Customer (VoC) to capture what customers are saying about our business, product or service. It is about eliciting feedback about their experiences and expectations of your products and services. When there is clarity about the customer’s needs, expectations and understandings, we are well-armed to invest time and effort into improvements and adjustments – including the wherewithal to execute. Knowing the right toolkit and when to use them is a big part of this process.
Many of us have a range of tools to deal with the listening process; however, if care is not taken in how we apply the methods and tools, we will be ‘looking for a needle in a haystack’ instead of patiently listening to the customer and responding appropriately. There is no shortage of tools; however, using them requires a good understanding of your business and what you are looking for. Ian Golding reiterates this point: “It’s important to remember that customer perception is what it is – it is not your role to say whether customers are right or wrong”. Having an open mind and applying the right tools is what it takes.
Some of the common tools available are CSAT for measuring customer satisfaction in terms of assessing the level of satisfaction the customer has derived from the use of the product or service. This is determined by the quality of transactions in any encounter with the customer. Did they find what they looking for? CSAT helps you measure the customer’s satisfaction granularly. There is also Net Promoter Score used to determine the likelihood that a customer will recommend you to others. Customer Effort Score is used to determine how easy it is for the customer to do business with your organisation. There are many more tools; however, what was insightful was the deep dive into their application.
Here, you draw on customers’ needs, feelings, contexts and mindsets to design experiences around them. It focuses on people’s experiences to drive product design and features. The goal is to create value for customers and the business. CX expert Ian Golding has shared some thoughts on principles to remember. According to him, always put the customer at the centre of the design process. It starts and ends with the customer. You then go on to establish customer goals and frame the challenge. He warns that we avoid using focus groups for this purpose as you want all the information you can get directly from the customer.
It is about employing the wisdom of the crowd to solve the problem. It is an iterative process that keeps iterating until the ideal solution is found. Getting the design right requires great attention to detail. Every single interaction must be well-considered end to end in the process chain. Every touchpoint presents an opportunity to convey your design vision of the experience. According to experts, in the design process, you must shift your thinking from “What can we build?” to “What do people want and need?” Therefore, by using design thinking, your goal is to empathise with the customer.
Airbnb uses design principles to improve its digital touchpoints and to make its services accessible through the use of a user-friendly App. The company invited fans to create hearts out of their fingertips and share them on Facebook. The post generated almost 155,000 interactions and 15,00 shares. The company has built communities in its social media campaigns to match the slogan ‘Belonging together’. Airbnb has strategised to deliver hotel experiences by making it possible for people on vacation to live in reasonably priced apartments located in the world’s most spectacular locations. People connect on a more personal level than they would have done with travel agencies or hotel booking sites. The app simplifies it all.
What cannot be measured cannot be managed. This is a common adage in management, and the same goes for CX. To justify any CX investments, you need data. The data tells the story and lays everything bare for management decision-making. We had an interesting session on data mining and data analysis and analytics. This was very enlightening as it affirms the pivotal role CX plays in any organisation. As the saying goes: data is the new currency. Here, your NPS and CSAT become very useful; however, you also want to track business value outcomes of customer experience and the customer journey touchpoints that drive CX.
Many companies are unclear on how to record and measure the outcomes of their CX campaigns. Measuring the experience is extremely important. If your goal is to create a memorable experience for the first-time customer, then it is important that you have a clear understanding of the experience through measurement techniques. To effectively measure customer experience, we must first understand and map out the entire journey customers go through when interacting with our brand. There is no one-size-fits-all here – every company has its own unique dynamic customer journey.
The goal is to measure the customer’s satisfaction with the entire journey they embark on to achieve a specific goal, rather than in aggregate or after a single interaction in a single touchpoint. For example, if a customer is paying a bill or transferring money between accounts, the data derived from your website, contact centre, and physical store or branch locations will be great measuring points to gain an understanding of the customer’s behaviour. These interactions help us understand how actions in different channels impact the customer’s perception.
The CX bootcamp was a great eye-opener as I realised that I have barely scratched the surface of this new domain. My knowledge base in the CX domain has leapfrogged in geometric proportions. Thank you CX Ghana for what you are doing to change the narrative for corporate Ghana. I recommend the CX Pro Masterclass to all who believe in advocating for a customer-centric culture. Take this step and you will discover great business value from making the customer the focal point of your business strategy.
|The Writer is a Management Consultant. He can be reached at 059 175 7205, [email protected],