– address the right levers internally to keep your customers satisfied always
Every organization (and in some cases individuals) is known at some point in its journey to have meticulously put together, a mission and vision statement to guide them in working towards their business goals. The mission and vision statement serve the following purposes. First, to communicate the purpose of the organization to stakeholders (raison d’etre). Second, to inform strategy development, and third, to develop measurable goals and objectives by which to gauge the success of the organization’s strategy. A mission statement epitomizes why an organization exists. It presupposes that any organization must primarily be very clear about its purpose.
Napoleon Bonaparte, the Emperor of France (1804 – 1815) defined victory aptly as follows, “Victory belongs to the most persevering”. The most persevering in any human endeavour are those who would stick to what they are aiming to achieve and relentlessly fight to achieve their goal. Let’s face it, nobody wants to race in the bottom half among competitors. Every business will compete on many fronts to stay at the top focusing on as many variables encompassing (and not limited to) price, benefits, features, and post-sales support ensuring that they are delivering great value to customers.
We are talking here about the big picture in a business sense. Customer Experience Management is a big part of this big picture. This week’s quote on the CXP Ghana group page is insightful. It says, “Our greatest asset is the Customer! Treat each Customer as if they are the only one”. This quote by Laurice Leitao a CX proponent accentuates the pivotal role of the customer in the business mix. It emphasizes the fact that being intentional about CX requires very consistent steps toward the goal of ensuring that customers are treated in a way that makes them feel special. When the customer feels special s/he becomes a willing advocate for your brand.
Obvious signs of customer-centricity awareness within a business can be seen in such qualities as listening, empathy, willingness to learn, courage to take on tough challenges, and encourage others to do it as well. Opportunities for personalizing engagement with customers when taken advantage of leave an indelible mark in their minds. As random as they may seem the reality is that when a brand goes out of its way to treat a customer special it most likely is the outcome of careful planning, reflection, and actions to ensure that they are well prepared for the big moment and will act as though naturally when it comes.
A few levers to address among others to achieve what seems like a natural out-of-world encounter include; First, leadership where CX is driven as a collaborative function achieved by working through others. Second, Change Management where internal processes, people, and systems must be well-aligned, to the customers’ needs. Third, a Culture where the customer-centric mindset is a way of life across the board reflecting an employee-centric mindset that feeds into the customer experience. Fourth, the journey map which is customer-driven, and fifth, customer understanding where knowing the customer intuitively is top-of-mind.
The dictionary definition of leadership is common knowledge. It says leadership is, “The action of leading a group of people or an organization.” Customer Experience as a business function is best performed in a collaborative environment. It cuts across several business domains within the organization requiring a multifaceted approach to delivering initiatives and actions to keep customers satisfied. The customers don’t care how you deliver your services or products they just want to know that you are there for them and are willing to keep them happy always. Doing this requires a reasonable balance between deliberate action and tact.
Perseverance is key. Peter Drucker the renowned Management guru of blessed memory draws a line between management and leadership as follows “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” While managers act in compliance with rules and procedures, leaders thrive on breaking norms and challenging the status quo. As Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who miraculously landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, says in his book, “There isn’t a checklist for everything.” His amazing story where he abandons normal procedure and lands on the Hudson saved all 150 lives on board.
The lesson here is simple. Leadership is about inspiring action by encouraging others to develop new ideas, improve the quality of work, and complete tasks under challenging circumstances. Every encounter with customers requires great attention to detail and a focus on ensuring that you have a lucid understanding of what the customer is looking for and are prepared to respond to the customer’s need to the best of your ability. John Maxwell’s axiom “everything rises and falls on leadership” is instructive. The effective CX leader is one who is willing to collaborate, challenge the status quo, take action, and motivate everyone to drive the experience agenda relentlessly.
Customer Experience Management is a business function propelled largely by continuous improvement thus managing change is a crucial part of managing the experience. The fact that the experience agenda thrives on cross-functional collaboration, working across silos regularly requiring timeliness and sustainability by people across the organization, makes the Customer Experience lead a change agent, and ultimately a recruiter of other change agents. CX Change management is about identifying business, technical, and process changes and people to achieve a regime where CX is seen as a prominent part of the business equation.
The Change journey can be approached in various ways. What is common to every change initiative is that the architects of the change must be very clear on the three states of the change process. These are the current situations assessed through a CX Audit and Voice of the Customer to help the CX leader and stakeholders develop situational understanding. Next is the approach, and strategy to enable the CX leader to navigate his/her way to using governance or improvement forums towards the end-state. The third is the end-state which is the desired future conditions representing the outcome of the change journey.
A recommended approach to any change initiative is to engage stakeholders actively through the three stages to gain buy-in. Let’s remember that every change initiative is delivered for a target group. It is important early on in the journey for those who are billed to live with the change, to be part of the process of installing the change. Failing that will potentially lead to a situation where the change is imposed on the main actors with the risk that they will embrace the change passively. To get their active involvement ensure that they are part of envisioning the change and determining the outcome right from the onset.
The statistics of marketers who believe in customer-centricity are abysmal. According to research, only 14 percent of marketers believe in the importance of customer centricity as the hallmark of successful companies. How a company looks and feels, what leadership feels, (an organization’s culture is defined by its leadership), and what customers and competitors say about the company are key determinants of an organization’s culture. It is about underlying assumptions, rules, values, beliefs, behaviour, and attitudes shared by a common group. In short, it defines the organization’s identity.
According to CX guru Bruce Temkin, “The CX you deliver is a reflection of your culture and operating processes. Who you are externally is a manifestation of how you operate internally”. If your internal processes are jumbled up, the reporting is mixed up, and a blame culture prevails among the operating lines, delivering consistently great CX is impossible. A CX leader’s goal is to establish a CX programme that fits the organization’s culture and at the same time nudge that culture along with CX’s maturity towards customer centricity. The organization’s vision, mission, and values are essential in defining, designing, and building processes for CX implementation.
A customer-centric culture exists in an organization when all employees and leaders see the customer at the centre of everything they do. It means customer happiness, and not just satisfaction, is the driving force for all strategic actions and communications, both internally and externally. Changing a culture is a monumental task. Experts advise that CX leaders focus more on adding to the culture as more effective and easier to achieve. Adopting analytical tools to develop a shared understanding, letting the customer’s voice be heard, walking the talk, and instituting award programmes, to drive CX efforts are effective ways of adding to the culture and influencing customer-centricity as a culture.
Journey mapping enables a brand to generate value and build enhancements to the customer experience. it is a visual representation of customers’ processes, needs, and perceptions throughout their interactions and relationships with an organization. The journey map depicts the customer persona (personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user groups within targeted demographics), and scenario and expectations (represents varying customer encounters and their expectations of service levels).
They also represent timelines and/or phases (the journey includes response times, resolution times, and phases within the engagement cycle), as well as emotions/mindsets (representing how customers feel as they engage with our touchpoints during their journey). In the journey across touchpoints, we are responding to needs actively through our actions and identifying opportunities to provide memorable experiences for customers. For example, the airline that captured the travels of a father and noticed him travel a few times on their route managed to surprise him by announcing the birth of his son during a take-off.
Years later with the collaboration of the father, they pulled off a surprise again during take-off to wish the son a happy birthday. Managing the journey through listening techniques offers businesses opportunities to deliver out-of-world experiences to “unsuspecting” customers. The journey map has the following main touchpoints. Awareness, there is enough visibility to enable customers to notice your brand, “Findability”, you are easily found (digital, in-person etc), reputation where your service history is laden with great experiences, Purchase decision, customers eventually decide to purchase, and advocacy, the customer shares positive experiences.
To bring this home notice the journey of a tourist planning a tour to Ghana. The journey starts with the first touchpoint searching for places of interest to visit (Awareness, visibility, preliminary information). This is followed by actions in preparation for the trip (Bookings, airlines, travel agents, accommodation). The third touchpoint is the pre-trip preparation, planning books for in-flight to keep you occupied, and meal preferences. During the trip, your plan includes places of interest to visit, restaurants, and events. The final touchpoint takes care of your post-trip activities, homebound arrangements, baggage, social media feeds, and reviews and feedback.
A CX blogger Annette Franz, describes customer understanding in the following way. “Customer understanding is all about learning everything you need to know about your customers, i.e., their needs, their pain points, the jobs they are trying to do, and their current experiences, in order to deliver the experience, they expect going forward.” This is a working definition of empathy. The dictionary definition is “the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the emotions, thoughts, or attitudes of another”. Therefore, one demonstrates empathy by seeing, feeling, experiencing, and learning through the eyes of the customer.
Knowing your customer is key to delivering experiences that will wow the customer. An effective CX programme aims to root out the pain that turns the customer away and finds growth for the business. The Voice of the Customer (VOC) Programme helps to understand customers dynamically and consistently. It helps to understand how customers respond to the delivery of business and brand strategies. According to Jeff Sheehan, “A VOC distills customer feedback to learn what customers, love, like, or loathe about the organization’s products, services, and processes and why.”
Let’s consider our preparations for December GH as part of the “Beyond the Return” initiative. In addition to the over 180 events and festivals endorsed for the month of December this year, a typical visitor to our country will also be looking forward to the experience. Our feedback from earlier related events will be valuable in determining how to manage the experience of our visitors. How the experience plays out this year will depend on the extent to which we listen (through active conversations with visitors and service providers, collecting feedback), learn (by distilling the feedback), and act (by addressing opportunities and improvements).
Here is an example of planning and executing an experience mission. It is about identifying our mission of delivering exciting and attractive offerings in our tourism space for visitors. Our willingness to ensure that the experience of our visitors is managed effectively and efficiently so that they return with positive stories about how Ghanaians treated them is key to sustaining our tourism drive. December GH here we come with the Ghanaian experience.
|The Writer is Head of Training Development & Research
Service Excellence Foundation, and Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached on 059 175 7205,